A Wild Adventure: The Cheetah Run at Fota Wildlife Park

May 16, 2024

This evening, the vibrant landscapes of Fota Wildlife Park will echo with a mix of paws and excited cheers of a thousand runners as Eagle Athletic Club hosts its annual Cheetah Run. This unique event, now a staple in the running calendar, promises participants an exhilarating 5K race for adults and a thrilling 1-mile race for younger runners aged 11-15. Karen of Eagle AC shared with Run Republic the magic that awaits both racers and spectators alike.

The Cheetah Run is no ordinary race. It's a harmonious blend of athleticism and wildlife, where runners are not only cheered on by friends and family but also by the park's fascinating inhabitants. Imagine starting your race with curious gazes from giraffes, ostriches, and zebras, and then running past majestic cheetahs, playful monkeys on Monkey Island and a plethora of other captivating creatures. It's a visual feast and an adrenaline rush rolled into one, making it an experience like no other.

This year's event is particularly special as it's a sold-out affair, boasting a capacity of 1000 runners. Among them, 150 youngsters will tackle the 1-mile race, while 850 adults gear up for the 5K challenge. The popularity of the Cheetah Run stems from its unparalleled venue, offering a course that winds through habitats teeming with diverse wildlife. Runners revel in the absence of traffic worries, making it accessible and enjoyable for all skill levels.

Karen highlighted the inclusivity of the event, with roughly 30% of participants being club runners and a balanced gender representation of 50-50. Families find delight in the park's ambiance while waiting for their racing heroes to return before everyone can bask in the excitement and natural beauty of Fota Wildlife Park.

Organisation is key to the Cheetah Run's success, with seasoned runners overseeing every aspect. The event boasts a generous prize fund exceeding €2200, with age category prizes spanning up to O75, honouring the diversity and skill of all participants.

Reflecting on its history, the Cheetah Run sprinted onto the scene in 2006 as a 4-mile race with 680 enthusiastic runners. By 2013, its allure went global, capturing the hearts of viewers in the USA and UK with 34,000 YouTube views. In 2016, the race evolved into its current format of a 5K and 1-mile dash, consistently contributing thousands of euros annually to support Fota Wildlife Park.

Karen outlined that the success of the Cheetah Run wouldn't be possible without the support of dedicated sponsors like John Buckleys and Brooks Running, along with the collaborative efforts of Eagle AC members, OPW, and Fota House. Special thanks go to Ryan Creech and advocates like Freya & Nellie Bateman for their tireless efforts in promoting this year's race.

As the sun sets over Fota Wildlife Park, the Cheetah Run isn't just a race; it's a celebration of nature, athleticism, and adventure, promising participants an unforgettable journey through the wild.

Featured Image: Nellie Bateman Belgooly AC, Ryan Creech Leevale AC, Freya Bateman Belgooly AC. Photo by Darragh Kane.

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