Runners in need of a little inspiration to get through a race only have to look behind them – at least at the Zombie Run, where actors dressed as zombies chase participants to the finish line.
The Zombie Run, a 5K created by college sophomores Andrew Hudis, of the University of Pennsylvania, and Dave Feinman, of Bucks County Community College, will debut at Franklin D. Roosevelt Park on April 7, with 3,000 runners already signed up to “run for their lives.” Feinman and Hudis, friends from high school who ran their first marathon together, have created a unique race experience that makes runners truly believe the setting.
The extensive backstory of the Zombie Run garnered interest from local runners and horror aficionados alike. As created by the minds of Feinman and Hudis, “Compound 894,” an experimental biochemical military strategy to heal injured soldiers, actually brought back the dead, hence, a zombie apocalypse.
The race course will be transformed into a zombie apocalyptic world, complete with military fall out stations, fake severed limbs, “blood” spraying machines and, most importantly, zombies. Runners must even be wary at water stops, where they will be handed cups labeled “trial vaccine.”
“The whole time you’re running in the race, we want you to feel that you’re being chased by zombies, and you’re part of [that world],” said Feinman, who said he will be transferring to Fox School of Business this fall.
Along with those who sign up as humans, the other available option that sets apart the Zombie Run from other 5Ks is the opportunity to be a zombie. Those who sign up to be part of the undead team must arrive two hours before the race’s start time of 8 a.m., at which time they will receive a Hollywood quality makeover and training for zombie behavior.
“We’ll have a giant zombie transformation center,” Hudis said. “Then a zombie training station. [To get] your limp down, learn how to crawl…it’s basically Zombie 101.”
It may seem painful to take a class on zombie etiquette at 6 a.m., but the zombie crew has already been capped due to enthusiastic Philadelphians. Once participants are fully transformed into undead beings, they will be stationed at different points throughout the race.
As human runners advance in the race, zombies will attack to keep them on their toes. The goal of the zombies is to pop the humans’ “life balloon,” which symbolizes their survival of the apocalyptic setting. Even with a popped balloon, runners should still finish the race, Hudis said.
“We still wanted to appeal to less competitive runners,” Hudis said. “We didn’t want people to worry that they were just going to be trampled by zombies within the first few minutes. That’s why we invested in making the whole course feel like an experience.”
Along with the race itself, the Zombie Run’s creators said they knew that participants would need to celebrate their survival after the finish line. To address this, a post-race party will unite humans and zombies for dancing and photo ops. Jacky Bam Bam from local radio station 93.3 will serve as the disc jockey, Feinman said.
The Zombie Run offers even more than just entertainment value and exciting exercise, as it is has a tri-fold charitable arrangement that entrance prices contribute to. Its major charitable partner, Active Heroes, a national charity based in Louisville, Ky., supports military families of returning soldiers experiencing any difficulties, whether financial, physical or emotional and mental stress.
“[The Active Heroes creator] is a really personable guy,” Feinman said. “He’s told me a lot of stories of military families that they’re helping.”
Active Heroes seemed like a good fit as a charitable partner, particularly with the militaristic backstory and theme of the race, he added.
Along with donating significantly to Active Heroes, Feinman and Hudis extended their charitable outreach in two other directions. In every city throughout the country that the Zombie Run takes place, a local charity will be supported. In addition, any person with a charity can register a group of runners in its name and receive support from the Zombie Run.
“We’re telling people that we’re donating their money,” Hudis said. “So we want them to really know where it’s going. Who are we to tell people where they should donate their money to?”
The charitable outreach of the Zombie Run may account for the first time zombies have ever benefitted society, and that won’t end after Philadelphia’s upcoming race. The Zombie Run is already scheduled to take place in many other cities across the country, including Miami and Seattle.
Not everyone may have a passion for running, but one thing is indisputable – zombies are spreading across the country. The Zombie Run claims to be far from the typical hometown 5K and may be just the key to overcoming that mid-race fatigue. There’s nothing quite like being chased by a brain eating zombie to push through that last kilometer.
Erin Edinger-Turoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.