10th anniversary of WCS 5K Run has added new features

Runners and animal lovers alike, your time to shine in the Bronx is soon approaching!

The 10th anniversary of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Run for the Wild 5K and Family Fun Run is set to take off on Saturday, April 28.

“The first year we sort of just crossed our fingers and hoped for about 1,500 people and we had 3,500 people come,” recalled Rachel Libreti, the director of Partnerships and Event Marketing, who has helped coordinate this run since day one.

“We knew at that point we hit a sweet spot in New York. This year our goal is for about 5,500 participants, though at our highest we had about 6,200,” continued Libretti.

The WCS tries to keep the number of participants near 6,000 to make sure the race is enjoyable and educational for everyone.

With registration for the race now open online, runners are encouraged to sign up fast because last year’s run sold out, according to the WCS event website.

“People are still fascinated with the idea that they’re running on Bronx Zoo property before operating hours. And there’s something kind of magical about that.”

This year’s race funds and donations will go towards supporting the big cats. The five species WCS focuses on are lions, tigers, snow leopards, jaguars and cheetahs, according to Libretti.

“Through the years we have featured a specific animal or species. The last couple of years we had a ‘choose your own animal,’” she said.

“This year we’ve resurfaced one of our [own] programs and tying it to our global programs.”

While this race is non competitive, it’s been used as a platform for WCS to fundraise, build a new audience of wildlife lovers and gain new advocates and partners, according to Libretti.

For the milestone run, there are many new aspects of the event being planned.

While still in the planning stage, organizers said in staying with the theme, they may encourage participants to come dressed in their best cheetah print.

Among the new additions for this year, organizers said they may include face painters to make participants look like their favorite cat.

“Even if it’s your house cat,” she joked.

Libretti also said they are thinking of adding a catwalk to ‘strut your stuff’ after the race.

“The message we have with or without the run is you are in a borough with a leading conservation organization and a place that opens its gates to Bronx culture and its people. I think that there’s a pride factor,” the Bronx native said.

The race starts at the zoo’s Bronx River entrance and will take participants around the perimeter of the property, and then into the zoo at some points.

“Based on past runs, it’s a challenging course,” continued Libretti, referring to the property’s hilly topography.

“But it’s nothing you can’t do,” she said.

Whether you run, walk, or jog, participants will zip past the Asia, African Plains and Congo exbibits, to name a few.

While not all the animals will be out during the race, you may get to see some giraffes, zebras or sea lions.

“It’s just a lot of fun,” said Libretti.

The event also includes post-race activities like a rock climbing wall and a relaxing stop at its beer garden.

For more information, visit the WCS website.

Reach Reporter Sarah Valenzuela at (718) 260-4584. E-mail her at svalenzuela@cnglocal.com.

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