Residents of the McCleary area can breathe a sigh of relief as the zombie horde has left the immediate area. Over the weekend, an estimated 750 zombies were sighted in the area of Straddleline ORV Park, chasing upward of 2,500 brave running souls during the Run for Your Lives Zombie 5K Run.
The event — part athletic competition, part charitible event, part bizarre social gathering — allows participants to sign up as either a runner of the 5K obstacle course or a zombie — menacing runners throughout the course.
Many people participating in the event are seasoned distance runners looking for any way to break up their regular routine. Some traveled from as far away as Australia.
“I came to visit my family and they brought me down here,” said Jay Valliere. Jay along with his friend, Jill Silver, took a plane from Queensland, Australia, to Vancouver, B.C. After arriving at his parents’ house, Mike and Meg Valliere took the pair to run with the zombies.
“We came just for this event. I saw a television ad and thought it would be fun,” said Mike.
The group signed up to be zombies and went through the several stages it took to be transformed.
Arriving at the ORV Park, participants were directed into one of two camps, Zombies or Runners.
For the runners, it was just a chance to limber up before slogging through the course. But for a zombie, it took a little more time as they had to get in a costume, get makeup, understand the rules of the course and practice their zombie ways.
“I brought this bottle of fake blood along with me so we can have some drooling from our mouths,” said Jay.
Professional makeup artists had to attend a casting call to get the job of providing zombie make-overs. Some were versed in airbrushing, while others were known for the work with latex, all providing a scary effect as an end result.
After hair and makeup came the zombie blood application station, where they were splattered with fake blood on their front and back.
Some groups of runners and zombies came already dressed in either team T-shirts, or special costumes. There were zombie construction workers, cheerleaders and even, “Mighty Morphin Zombie Rangers” Santa paid a visit and a zombie elf was also sighted.
Those who elected to run the course were provided a belt with three flags, representing one life for each flag. Runners were set out on the course in groups of about 100 every 30 minutes. Zombies were rotated 250 at a time on the course, and attacked runners for a scheduled two hours, or until the next horde of zombies made its way into the territory.
Runners not only had to avoid zombies but also encountered obstacles along the course — hay-bale walls to climb, water hazards to wade through, smoke tents and more. Runners soon found out that it was better to run in groups when navigating a zombie zone. And those that lost all their flags were soon pushed in front of the others as zombie bait.
Zombies had two basic jobs, to stumble the runner or to chase. One chase zombie, Geneve Salazar, came down from Tacoma with her extended family of 14.
“My boys are really into zombies, so this seemed like a good idea. And I like the fact that it is for charity,” said Salazar.
Santa zombie, Jason Dashnow of Fife, was attending the event for the first time and was staged at the exit of the smoke tent.
“I thought it would be something cool to do. And if you think about Santa becoming a zombie, the whole world would be in trouble,” Dashnow laughed as he stumbled runners exiting the tent.
Many people question the point of an event like this and it can all be summed up at the end of the race when you are awarded the Survivor Medal.
A first-time participant, 16-year old Donovan Davis of Vancouver, Wash., has been waiting a while just to get his chance.
“You have to be 14 to run. I was finally old enough and I SURVIVED,” said Davis proudly sporting a survivor medal around his neck.
For the town of McCleary, which saw record sales for businesses during the previous Dirty Dash, it can only get better. And for the ORV Park itself, it is one way to help keep the park open.
“Events like the Zombie Run mean keeping the park open. It helps with the revenue. We would love to see the motorcycle industry support this track, but hosting events like this helps make improvements, maintenance and helps us through the winter. We have to be ahead of the game with the rain coming,” said Elaine Derrick of Promoto Promotions.
“October 12th, will be the Seven Summit run, and events like that really, really help us out. We would love to see the ORV users be able to fund the park, but it is coming in a little short. We are not seeing as many new riders, and the cost is becoming prohibitive.”
Indications from the zombie event promoters open the possibility that the run will return next year. So if you are eager and willing to be a zombie — or zombie bait — watch the ORV Park schedule for the next Run for Your Lives.