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Zombies, humans to be on the run in Columbus 5K

Courtesy of Ritchie Morrison

Have you ever been chased by zombies? The answer is probably no, but that could change this weekend.

The Zombie Buffet 5K is scheduled to bring the zombie apocalypse to Columbus Saturday at Arch Park, with the first wave of runners and walkers being chased at 11:30 a.m.

Participants can come to the race as a human or dress up as a zombie. Those who choose to be zombies can do their own makeup, but there will be freelance makeup artists at the race to help zombify.

Zombies and humans will begin the event at different starting points of the race, and the two paths will merge, allowing chaos to break loose and the real action to begin. The humans wear a flag belt, similar to one used in flag football, with two flags on it, and the zombies gather as many flags as possible before crossing the finish line.

The zombie that crosses the finish line with the most flags is the winner of the zombie division. Humans can also win a separate category if they are the first human to cross the finish line with at least one flag still intact. If you start out as a human but lose your flags or, as Brandon May, the national director for the race, described it, get infected by zombies, you can stop at one of the transformation stations that will be along the course. At the transformation stations, humans are transformed to look the part of a newly infected zombie and join in on snagging other runners’ flags.

The idea of a zombie-themed 5K was created from a joke during a conversation between May and a friend, who is an avid runner.

“I am a former linebacker, so I don’t run unless something is chasing me,” May said. “We started it as a joke and thought that very few people would come to it, but it ended up being a big success.”

May said the costumes are one of his favorite parts of the event.

“You would not believe the amount of work people put into getting made up for the event,” May said. “It is some of the most realistic costumes I’ve seen … and if you didn’t know about the event ahead of time, and saw people running and screaming with these elaborate costumes and makeup, you might think zombies truly were coming to get you.”

This is the second year for the race, and it has expanded from its origin in Nashville, which was the only location for the race last year, to add additional races in Jacksonville, Fla., Phoenix, and Columbus this year.

The first race in Nashville was held as a fundraiser for a local homeless shelter, and ended up raising more than $10,000 and included more than 2,000 participants, May said.

Columbus participants will be running and embodying zombies to raise money for “Scares that Care,” a nonprofit organization that donates money, toys and other items to sick children.

Steve Nocera, an Ohio State alumnus, has been training to out-run the “zombies” for several months.

“You have to at least try and survive the race,” Nocera said. “You can’t just start off as a zombie right away, that’s not as much fun. I know my chances are slim for survival but if I make it, awesome, and if I get turned into a zombie, it will be fun to chase down other runners.”

Nocera said he ran cross-country in high school and has experience running 5K races but feels this will be a little more difficult than other races.

“I am a little nervous about how crowded it will be and having to maneuver around runners and the zombies, but I think it will be some practical experience if zombies ever do attack,” he said.

Nocera will be running the 5K with friend and fellow zombie enthusiast Samantha Norris, a fourth-year in nursing at Mount Carmel College of Nursing. Although Norris has never ran in a 5K race before, she said she is excited to out-run zombies this weekend.

“I am obsessed with zombies,” Norris said. “I signed up back in May when I first heard about it. I am a little nervous about completing it, let alone with my flags intact, but if I do get eaten by zombies I will definitely chase the remaining runners as a zombie.”

Cost to compete in the race is $39 for runners and sprinting zombies and $25 for walker zombies, and tickets can be purchased on the race’s website. Arch Park is located at the intersection of Nationwide Boulevard and West Street in Columbus’ Arena District.

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