Zoo Run

One of the motivating things about a Garmin watch is the documentation of my runs. I love scrolling through and seeing the list of my common running route punctuated by different cities I’ve visited since I got the watch.

I was in Washington D.C. for a professional conference and heard rumours about running in the zoo. While I love animals, I am conflicted about zoos. I know that they play a critical role in conservation however seeing the animals pacing back and forth and looking so–bored, makes me feel bad about their captivity and display. But I still visit zoos when I get the chance, especially ones that I know are working  towards conservation and animal wellness.

Apparently running in the National Zoo is very popular. So much so that they had to reduce the visiting hours of the zoo in order to curtail collisions between runners and zoo carts during the dark, early morning hours. Instead of 6am, the zoo now opens at 8, which is a little late for those who need to get to work by 9. But not for people who are at conferences and too brain-fatigued to go to an early morning session.

So, I got my stuff together and left the hotel a little before 8 in order to reach the zoo close to the opening.  The zoo was about .5 mile uphill from the hotel.  I jogged there dodging morning commuters and an ample amount of autumn leaves on the ground.  I reached the entrance and was ready to explore the “wild” trails of the zoos.  However, I did not find said trail so just followed the main path through the center of the zoo and meandered off several paths that led me to different animal exhibits.

Along the main path I spied  a couple of American bison doing early morning bison stuff.

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I continued along the path to my first meander that led me to the giant pandas.  I encountered a couple of early morning photographers there along with two of the pandas–one walking around and the other chomping down on some bamboo.  It was a damp, chilly morning which seemed like good panda weather since they are from mountains with dense forests.  I watched them for a little bit before I continued on.

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IMG_3634IMG_3633Panda walking

IMG_3637Panda eating 

I found my way back to the main path. It continued down hill (which means that I have to go uphill on the way back…). It was interesting to see a lot of pre-zoo crowd activity–lots of small carts going back and forth, some with large, green branches of stuff that look like it was somebody’s breakfast.  There was also a lot of leaf blowing, sweeping, sidewalk repairing and washing of stuff.  With the amount of “traffic” I could understand how there would be collisions with runners, especially in the morning darkness coupled by those who might be lost in headphone music or podcasts.

I saw signs pointing to the American Trail, so I headed that way hoping for a little more animal action.  Uphill from the trail I saw a wolf and coyote (in separate enclosures) pacing back and forth.  Again, feeling conflicted because I, not in captivity, could run in any direction for as long and as far as I wanted. If this animal had the desire to do so, her enclosed space would not allow for this extended run. I stood with this thought for a moment before moving on.  I passed by the harbor seals, they were all swimming to and fro underwater except for one who was peaking around, maybe looking for food, maybe not as feeding wasn’t until around 11.

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I continued to the end of the path and then turned around to head back uphill to the beginning. I continued to look at the behind-the-scenes work happening along the main path along with outlines of the holiday lights and imagining what they looked like after dark.

Near the entrance I noticed zebra and cheetah in the enclosure next to the zebra, an odd juxtaposition of predator and prey.  The cheetah paced along the fence with the zebra watching but not looking fearful. They were too far back in the enclosure to get a proper iPhoto. I rounded the corner to see a Red River hog doing a morning forage.

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My run through the zoo was more for the novelty of running through the zoo; not a typical visit that entails extended time viewing animals and reading related copy.  Although a quick jog through, I was happy to see the animals that I encountered and would do it again, hopefully in warmer weather with more animal activity.

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