by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune
---- — France Park was overrun with the undead Saturday.
“Those zombies are relentless!” said Stephanie Hunt, short on breath from running and laughter as she attempted to evade eight-year-olds Mackenzie Dixson and Dakota Titus and six-year-old Emma Titus.
The kids’ zombie-painted faces grinned with glee as they chased Hunt up a tiered tower of hay bales near France Park’s beach parking lot on the last leg of the first Cass County 5K Zombie Run Saturday.
Hunt, Dixson and the Tituses were four of the more than 100 who came out to participate in the run, organized by the Loganland Leadership Academy.
Brooke Stotler, a member of the academy, said the event raised close to $2,000, which will go toward the academy’s goal of raising $12,000 to fund an annual $500 college scholarship for Cass County high school seniors.
“It was a total success,” Stotler said after the race finished. “More than we anticipated.”
About 75 ran while about 25 participated as zombies, Stotler continued. The walking dead, whose appearances were enhanced by the makeup skills of volunteers Tracy Jackson and Betsy Beatty, headed out into the woods shortly before the runners took their starting positions. On the outskirts of the trails, they waited to chase the racers and grab the two flags, or “lives,” attached to their waists.
The race began on the beach at France Park, continued on the trail along the swimming lake, edged around the park’s fishing lake and led through more woods until looping back to the beach parking lot up to the finish line.
The zombies chased the runners into further challenges like the straw bale tower, tire obstacle and two rope-climbing hills throughout the course.
“The terrain is perfect,” Stotler said, adding that members of the academy put about 80 hours of work into the project. “Very challenging obstacles.”
Hunt participated in the event with her mother, daughter and a group of friends they met through various fitness activities in the area.
“It was close by and it supports Cass County,” the Logansport resident said. “I was all for it.”
Hunt and her friends have traveled to Illinois, Ohio, Missouri, Kentucky and Wisconsin to run in obstacle course races. However, this was the first in which Hunt said they had the pleasure of being chased by zombies.
“It was so much fun not knowing what to expect around the corner,” she said.
Hunt added she likes obstacle course races because of the friendships they forge and the camaraderie they inspire as people help each other through the challenges.
“The goal is to get people off the couch, get them moving and across the finish line,” she said.
Hunt’s friend, Kasmira Thompson of Kokomo, praised the event as well.
“For a first-time event, it had a great turnout,” she said. “France Park is the perfect location for them to do it. We loved it.”
Aly Small and Aubrey Pullen participated as zombies in the race, their faces painted green and white with black cracks smeared throughout.
“I had a blast,” Small said. “It was fun. Everyone’s been talking about it, being the first year. It’s definitely worth doing again.”
Stotler and fellow Loganland Leadership Academy member Brya Danely said they hope to bring the event back in 2014 with some changes and improvements after this year’s inaugural run. The two spoke of holding the race during warmer weather so as to work in obstacle course staples like mud and water challenges and possibly even a “blood bath” obstacle to further align with the zombie theme.
Both said feedback is encouraged on the event’s Facebook page, titled “Cass County 5K Zombie Run.”
Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or email@example.com. Follow him: @PharosMAK