Five thousand run to save the tigers

Five thousand people came out for the 2nd annual Bronx Zoo Run for the Wild this past Saturday. The spring sun was out, making it a sweaty morning for the zoo volunteers and handful of runenrs that painted their faces to look like tigers.

This year’s 5K run was dedicated to saving the tigers. “Estimates are as low as 3,000 left in the wild,” said Max Pulsinelli, assistant director of Communications for the Bronx Wildlife Conservation Society. “I mean, we had more runners than there are tigers.”

And the runners were ferociously excited. Waiting for the 5 train early Saturday morning, Jen Tobia, who teaches at Morris Academy by Yankee Stadium, was pumped up. She came with two girlfriends who had chosen a 70s theme for the run — high socks and headbands made up their outfits. “I’ve made this trip to the zoo many times before, with my students,” said Tobia. “But not as a runner.” After finishing, Tobia said she felt terrific.

Other participants came with more seasoned 5K experience. “I’m a marathon runner, I’ve done tons of road races like this,” said Antonio D’itri, who teaches PE in the Bronx and lives in Morris Park, “but you know what? I love this one the best.” D’itri was among the first 15 runners to cross the finish line. Last year, he wasn’t able to go all out because he ran with one of his students, though he said doing the race that way was a lot of fun as well.

Meanwhile, Erin Reynolds, a freshman at Fordham University, was one of the first women to cross the finish line. She was all smiles, even though she had no friends or family there to greet her. “All my friends are still asleep!” she said.

Scores of families showed up as well, running at a slower, but still brisk pace, pushing strollers in front of them. Sabrina Oliva ran with her daughter, but didn’t have to worry about a stroller. “This was her first race and she did great,” said Oliva about her 5-year-old, Anna. Angela Cicino, a friend of Oliva, said that this was her second year doing the Run for the Wild and that next month she’ll be doing a marathon.

The painted faces weren’t even the most outlandish getups. Jake Jackson, who is from Glasgow, Scotland but now lives in Stamford, ran the entire 5k wearing a thick kilt and wool beret with red wig attached. “To be honest, my legs were chafing the whole way,” he said. “But it was a really good run.“ Following the race, runners were encouraged to check out the 2009 Yankees World Series trophy, which was on display for photo-ops and quick touches. A DJ from Z100 radio was also on hand to add humor and entertainment, while the New York Sports Clubs was offering Zumba exercises upstairs to help runners cool down.

The overall winner of the race was 23-year-old Chris Bauer of Seacliff, New York, who ran at Lebanon Valley High School and is now studying to be a nurse. Bauer didn’t look at all surprised or tired as he crossed the line long before anyone else.

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