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The running dead: Hundreds flee zombies at charity 5k


POTSDAM — When the dead can walk, run.

More than 350 people did their best to survive a “zombie” horde while raising money for the Special Olympics at the Rundead 5k Saturday at Clarkson University.

“The response has been great. It’s a unique spin on a 5k. Zombies are terrifically popular right now,” event organizer Brian J. McDonald said.

People who signed up for the event could choose to be a runner, or one of the hungry undead who would try to keep the rest from reaching their goals.

The 50 zombies showed up early to get into character with ghoulish makeup and plenty of fake blood. Then they positioned themselves along the 3-mile course, ready to chase any who came their way.

Each runner wore a belt with three ribbons hanging from it. The zombies would try to tear the ribbons away as the runners passed. If all three ribbons were taken, the runner was “dead.” He or she could still finish the race but would be ineligible for the prizes given to survivors.

Surviving wasn’t easy.

“There’s a couple guys out there who will chase you forever,” said Spc. Joseph M. Gates, who came to Potsdam from Fort Drum for the run. He managed to complete the race alive, but there were plenty of close calls, he said.

At the first Rundead race last October at Saratoga Springs, only 16 of the 1,500 runners finished with at least one flag intact.

“It’s a zombie apocalypse. It’s not supposed to be easy,” Mr. McDonald said.

Jessica K. Folk, a 12th-grader from Norwood, was running with her friend Sklyar R. Fetter when a zombie snagged their final flags a mere half-mile from the finish line.

“We’ve done races, but not with zombies,” she said. “We were so close.”

While the race was marketed toward high school and college students, people of all ages participated, both as runners and as their hunters. Just ask Zachary D. Plum, a 6-year-old zombie.

“I got five that round,” he said proudly, after handing the flags of his prey to his mother.

Many of the runners got into the spirit of things, with costumes either zombie-themed or just silly. Cindy L. McLean, of Colton, defended her team’s choice of zombie-fleeing uniforms: bright pink tutus.

“It hides the flags! It’s a distraction technique,” she said.

Frank W. and Lois A. Braun, Watertown, wore coats decorated with red handprints, created by the children at the day care where Mrs. Braun works. Mr. Braun’s coat identified him as the zombie “Guts Fieri,” and the two waited for their daughter to begin her run.

When asked if he would try to take his daughter’s flags, Mr. Braun answered without hesitation.

“Yes, why not?” he said.

The Rundead 5k is held by Special Olympics New York, and the $30 entry fees will be used to support programs for disabled athletes.

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