Saturday, April 25, 2009

Run for the Cheetah 5k

The 5th annual Run for the Cheetah was held on Saturday, April 29, 2009 at Papago Park in Phoenix to benefit the Cheetah Conservation Fund. It was a special event for me because I also ran last year as my first race ever. So this year’s event marked my one year anniversary as a runner. I did the 5k, but there was also a 1 mile run/walk and free kids dash.

I arrived at Papago Park about 6:40am and got through the race day registration process quickly with just a short wait in line to get my t-shirt. Registration was $25 for the 5k and well worth the money. (Early-bird registration was $18 before 3/6 and $20 before 3/27.) The goody bag had samples of Clif Shot Blocks and organic Popumz multigrain crisps, as well as coupons from REI (15% off), P.F. Chang’s (free appetizer), Red Robin ($1 coupon), and Jamba Juice (BOGO free). Participants also got free entry into the Phoenix Zoo on race day.

Papago Park is a beautiful location for a race and offers plenty of roads and trails for warming up.

I just had to stop in the middle of my warm up jog and take this photo.

The 5k started at 7:30am and the 1 mile started about 10 minutes later. The 5k course was an out and back, starting in the park near Ramada 16 and then running out along the canal for the majority of the race. It was crowded for the first quarter mile or so on the park roads, but the pack spread out once we got out to the canal.

Waiting for the 5k race to start. Race director David Bluestein is on the left with his trademark sparkly "hair".

If you look closely, you can see the line of runners snaking up along the curve of the canal.

The course had two water stations. The first was just past mile one. The second was here at the turn around. Thank you volunteers!

This tunnel passes under E McDowell Road. Earlier in the race, I was in the tunnel heading out as the lead runners passed on their way back. This photo was taken after the turn around as I was heading back.

I had another event the next day so I wanted to take it fairly easy. My goal was to finish the race in 30 minutes. As I approached the finish line, I saw the clock read 29:50 so I sprinted hard to try and beat the clock. I think I finished at exactly 30:00. Race timing was done by Arizona Running Events Company and they use the method of collecting the tear-off strip from the bottom of the race bib for timing. This is the only part of the event that I would say needs improvement. For a 5k, the time it takes to cross the start line can make the difference in a PB for some runners. Also, with manual timing it takes a lot longer to get the race results out.

The finish line is near the blue tent. The clock is at 29:49. Right after this photo, I took off and sprinted for the finish.

Another shot of the finish line from a different perspective. I love when it's a downhill to the finish.

There was plenty of water (thanks to sponsor Watermill Express), bagels, oranges, and bananas available after the race. For the early finishers, there were also extra samples of Clif Shot Bloks and Popumz. The Run for the Cheetah was a great event for the whole family. A lot of kids were carrying plush cheetahs from the Cheetah Kids booth and there seemed to be a constant line for face painting. The Red Robin mascot also made an appearance for photos and to cheer on the kids dash.

Two free raffles were held. For participants under 21, the prize was a one year family membership to the Phoenix Zoo. For participants 21 and over, the prize was two bottles of cheetah wine from the Cape of Good Hope Wine Co. There were two grand prize winners in each category. A few other people also won cheetah posters.

Overall, it was a fantastic race experience and I look forward to my third Run for the Cheetah next year.

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