Running can be hard enough, ask a Chicago marathoner, but 5K runners at the College of Lake County in Grayslake last Saturday had to contend with the undead.
That’s right, we’re talking zombies all along the 3.1-mile course, including baseball-uniformed zombies jumping out of trees and popping out of garbage cans as runners went past the college’s ball fields, and they were all desperately trying to kill you. Well, at least steal your two “life” flags (think flag football).
The inaugural Dead Last 5K run was the brainchild of teenage zombies from Grayslake North and Grayslake Central high schools and School District 127 Supt. Catherine Finger, to benefit the village’s downtown youth center called The Oasis.
Finding a name became a search for brains because all the other zombie runs had copyrighted theirs, “so we came up with Dead Last and copyrighted,” said Finger. The 150 or so runners went through five zombie zones with their two flags attached to their waists and they had to try and finish the race “alive,” but there were replacement flags hidden along the course and the sometimes the brain-addled zombies would leave flags lying on the ground.
“We have zombies who are dying to meet you,” said Finger before the race. “I’ve been dead all day and it’s not too bad,” she said in remarks thanking the sponsors and the runners for joining their efforts to support the kids. “We’re doing this to support our kids,” she said, adding The Oasis has thousands of kids going through its doors. She is a founding board member of the youth center. “We’re dying to support our kids,” she said with a laugh.
“Please cross the finish line dead or alive,” she urged the runners in the timed race. “It’s a great day to be a zombie,” said Finger and many high school students agreed. Makeup was done by the Grayslake Central Encore Theater program and they had a great turnout of students.
“I’ve been a zombie before,” said Tiffany Reid, 14, of Grayslake Central, who had beautiful nasty open wound down the side of her face and neck. “I was an axe murderer zombie for Halloween last year and I was grabbing people,” said Reid, who is also a fan of the hit television show “The Walking Dead,” which had its season premiere on Sunday night.
C.J. Cusick, 17, of Grayslake was a Frankenstein’s Bride zombie and theater group member who helped do makeup before the race. Her role as a zombie was fun. “Everyone got really into it. People screamed, people laughed, I think we really motivated people,” she said. After the race, people requested she take a picture with them.
Heather O’Dell, 39, of Round Lake, loved the race, got through it “alive” but scored a little road rash dodging zombies. “I’m ready for the Walking Dead premiere now. It was a lot of fun. I was laughing a lot through it. The kids were really into it,” she said.
Maureen Snider, 57, of Grayslake made it through the race with “lives” to spare and she showed them off to her granddaughter Genevieve Parkinson, 3, of Kansasville, Wis. “I ran out, but I got more. Sometimes, the zombies were distracted,” she said. “I ran a lot faster because you had to sprint through the zombies. It was so much fun,” she said.
Scott Peppler, 43, of Grayslake read about the race and thought it would be a fun way to spend part of his birthday with his daughter, Kaitlyn, 13, and her friend, Annie, 13, of Gurnee. “I read about it in the paper. It’s was kind of a Halloweenie thing to do with the kids,” he said.
“I was very excited,” said his daughter Kaitlyn,” because I love running. And I love zombies so much,” she said. “I hate zombies,” says her friend, Annie, “We’re opposites.” Afterward, they both made it through alive. “By the baseball field, zombies jumped out a tree and popped out of a garbage can,” said Annie.
“We got so many ‘lives,’ we were giving them to other people. We just had a great time,” said Kaitlyn.
Jaheir Gipson, 13, of Great Lakes heard about the race from his mother, who is in the Navy. “I thought, ‘That’s cool. I love zombies and I love running,’” he said. “Whenever (the zombies) came close, I’d spin,” said Gipson, who made it through “alive.” “It was pretty cool. I hope to do it again,” he said. His father, Vernon, 35, also liked it. “It was great, it was fun. I’m tired,” he said with a laugh. His other son, Julian, 7, said “it looks cool” and he may run next time.
Katie Parnell, 27, of Morton Grove ran with her sister, Kim Begerow, 38, of Zion and Parnell came in dead first out of all the runners. But, “I ended up dead. I felt like I was the sacrificial runner (being in the lead) for everyone behind me,” she said. “It definitely was a unique kind of race. This was fun.” she said.