Run with the animals and the ghost of the white lioness – Oasis Toronto Zoo Run 10k

In the summer of 2011 we were camping with our friends Jen and Jeff when they mentioned that they were thinking of doing the Oasis Toronto Zoo Run. This idea stuck with me, as I loved the zoo when I was a kid and loved the idea of getting a chance to run through the zoo and “run with the animals” (or past them, but close enough). So, Dan and I signed up, even though it was held the day after his 30th birthday. I told him it was a good way to celebrate.

In August I had a nightmare one night that Kristen and I were running through the zoo and we got into a little go-cart and drove up to where the lions are (it’s this red rock section that I always thought would be fun to climb when I was a kid). We were being chased by something and as we drove through the red rock, a white lioness jumped out and attacked us. I woke up in a cold sweat, calmed down and went back to sleep. Imagine my shock when I saw the newspaper the next day with the headline Toronto Zoo’s white lioness dies. I’m sure it was just a coincidence but it still felt eerie.

white lioness

She looks just like the white lioness in my dream! Photo courtesy Toronto Star.

Anyway, fast forward to September 2011 when we were getting ready for the Zoo run. In preparation for the run I kept going to the washroom. I have a thing about running where I always feel like I have to pee (most of the time it’s in my head because I know I won’t have access to a washroom for a while). Because of that, I try to pee many times before heading out. On this particular morning I went through my usual ritual and then we hopped in our car, ready to head to the zoo. Partway there I realized I had to pee again and figured it was just nervous pee. Well, it wasn’t. As we got closer and closer to the zoo I realized that I really really really had to go (I don’t know if you can sense my urgency here but I really really really really had to go!). And since there was a run, that meant many people were also headed to the zoo, which meant lots of traffic. It was a really difficult time for me. I think I had to pee so badly because I drank a big glass of orange juice before we left, and I was also hydrating a lot.

After years several minutes of agony, we were finally able to park and I sprinted over to the entrance of the zoo, only to find out that I couldn’t get in to use the washroom until I had my race bib. Fortunately the line up for packet pick up wasn’t too long, so there were no accidents. With our first mission accomplished (packet pick up and getting to use the washroom), I then had to decide what I should wear. I know, I really should have figured this out earlier, but remember I was new at this. The weather was a little cool, but I get really overheated when I run so I had a sleeveless top on. I toyed with the idea of wearing a long sleeve because I felt cold, but again worried that I’d get hot (this is what goes through my head). Finally I decided to wear the race t-shirt over top of my sleeveless top. I know it’s a cardinal rule for runners not to wear the race t-shirt at the race, but whatever. Plus I think at the time I didn’t know that.

ready to go

Finally ready to go. Or so I thought.

As we waited with our corral I realized I needed to pee again. I know, it’s a problem. So I went and got in line for a porta potty. Dan and I weren’t going to run together anyway since he’s so much faster than me and he actually cares about time. As I stood in line, I watched the elites take off. They were like gazelles. Then I watched the next corral take off and then I started getting nervous. Finally I left the line and got into my corral. It turns out I got into the corral below mine. Oh well, it’s all the same to me.

perfect weather for a run

The weather was perfect for a run. As you can see, I still didn’t have an armband for my iPod!

The run itself was really nice. We started off on the backroads around the zoo (kind of boring, nothing much to see). The weather was perfect though, not too hot or too cold. When we got into the zoo again I was really excited and we ran past several animals including the giraffes (I waved at them), the elephants (back when Toronto had elephants. I waved at them too) and more. I basically waved at every animal. I still had to pee though so around 6k in I stopped off at a washroom and ran in.

The second half of the run was tough because there were hills. Lots and lots of hills. Some were so steep, that when my cousin Eva was visiting last year they had trouble getting the stroller up it.

probably after a hill

I look super impressed to be running.

Another cool thing about the run was there were a lot of people dressed up as animals. I really liked that. If I do this run again maybe I’ll dress up as a pig or something.

When we ran into the lion area I felt a chill run through my body (I know, I get very dramatic. I can’t help it). I said a silent prayer to the white lioness and continued running. I found this run to be really tough. I kept wanting to stop but kept bribing myself with “If you keep running it’ll be over faster” and “Just 5 more minutes” and “Just 1 more k and then we’ll talk about it.” I also kept thinking “How am I going to run a half marathon in January?! Am I crazy? What have I done? Running is terrible!” During some of the big hills Black Eyed Peas “Don’t stop the party” started playing on my iPod so I changed the words to “Don’t stop the running.” Anything you’ve gotta do to keep going right?

smile for the camera

Every time I see a camera I smile and pretend that running is the best thing ever.

The picture above also shows you how slow I run. The people behind me are walking at the same speed as my running.

There are no words to express the joy I felt when I crossed the finish line. I was just so glad it was over.


Pure joy at crossing the line. Though clearly not as happy as the people behind me.

I got my medal and then went and found Dan who was with Jeff and Jen. They were about to go run their 5k race and we made plans to have dinner that night. All in all, I thought the run was successful despite all of the pain. Time heals all right? (and I’ve kind of forgotten the pain now, I kind of want to do it all again lol).


In the car with my medal. I love penguins and I feel like I fought for this one, so it made it all the sweeter to have it around my neck.

Next up, trip recap on Chicago and a race report on my half marathon at Disney World!

One thought on “Run with the animals and the ghost of the white lioness – Oasis Toronto Zoo Run 10k

  1. Pingback: Crush it! – Disney World Half Marathon trip, Part 4 | Plain Can Be Lovely

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