BROOKFIELD – Participants in the Brookfield Zoo's ZooRunRun for the Animal Care and Conservation Fund on Sept. 9 will get to run past and for the animals at the zoo.
The zoo began the event about 30 years ago, and it has held the event annually since it came back in about 2011, following a break of a few years, event organizers said.
Elizabeth Sterchele, the zoo's event marketing assistant manager, said there's been growth "year after year" since its return.
Before the break, participants ran around the exterior of the zoo, but then staff re-evaluated the course, Marketing Events Manager Carolyn Wilkin said.
Now, the entire 5K is completed within the confines of the zoo, and people can see animals along the course.
The route, which begins and ends at the Discovery Center parking lot, takes participants through about 95 percent of the zoo, and runners will be able to pass by many animals in their outside habitats, Sterchele said.
"It's really fun to see them early in the morning when they're really active," she said.
Runners may be able to see camels, bison, giraffes, horses, zebras, rhinoceroses, goats and lemurs, Sterchele said.
"Pretty much any animal that has access to outdoors we try to have out for people to run past," she said.
Sterchele said the event drew about 3,000 runners last year, and it is on track to have roughly that number again this year. Last year, there were about 2,800 people who participated in the 5K and about 275 children who participated the inaugural 1-mile Kids' Dash, Sterchele said.
Children ages 4 to 13 years old are able to participate in the dash.
Sterchele said the event is "unique" because the zoo, which is on 216 acres, is able to hold the entirety of the 5K course within its boundaries and permit race participants and observers to take advantage of its offerings for free after the race concludes.
The families and friends of racers are able to enter the zoo without paying admission, and people who attend the race are able to stay for the rest of the day and enjoy the rest of the zoo, Sterchele said.
"It's a great family activity," Sterchele said.
Though ZooRunRun participants all receive chip times, they also can choose to run the race at a noncompetitive pace and bring strollers or walk the entire course, Wilkin said. People with disabilities also tend to participate in the race, she said.
"We encourage it to be a family event or a group participation. Something for everybody. ... It's an easy 5K that is good for all skill levels," Wilkin said.
Sterchele said the event organizers are hopeful to have good weather again this year, as they've had for the last few years. In the case of rain, the zoo will continue to run the race, Wilkin said. If there is severe weather, the zoo would simply postpone the race if possible, she said.
The event is a fundraiser for the care and feeding of animals at Brookfield Zoo and the Animal Care and Conservation Fund, which provides care through other animal conservation organizations around the world, such as a dolphin program in Sarasota, Fla., and some organizations in Africa. ZooRunRun has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars in the past several years alone, Sterchele said.
Registration is available online until Sept. 6, and then after that, people can register with packet pickup at the North Gate parking lot entrance Sept. 7 and 8 or from 6:30 to 7:30 a.m. Sept. 9 before the race.
If you go
WHAT: ZooRunRun for the Animal Care and Conservation Fund
WHEN: 8:30 a.m. Sept. 9
WHERE: Brookfield Zoo, 8400 31st St., Brookfield
COST: $40 race fee, $3 sign-up fee for 5K race if registered by Sept. 8; $20 race fee, $3 sign-up fee for Kids' Dash