(A shorter version of this story was originally a cover story in the Living section of The Oregonian newspaper, Oct. 3, 2012 Oregonian story link online )

Last year Wonder Woman and Cat Woman along with life size bananas draped with fake blood appeared. Super Girls, Wally, and princesses could also be seen.

But, the stars of this pre-Halloween unique running event were of course the Zombies, whose task it was to capture as many of the “Survivors” flags, while they tried to escape.

All in the name of pre-Halloween fun.

And exercise, though you don’t realize you are exercising while being chased by Zombies.

This year’s second annual Zombie Apocalypse Run  Oct. 13 promises to be even better for the 3,000 runners expected to gather at a new venue, Heiser Farms in Dayton. That’s  five times as many as last year’s inaugural event at Lee Farms, which sold out at 600.

“We were shocked by the popular response, but thrilled at the same time that so many people enjoyed the event we put on,” said West Linn’s Heather Robbins, a mom of four, real estate, and triathlete, who envisioned the family run with fellow mom Debbie Parsons.

The Zombie run is housed under their business, Nomad Adventure Series, L.LC., which the moms dreamed up in 2011.

“We are avid athletes and mothers and wanted to create a themed event for all ages to participate in,” noted Robbins, adding that Zombies are quite the rage. “We wanted a fun Halloween adventure for the family.”

Here’s how the Run works: Racers register as either Zombies or Survivors for the 5 K Trail or 1.5 mile race, which start at the same time. Survivors are given a belt with two flags and a two-minute head start. Then the Zombies are unleashed to catch the survivors, trying to capture as many flags as they can.

Picture a the hunter and the hunted.

The first survivor and the first Zombie over the finish line with at least one flag wins that category. There’s also a “King or Queen of the Living Dead” award for the Zombie with the most flags.

Participants are encouraged to don costumes for the pre-race costume contests; they wear them during the race. Sirens, sound effects, fog, zombies and soldiers are just the beginning of the excitement along the course.

And, this year as a nod to the popular Hunger Games , a live web camera will allow spectators to cheer on their favorite Zombie or survivor.

“I have been around the business long enough to know runners will do crazy things,” said Jonathan Marcus, with Road Runner Sports who signed on as a sponsor both years.  “We look for things that are unique and different. This is something new and exciting, that no one else is doing.”

Actually, someone else was doing something similar across the country. The Run For Your Lives zombie race was launched on the East Coast in 2011 as well.

“I had not heard about it till afterward,” Robbins said, noting the distinctions: “Theirs is an obstacle course and their Zombies are on the sidelines and not chasing the runners as in our race.”

It just shows that the time was right for Zombie races.

Other sponsors for the local one are revved, including Voodoo Doughnuts and Rogue Ales, so get ready for some post-race fun.

Tom Cook of Clackamas is one of the 75 volunteers come race day.

“There is such a great mix of runners at this race; some are serious about racing and some are there for the pageantry and having a good time,” said Cook, who volunteered last year also. “It’s a good excuse to get dressed up for Halloween and get exercise.”

Robbins and crew are organizing another race in San Diego for March 2013, and she’s in the process of licensing. “We have been offered to sell or franchise the Nomad Adventure series.”

“It’s been a huge learning curve,” said Robbins. “I think of it like we are planning a big party.”

(The story is also found at Living cover story – Oregonian newspaper)


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