Ok, ok so this isn’t my first run through the city, but it is one of the more famous runs and is a lot of fun… I am talking the ZOO RUNNNN!!! anyone who uses Strava in DC and is in the immediate vicinity of the National Smithsonian Zoo knows that they will be notified if they are getting anywhere near the route of the zoo run. Favorite to many of the local university track and cross country teams, it allowed me a chance to do a couple of things that increase my mental health; 1. run (duh… those endorphins speak for themselves) 2. see really stinking cute animals!
Ok so the route itself, you can either do it with a challenge where you run about half of the run up hill for an elevation gain of 347 feet or you can go the opposite direction on the loop and do a descent. The loop itself is 3.11 miles which takes you through the hilly zoo, past lions, tigers, and, (panda) bears (yes- I went there), a smidge into rock creek park, and then through some of the Adam’s Morgan neighborhood- which is always lively and fun!
I found this route using Meaghann McMahon’s map my run. The route starts at the Woodley Park Metro stop, head north on Connecticut Ave NW toward 24th St. NW. Take a slight right onto 24th St. NW and follow to the Rock Creek Parkway (this will take you through the exercise course of Rock Creek Park… more on that later). Follow Rock Creek Parkway to Beach Dr. NW and make a sharp Left. You should now see Rock Creek Park Trail- hop on it and continue until you come to the first covered bridge. Flip that direction and head back toward the zoo… now you are getting really close to seeing the animals! (ha!) Ok so you’ve made it back to the entrance of the zoo (woo hoo! you’re doing great! almost done with the run!) now you are going to enter the zoo and follow the paved trail up the glorious hill (your booty will thank you later) past the monkey house, reptile house, panda exhibit and buffalo exhibit until you reach the top of that god forsaken hill! This is also known as Olmstead Walk. Turn left out of the zoo and finish strong down Connecticut Ave NW back to the metro. Way to go!!
It’s that time of year!
Another reason I wanted to share this particular run is because of the time of year… Christmas, which means ZOO LIGHTS. I personally wouldn’t do this run during zoo lights because there are about a hundred families with small children all hyped up on the “build your own s’more stands” and dodging the light viewing xmas train, can make for an even more challenging run. I like my running to give me a bit of a breather from people! haha! But the lights are pretty spectacular… definitely something you should do once in the city. And it is very festive!
Stay with me here… I’m going to get a little nerdy…
Lastly, a little history about the zoo, because while you are running up that hill, it will only help if you know so interesting facts about it! First, because the zoo is a Smithsonian museum, it is open and free to the public 8 am- 5 pm. It used to be open from 6am- 5 pm but too many runner/walkers were getting into accidents with the trucks that go through the zoo to take care of the animals that they changed their hours, great article from The Washington Post here .
The Zoo was dreamed into existence by William Temple Hornaday, a taxidermist, after a trip to the western United States in 1887. Troubled by the fact there were no longer herds of roaming buffalo on the great plains, Bill decided to bring back a couple to preserve the species as well as some other animals near extinction. Side bar: You CAN still see bison there today! My husband and I were not thrilled by this exhibit, because we had seen many bison living in Montana, but now knowing what I do know about the zoo, I’m gonna go visit those buffalo again! see… facts make this run more interesting — haha! Anyways fast forward 2 years and you will find President Grover Cleveland signing into law the National Zoo, for “the advancement of science and the instruction and recreation of the people.” The zoo was officially opened in 1889 in its Rock Creek Park location. Over the next 125 years, the zoo has spent countless hours on conservation science of species and animal care. They not only study how to best care for endangered species, they work to reintroduce them into the wild! Probably the most favorite exhibit came to the zoo in the 1970s… you guessed it… the Giant Pandas as an initiative of the study to keep these funny, furry animals from going extinct. Currently, they are working on the next generation on conservationist and are partnering around the world to help preserve some of natures coolest species.
ALRIGHT. Thank you for spending some of your day with me and letting me nerd out. But lets be real… those facts are going to make the zoo much more interesting when you run by the buffalo! I hope everyone is having a wonderfully sweaty Monday and I’ll be back soon for tips on stretching— believe it or not you do need it do it after you exercise! Ciao!