Running in a 5K race can be challenging and tiring. Imagine running over, under and through a dozen obstacles, many involving mud and water on a hilly course and, oh yes, with hordes of the undead chasing you.
Sounds like a lot of fun, huh?
An estimated 12,000 people packed Camp Ramblewood in Darlington Saturday for the zombie-themed Run For Your Lives 5K obstacle course race. The threat of Hurricane Sandy bearing down on the Middle Atlantic region did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm for nor the participation in Saturday's race.
More was planned for Sunday; however, on Saturday evening organizers announced on the event's Facebook Page and later via e-mail that all Sunday activities had been canceled by order of Harford County because of the approach of Hurricane Sandy.
"Harford County officials just called to tell us tomorrow's [Sunday's] race is being canceled due to the impending storm," organizers wrote in an e-mail sent to the media. "We are so sorry for any inconveniences this may cause, but it's 100 percent out of our hands."
Event officials also said via Facebook that arrangements would be made to offer "transfers" to another event.
The Zombie Run was first held last year in the same Darlington location, and similar Run for Your Lives events have spread across the United States since then.
And, as was the case in 2011, traffic was heavy along roads in the Darlington area, although both the Harford County Sheriff's Office and Maryland State Police appeared well prepared and had several deputies and troopers on duty to direct traffic. Organizers lauded those preparations.
Running for your life
For the Saturday 5K, participants had to make their way through a series of man-made and natural obstacles while wearing a flag belt.
Meanwhile, volunteers made up to look like zombies were stationed at various areas on the course, attempting to pull flags off as many runners as they could. If a runner got to the finish line with a flag, they successfully survived the "Zombie Apocalypse."
Baltimore-based HGL Productions was subcontracted by race organizers Reed Street Productions to coordinate, dress up and disperse all 750 "zombies" in three shifts of 250 along the course.
Each zombie volunteer had to go through wardrobe and makeup before being sent along the course. In wardrobe, staffers would shred each zombie's clothing or would provide old clothing if they chose. Afterward, professional makeup artists would add realistic blood and cuts on their faces. Every fourth or fifth zombie got a latex prosthesis meant to resemble a very large gash or open wound.
'Muddy and Bloody'
The last part of the zombie-making process is what unit production manager Pete Chilcoat, the man in charge of the zombies, called "the muddy and bloody stage."
"Someone dumps buckets and buckets of fake blood on them," said a grinning Chilcoat, who is a co-founder of HGL Productions with his brother, Brian.
Zombies were divided into "stumblers," whose movements were limited to only a few feet, and chasers, who could pursue runners up to a certain distance.
"We give instructions on what they can and can't do, and where they can and cannot chase people," Chilcoat said.
Chilcoat said there was a "wider demographic of people who want to be zombies" because, unlike running, being a zombie did not require a participant to be in top physical shape.
Many zombie volunteers from previous races have shown up with creative costumes, such as film characters Ron Burgandy, Forrest Gump and even Danny Zuko from "Grease."