Zomb-er event: Inaugural Zombie 5K draws hundreds
When director Brian Wimer first conceived of the zombie-laden running race as a guerrilla marketing tool for his new film, Danger. Zombies. Run., he figured he might get a hundred people or so willing to don deathly makeup to run after willing victims through the streets of downtown Charlottesville.
Apparently, the director of the award-winning Mantra and other horror fare tapped an unrecognized demand for zombie-related athletic events, as approximately 500 runners, some who traveled from out-of-state, participated in the inaugural "Zombie 5K" on Sunday, October 17. They filled the streets with staggering–- or sprinting–- undead hot on the trail of human runners.
"Everybody had a good time," says Wimer, who expressed relief that his biggest fear was not realized. "No one got hurt!" he exclaimed.
While some might have believed that Wimer sponsored another zombie-related event the night before the race– the decidedly adult-themed "Sexy Zombie Jello Wrestling" at R2 nightclub– Wimer says he did not, but he did film it as a possible DVD extra for his film. He does hope to hold a family-friendly zombie bake sale at the City Market before the Saturday, October 30 premiere of the new film at the Paramount. (It will screen again on Friday, November 5 during the Virginia Film Festival.)
Putting together a road race is a bit more complicated than baking cookies, and Wimer says at one point his producer encouraged him to cancel the run when details like lining up insurance and a police presence seemed like insurmountable financial challenges.
"I said, 'We make movies, we can do this!" he says. And when the registrations soared to 360 a few days before the race, Wimer says the idea of cutting off registration was considered–- although only briefly. "I said, 'No, no, let's let it grow on its own,'" says Wimer, who admits his confidence stemmed largely from the race's sponsorship by the Charlottesville Running Company. And grow it did.
Runners were divided into two groups: zombies and their would-be victims, the latter of which were given a 90-second head start. After one-and a half minutes, the zombies were released and let out a roar that sounded to would-be victims, blocks ahead, something like an stadium crowd–- albeit one that was ominously coming closer by the second. One seven-year-old runner burst into tears, but valiantly ran faster, determined to stay alive.
Human runners wore red ribbons taped to their backs that the zombies would rip–- flag football style–- to signal a "kill." The newly undead could be adorned with fake blood by a variety of characters posted along the route.
Wimer says feedback has been almost entirely positive, with the exception of several of the fastest human runners upset at being ambushed and killed by the slowest zombies as the runners completed the final portion of the track–- a stretch along the Downtown Mall that the race traveled twice.
"That was against the rules," says Wimer. "I feel bad–- some of those runners in the front were going so fast and then having someone take their lives... I guess that's just the way zombies are."
The race's winner was Michael Smayda, who finished in 18:19. Charlottesville Running Company has posted the results.
Perhaps the best news of the race is the money raised: around $3,000 after race expenses are covered, Wimer estimates. The money will be divided between a not-yet-named charity that brings healthy foods to the City Schools (perhaps the Buford School Garden, says Wimer) and Filmmakers Republik, a Central Virginia nonprofit supporting local films.
And for anyone who wanted to run this year but couldn't, Wimer says there's likely to be a repeat next year.
"Sounds like everybody wants it to happen again," he says. "Maybe it'll be clowns next time."
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