DeKALB – Runners of a three-mile race Sunday found one heart-pounding reason to sprint to the finish line: zombies.
After the race began at 8 a.m. at Hopkins Park in DeKalb, the undead were unleashed on the runners, who had to run through several streets and bike paths and make it to the finish line with their lives intact. Participants were outfitted with life lines – or flags the zombies needed to collect to kill them.
The idea for the race came from the Clinton Rosette Middle School Parent Teacher Association, which uses it to raise funds to provide technology, field trips and programming for students at Clinton Rosette Middle School. Jamie Vilet, president of the association, said they wanted to host a 5K race that stood out from other 5K races in the area.
"Zombies seem to be all the rage right now, and we wanted to do something nobody else was doing around here," she said.
Last year when the race first began, the PTA raised more than $8,000 and had more than 200 participants. This year she expects the PTA will raise more than $7,000 and have the same amount of participants.
One zombie, Dylan Kvapil, took down nine people in the race and made first place as the zombie with the most flags. The Clinton Rosette Middle School student said he succeeded by running fast in the beginning of the race, which he found fun.
"It's better than just a regular race," he said. "It's exciting."
Participants who registered for the Zombie Dash 5K were able to choose three fates: zombies, runners or medics. Runners are allowed to begin the race three minutes before the zombies. The medics, who don't have to worry about being chased by the zombies, are allowed to run three minutes after the last zombie runs.
Kelly Summers, a Northern Illinois University assistant professor, said she chose to become a zombie because she's slow. While she didn't intentionally run slow, she said she thinks zombies should be slow rather than the kind who are fast, such as the ones in "The Walking Dead".
"And out of the three things you could possibly be – a runner, a medic, a zombie – come on, the zombies are the most fun," she said.
Paul Schimbke decided to be a medic. He said the medics had no purpose other than to run but that was more than enough for the Clinton Rosette Middle School teacher who was just looking for entertainment. Last year, Schimbke watched his daughter, a student with the middle school, run in the race and wanted to join in the mayhem.
"It's good for the kids and it helps them out," he said. "So, it's awesome."
While zombies who captured the most lives were recognized, so were the runners who ran the 5K the fastest. Stephen Poorten, Cameron Carani and Jarrod Pritchett took first, second and third place, respectively. Poorten, a Sycamore Middle School student who finished in 20:12, was untouchable by the undead.
"I kind of knew [the zombies] weren't going to catch me because we had a ... head start," he said.
Seth Wickens-Walther, Clinton Rosette Middle School student, said he chose to be a zombie because he wanted to wear the ghoulish make-up, which he was worried about having to wipe off when he sweated during the race.
"Zombies are the new thing and vampires are gone now," he said, "and trying to eat people makes the race more fun and interesting."