Solemotive Sunset Series: Melbourne Zoo

Runners lining up at the start of the race, with tall gum trees and the wall of the zoo in the background.

30 before 30 update

One of my 30 Before 30 goals is to take part in a half-marathon race. At the time I chose this, Melbourne was still in lockdown, and group races felt like quite a distant dream. But I am pleased to report that races are now going ahead, and I have even taken part in one! Albeit not a half-marathon – yet.

The race I chose for my re-entry into the world of public running was an unusual one – Solemotive’s final Sunset Series race, around Melbourne Zoo! Some work friends put me on to this race, and it sounded so bizarre that I couldn’t resist it! There are two options to choose from: a 4km or 8km run/walk (in fact, just shy of 8km), so I chose the latter. The route involves laps through and outside the zoo, the idea being that you’ll get to see the animals. It takes place in the evening, so you get a fun sense of seeing the the zoo after closing time. However, if I’m honest, I didn’t really see that many animals! The ones I did see were fun though, the towering giraffes and a funny little tapir. I probably glimpsed a few others on the way around, but therein lies the problem. If you’re aiming for a decent pace and overall time, you can’t really afford to stop and admire the scenery. I saw quite a few people stopping to take photos, but couldn’t bring myself to lose momentum. I’m trying to take my running fairly seriously at the moment (I’m working through the GTN Half-Marathon training programme), and was loathe to end up at the bottom of the pack, so was working pretty hard to get a good time. I’m still a long way off my target times, but I am getting there.

A giraffe with a palm tree in the background
A giraffe seen on a past visit to Melbourne Zoo

Another slight downside of the race was the amount of time you spend outside the zoo. Obviously it’d be hard to work up the distance purely inside, but the majority of the time is spent following the perimeter wall of the zoo. This is a public footpath, and there were actually a few non-race runners following it, so it isn’t really something you need an organised race to do. But it gave some good variety, and upped the elevation a bit.

Selfie photo of Helen at the start line, with other runners and tall gum trees in the background.
Getting ready to go

In the interest of being COVID-safe, the race was split into three waves, each half an hour apart. To give myself plenty of time to get there after work I chose the final wave at 7:30pm. Participants were supposed to be fairly evenly split between these, with around 800 in total. But on the night lots of people apparently jumped into earlier waves, so by the time we got to mine it was quite quiet. I didn’t mind this at all – it was nice to be a bit more spread out without having to think about it too much.

The view across to the city from the warm-up area

There was also a nice ‘entertainment’ offering at the finish line/warm-up area, with a singer and food trucks. Again in the interest of COVID-safety, spectators were discouraged, so this was basically just the runners, but it still had a fun atmosphere. At the end of the race you were offered a free bottle of water and snack bar, the latter of which was just what I needed to face the (relatively tedious) trip home in the dark.

A finish-line, food trucks and people milling around waiting to start their race.
The entertainment/finish/admin area

I finished with a not particularly great time of 45 minutes and 15 seconds, landing me at 554 overall, and 209 for women. Not great, but pretty decent by my standards, and giving me a good point to work from.

All in all, the race wasn’t as weird and wonderful as I had hoped, but it was still a fun event, and a good dose of motivation to keep my going for my half-marathon goal. When you’re putting in a lot of hours it’s easy to get bored of your local routes, so something completely out of the ordinary like a zoo run was just the ticket. Dashing along to the sound of roaring lions is surprisingly inspiring!

What’s the most unusual race you’ve ever run? And do you have any suggestion for ‘must run’ Australian races? Please do share in the comments below!


  1. I was there as well. And this Time wasn’t good as my previous run 3 years ago.
    First timewh n I did this run in 2018 we spent more time inside zoo and were running along elephants , monkeys, and other animals. And it was only 2 laps around zoo and 2 big laps inside zoo. This Time I was surprised how short was way inside and that we had run 3 times around the walls where is more sand and dust.


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