ROCKINGHAM — An undead horde of Raider band members terrorized local residents who went out to Hinson Lake for a cool autumn 5K run Wednesday night in the first of what will be an annual zombie apocalypse to raise money for the band.
In addition to the 5K, the zombies held a contest to determine who was the most authentically undead, the most silly in the afterlife, and the most effective at killing and maiming the living.
The living were also rewarded for the speed with which they completed their 5K while dodging ambushes from band members in various states of decay who were hiding along their path. Children could opt to procure candy from the undead instead of being their prey.
After the gauntlet, the undead, the dead, and the barely living agreed to eat pizza rather than human flesh.
Among the living was Rockingham Councilman John Hutchinson, who spent much of his 5K holding off waves of formerly alive band members so that his two young sons running with him, Alex, 7, and John Patrick, 9, could escape.
“This is a great small-town event,” Hutchinson said. “As a citizen first, and as a council person, you love to see fun events like this that people come and do in the city.”
Hutchinson said he has been a longtime marathon runner but it was the first time he’s had to run for his life at the same time. Hutchinson came in first among the living who were 50 years old and over.
“It’s an insanely slow 5K. I would have been faster but I added an additional 5K running through the woods dodging zombies so it’s really a 10K — so I feel better about my time,” Hutchinson said.
The 5K Zombie Run was organized by Raider Band Fan, a nonprofit that supports the Richmond Raider band.
There were 22 total runners with 35 zombies, mostly made up of Raider band members, who were hiding along the path around Hinson Lake to try to scare the runners and rip strips of ribbon off their backs that represented their lives. Each runner got 10 lives at the start of the race.
Hutchinson lost all his lives by the second lap, but his son John Patrick made it to the end with one life left.
“I feel a sense of accomplishment,” John Patrick said after he got past the last cluster of zombies unscathed with the help of his already-dead father and brother acting as decoys.
In third place of the men’s 50 and older category was Bill Comninaki, a 69-year-old retired farmer from Hoffman. Comninaki has limited mobility and walks with a cane, and it took him longer to finish one lap than it took everyone else to run two, but he still had all his lives.
“I threatened them with my cane,” Comninaki said. “Those zombies are wusses.”
Comninaki said his granddaughter is in the band so he wanted to participate in any way that he could, adding “this may be my last” marathon.
Miranda Thompson, a ninth grader and Raider band member, won the award for scariest zombie. She said it took more than an hour to put together her costume and apply her makeup. Asked what she did to scare people she said, “I don’t know, it’s just my face has this weird effect.”
Mikal Spooner, a member of Raider Band Fan and lead organizer for the event, said it was a good turnout for it being the first year and being on a weekday.
“The enthusiasm can’t be beat,” Spooner said.
Spooner added that she was happy the zombies were able to be “age appropriate” with how hard they tried to scare each runner, not “torturing the old person” (Comninaki, Spooner’s father) and leaving the youngest runner with all of her ribbons.
Gus Bellamy, vice president of Raider Band Fan, estimated that the event raised more than $500 for the band. Bellamy wasn’t a part of the zombie horde but he looked the part, his face painted to look like it was covered in dried blood — everywhere but his beard.
“I tell everybody this is my actual true face and when I’m out in public I have on that skin makeup like Jack Nicholson did in Batman,” Bellamy said.
Spooner said that the event will be back next year.
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674.