'We hate running but we figured we could run from zombies'

PORTLAND, Ore. - With music pumping in the background, people of all ages lined up outside of a large covered picnic area in the early morning fog. Minutes later, after a whirlwind of white paint, intense shadowing and liberal use of many blood-like substances (including strawberry syrup), zombies would emerge wild-eyed and excited for a good chase.

While some people struggle to find a reason to run, others welcome any excuse. There is now a sensible compromise.

"We hate running but we figured we could run from zombies," Alex Serrano, a younger runner, said, trying to explain the draw of the event.

On Saturday, October 26, just east of Portland, there was a 5K battle for the survival of the human race, with a little more than 300 zombies facing off against about 2,500 humans. Each "human" runner was given a belt with three detachable flags, for their three lives, which the "zombies" tried to grab as the runners sprinted through the zombie stations around the course.

Participants could choose to be either human or zombie, with the zombie check-in two hours before the race for a proper bloody make-over and zombie training. A zone manager distributed the new zombies throughout the course, where they were supposed to stay and not chase runners the length of the race. That just wouldn't be fair. There were four zombie stations, one of which was a car crash scene with fog machines and plenty of noisy zombies.

"People are so into having the full experience and I think this is a full experience," Ruby Muro, the special effects director, said. "People are so into video games, 'The Walking Dead' and stuff like that, I think this is the next level, you are a human zombie, you can pretend."

Muro, an ardent horror movie fan since an "inappropriately young age," started off doing beauty makeup and moved up to special effects makeup eight years ago.

"My favorite movie when I was about five was the original 'Dawn of the Dead', instead of Sesame Street or whatever," Muro said grinning. "And with my makeup background and my love of horror movies and then learning about special effects, it was like a perfect marriage for me."

The next generation of scare-loving children showed up on Saturday with their parents and friends, either running or chasing runners, and enjoyed themselves thoroughly.

"It's not your typical 5K, not for the hardcore runners," Muro said. "One of the major cool things about this is that I've seen so many families. I've even seen grandma and grandpa bring their grandkids. Who would have thought that a zombie event would be so family friendly?"

Remembering a previous race in Philadelphia, where a car crash station was set up, Muro cannot help but chuckle.

"The mom and dad would scare people towards the trunk of the car and the kids would pop out and snatch their flag. That's some good teamwork. The zombie family that eats brains together stays together."

Saturday was the 14th and final run of the season for the Zombie Run crew and it has been a busy year for them. Around 40 races are planned for next year.