Zombie 5K race proves to be a real scream

Posted: October 29, 2012

The Winchester Star

Runners take off at the start of the Zombie 5K Invasion run held Saturday afternoon in Chet Hobert Park in Berryville. (Photo by Scott Mason/The Winchester Star)
“Zombie” Mary Buhl looks over a flier Saturday afternoon prior to the start of the run in Chet Hobert Park.

BERRYVILLE — Zombies may be crazed flesh eaters, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be helpful in some aspects, namely helping people run — fast.

They showed their value Saturday at Chet Hobert Park just west of Berryville at the Zombie 5K Invasion, a race in which runners are chased by individuals in makeup and costumes pretending to be blood-thirsty spooks.

“It feels good to still be alive,” said Austin Hovermale, who finished first in the 3.1-mile trek with a time of 22 minutes and 48 seconds.

Not only did Hovermale, a 28-year-old resident of Shepherdstown, W.Va., win the race, but he managed to protect both of his “lifelines” — flags attached to a belt similar to a flag football belt — despite at least 20 zombies trying to rip them away during his run.

The presence of the undead lifeline stealers created a different strategy for the runners.

Winchester resident Mark Bayliss, who finished second out of the 50-plus runners, was trailing Hovermale and watching him draw the brunt of the flesh eaters’ attention in zones where zombies were pre-stationed.

“I thought I could squeak by when they went after [Hovermale],” he said after the race.

But Hovermale proved too evasive for the walking — and running — dead, and Bayliss, 53, finished a close second, 39 seconds behind the winner.

This was the first zombie race held by the Clarke County Parks and Recreation Department.

It imitated similar events in cities such as Chicago and New York City, said Tracey Pitcock, the county’s recreation program coordinator.

It’s a fun way to encourage people to be active, Pitcock said.

Say what you want about zombies craving flesh, but they’re an active bunch.

Katie Rogers, 15, was covered in fake blood Saturday afternoon with a large cut across her neck as she tried to grab as many lifelines as she could.

A member of the Sherando High School cross country team, Katie thought she deserved some credit for helping the runners finish the race quickly.

“If we’re chasing them the whole time, we do [deserve credit],” she said.

Participants had different options about how active a role they wanted to take, Pitcock said.

Someone racing could choose to run or walk, and zombies could lunge after lifelines by running the length of the course or remaining in a “zombie zone” and harass the racers in that area.

But everyone was getting some exercise, she said.

— Contact Conor Gallagher at cgallagher@winchesterstar.com