Running 3.1 miles can be difficult enough, but having to dodge the “walking dead” adds another dimension to that feat as participants in the 5K Zombie Run for Charity learned Saturday night.
The pre-race activities for the Mount Airy event resembled those of any other run, with participants stretching their muscles and trying to psyche themselves up for the task ahead.
But something was noticeably different among the crowd gathered outside Grace Covenant Church behind Creek Bottom Brewing Company on Rockford Street.
Fifteen individuals sported ghoulish makeup that provided them with a death-like appearance, while some of the faces dripped blood and wore hollow expressions that would have been right at home on the set of “The Walking Dead” television series.
Instead of a Hollywood producer, the 5K Zombie Run for Charity was the brainchild of Angela “Miss Angel” Shur, a local business owner. She conceived the idea for the event last year due to the absence of any similar one in this general area.
In addition to capitalizing on the zombie craze that has captivated America through the wildly popular TV shows “The Walking Dead,” its companion program, “Fear the Walking Dead,” and movies such as “Zombieland,” the run will aid worthy causes locally.
“We have close to 150 registered runners,” said Shur, whose multiple business enterprises include the Miss Angel’s Heavenly Pies shop downtown.
She seemed pleased by that turnout, which eclipsed last year’s field of around 100 runners who spawned $6,000-plus in proceeds. This year, the beneficiaries of all money raised are the Shepherd’s House homeless shelter and Mayberry 4 Paws Animal Rescue, both in Mount Airy, and Surry Animal Rescue in Dobson.
Along with the chance to help their organizations financially; distribute information about them during Saturday’s gathering; and, in the case of the animal-related groups, display some of the pets helped, representatives from the three groups made up the 15-member zombie corps.
Its ranks included Jennifer Douglas of Surry Animal Rescue, who said portraying a zombie represented a first for her.
Yet she seemed to revel in the experience.
“Rush of adrenalin”
Under the race format, runners were issued “life” belts with three Velcro flags attached to each. Zombies positioned at strategic locations along the course tried to take the humans’ flags, or “lives,” as the runners likewise sought to dodge the “dead.”
Rather than pose another obstacle for a runner to cope with, along with consuming enough oxygen and staying on course, dealing with the zombies actually provided a boost to some of the competitors. They included Angie Moses, 39, of Cana, Virginia, who has run in both events organized by Miss Angel.
“It’s like a rush of adrenalin when you see the zombies,” Moses explained of the extra dimension for a 5K run that forces participants to literally think on their feet. “You have to think about how to get around them.”
After starting from Grace Covenant Church, the course proceeded up to South South Street and then down Worth Street to access the Emily B. Taylor Greenway. The runners headed north and eventually looped around the greenway, ending back at the church.
Awards went to the fastest finishers in the chip-timed race. The overall winner was Justin Atkins, 32, of Dobson, with a time of 22 minutes, 13 seconds.
Competitors could qualify for a grand prize by completing the course with at least one flag “life,” with prize tickets issued at the finish line based on the number of flags still attached to the Velcro belts.