Missy Dietsch, co-Founder of Monster Runs LCC which manages Florida-based 5K Zombie Run events, takes us through the inception and evolution of the event, and whether she herself could outrun the undead …

Where did the idea first come from?
I’m a marathon runner, and Darren [husband and co-founder] is not a runner – at all. He loves horror movies, classic zombie films especially, and he once made a comment that he would only run if being personally chased by zombies, and that was it! An idea was born.

He has been the brains behind the organisation and marketing, I’ve handled the social media, creative and all things related to the “people” side of the run. After our very first event in 2012, we were approached by Florida Blood Services to determine if there would be an interest in a partnership. We are both avid blood donors, so it seemed like a no-brainer (no pun intended).

Why do you think people find the Zombie Run so much fun?
We started this race during the premier season of The Walking Dead, and zombies were everywhere, it seemed! People responded to our version of the challenge of “surviving” a zombie attack, and it’s such a friendly race for all fitness levels – if you aren’t a runner but your friends are, you can be a zombie and “chase” your friends! Families often participate together with some members being zombies and some running. It’s honestly a great atmosphere, everyone is laughing and smiling and having a great time, and that is our very favourite part of the whole event.

Do you commonly find more people registering to be Zombies or Runners?
We definitely have more runners, but we also limit the number of zombies we accept. We try to keep the ratio of runners to zombies balanced to allow the runners a fighting chance.

Have any pro-athletes or habitual marathon runners turned up? 
We haven’t met anyone who has claimed to be a pro-athlete, but we have had a few who are super competitive and have managed to finish under 20 minutes; for a trail run – and this race, specifically, where there is a lot of dodging, weaving, and sprinting – that’s pretty darn fast. I myself am a marathoner and I have never finished this race in under 30 minutes!

Has anyone stumbled into the Zombie Zone unaware that the event is taking place?
Oh, yes! Since we try to hold our races at public park areas (though we do have signage and reserved park access for the event), we always have a few people who wander in and wonder what on earth is going on! Especially fun is when our generous restaurant sponsors have helped us host a post-race “pub crawl”, and zombies in full makeup & bloody clothes take a seat inside for lunch or a beer or two. They turn more than a few heads, to be sure.

Do people often donate blood?
We are lucky to have a OneBlood “big red bus” collection team on-site at all of our fun runs, and they accept blood donations for the duration of the event. We have been so fortunate that our participants are very willing to donate after they run, and often their family members will donate as well. Donors receive extra freebies from OneBlood as well. To date, we’ve helped save hundreds of lives with blood donations collected at our events.

Are there other horror-genres that you think could take off in race format? 
My personal terror-inducing nightmare is being chased by anyone wielding a chainsaw! I can only imagine the Olympic-level sprinting that might provoke.

What’s your personal favourite zombie film?
Darren would definitely say Dawn of the Dead, or perhaps Max Brooks’ World War Z (those zombies were intense!); My personal favourite? Zombieland! To survive the zombie apocalypse, Rule 1: Cardio.

And finally… could you outrun a flesh-hungry zombie?
I would like to brag that of course, I can! But no, sadly, so far in all of my attempts I have been “devoured” before I could complete the 3-mile run. I would NOT be a survivor in a zombie apocalypse. Maybe if I had a bike (don’t get any ideas, runners!)…


Article by Bertie Alexander

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