Chimpathon is a special 16K race that takes place in Fort Pierce, Florida. The course runs from the St. Lucie County Fairgrounds along a multi-use path and rural road to Save the Chimps, the world's largest chimpanzee sanctuary. Particpants run the dirt roads of the sanctuary, alongside and between islands where the resident chimps live. The sanctuary is not normally open to the public so this race is a unique opportunity to see the facility and run among the "pant-hoots" of the chimpanzees. Why 16K? The number represents the $16,000 annual cost to care for one chimpanzee at the sanctuary. The 2017 run was the third annual.
Training & Goals
Through September my training is going to be a static "half ready" plan aiming for fairly consistent weekly miles. For this race I planned to run the non-sanctuary miles (about four at the start and four back) at race pace, then take it easy and enjoy the sanctuary miles (almost two) at a more leisurely pace.
Race Day: April 9, 2017
Right. So Chimpathon is way down in St. Lucie County. I opted to drive down on race morning, which meant a crazy early wake-up call. The long 2+ hour drive was uneventful and I arrived at the fairgrounds starting area with plenty of time to park, pick up my packet, take some photos, use the restroom, and otherwise prepare for the race. It was a pleasant 64°F at the start with clear skies and 60% humidity.
Mile 1: 11:06
This first mile took us out of the fairgrounds. We ran across dirt road and a grass field to a pedestrian ramp and bridge over Okeechobee Road. The ramp was a funny course feature that I knew would be no fun to run again at the end of the course.
Mile 2: 10:12
Zoom zoom, faster than race pace for this distance! We ran along a multi-use trail next to Okeechobee Road then turned right onto S Header Canal Road towards the sanctuary. From the fields we ran alongside I heard Eastern Towhees, Northern Mockingbirds, and Eastern Meadowlarks singing.
Mile 3: 11:04
Though we were still about a mile from the entrance to the sanctuary, we could already hear the chimps from about the mile 3 marker.
Mile 4: 10:36
Good (though inconsistent) pace for the first four miles. We entered the sanctuary just after the mile 4 marker.
Mile 5: 13:51
The fun part! The sanctuary cares for over 250 chimps on their 150 acre property. The race took us past the 12 3-acre islands where most of the chimps live. Chimpanzees can't swim so the canals separating the islands keep the chimps safe where they belong.
Mile 6: 14:26
Once we had been through the sanctuary, it was back out on S Header Canal Road for the return run back to the fairgrounds.
Mile 7: 12:13
After all of the walking I did in the sanctuary, it was tough to get back up to race pace. I wasn't going for any records though so I decided to take it easy.
Mile 8: 11:50
Mile 9+: 11:31, 11:36, 0:19
We had to run over the pedestrian bridge again just after the mile 9 marker. Somehow it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. 16K is about 9.94 miles. I wasn't running the tangents so my Garmin gave me a bit over 10 miles (I suspect it might have been confused by the bridge ramps as well).
After the race runners were treated to a pretty good spread of packaged pastry treats, chips, bananas, cold water, and CHOCOLATE MILK. I didn't stick around too long because I faced a long drive home, so I missed the award ceremony where top runners in each age group received original chimpanzee art.
This was definitely a top-5 race for me. I loved it! Course support was excellent with plenty of water stops and volunteers cheering us along all through the sanctuary. The website for the race is probably the best I've seen, with complete information presented in a well-organized format. The soft shirt runners received is pretty nice. We also got a Chimpathon buff -- great swag! The medal and drawstring backpack are average. The course itself is almost completely open with no shade but the weather wasn't too hot. I wouldn't mind an earlier start but I'm sure safety and comfort of the chimps plays into how early the race can begin. The race provided pacers and is very walker friendly. Highly recommended.
Chip time: 1:58:25 (new distance = PR (LOL))
Placement details: 29th of 57 in Age Group, 170th overall out of 390 finishers
Race Amenities: Swag included a nice soft short sleeve shirt, average medal, drawstring backpack, unique course
Cost: $64.10 which included $4.10 processing fee
Report written April 30, 2017
Featured photo (c) Figleaf Photography