Runners race for their lives at Zombie Dash
Zombies, darkness and a race to the death. This weekend, the Zombie Dash gives runners a chance to put their nightmares toward a good cause.
“It’s a 5K run at night, but it is definitely more than just a run,” said Mark VanTongeren, co-owner and race director of Michigan Adventure Racing LLC. “It’s part run, part obstacle course and part haunted house.”
Grand Rapids hosts the Zombie Dash Oct. 26 at Ah-Nab-Awen Park. The race pits “survivors” against the “undead” in a 5K run occurring between 6:30 and 7:00 p.m. Runners follow a course along the Grand River that winds through themes such as the Apocalypse Avenue, which will feature a gauntlet of junked cars to dodge through. This Halloween weekend race is unique to Grand Rapids and unique to most other zombie races, as it takes place at night. Zombies even get to participate, or “eat,” for free. “Runners have two straps to keep from the zombies, and if they keep the straps till the end, they’ll get a minute shaved off their time,” said VanTongeren. “The runners have the most fun at Apocalypse Avenue. We drag in old cars and have the zombies on the cars. We have 100 zombies in that area and the runners have to dodge them.”
Last year there was over 1,200 runners and 400 zombies participated. $5,000 was raised for Michigan Blood’s Stem Cell Program.
“Michigan Adventure Racing has chosen us (Michigan Blood’s Stem Cell Program) and are giving us 20 to 25 percent of the proceeds to help us add more donors to the Be The Match registry,” said Kona Dominick, a Be The Match representative.
The nonprofit organization averages adding around 3,000 new donors each year for bone marrow and stem cells. It costs $100 to add and test just one person for the registry.
“Michigan Adventure Racing is a big help to us when it comes to this process,” said Dominick. “Only 55% of sick people find a match, so adding more to the registry will help find more matches, give hope, and ultimately save lives.”
The race also works with its charity partner, the Michigan Blood Stem Cell Program. This program works to educate about the importance of the Be The Match registry and marrow/stem cell donation. The stem cell program recruits potential marrow and stem cell donors for the National Marrow Donor Program’s Be The Match registry. Michigan Blood is also a regional collection site for stem cell donations. The race offers runners many unique twists. Besides the straps that the zombies try to steal from the runners, a second twist is the race is held from sunset into the night. Runners who begin at sunset can attempt to make it home before, if they run fast enough. Runners not only encounter Apocalypse Avenue but also Kill Hill at Belknap Park and Look-out! Park in the Belknap Hill neighborhood. Overall, the race strives to provide an interactive experience while raising money for a pertinent cause.
For more information about the race, go to www.TheZombieDash.com and visit www.facebook.com/TheZombieDash.