Downtown Rock Hill was alive on Saturday afternoon with the sounds of the undead as many gathered to watch and participate in the first ever Old Town Zombie Crawl 5K and Fun Run, benefiting the Heart2Heart Foundation.
But this wasn’t the average charity 5K. Racers either ran as zombies or humans. The humans’ goal was to cross the finish line without losing too many of their lives, represented by ribbons worn around their waists. The zombies aimed to get as many of the humans’ lives as possible.
“Zombies are just such a popular thing now,” said Debby King, one of the co-founders of Heart2Heart. “It’s just a day of fun.”
Before the race started, dozens of racers and non-racers spent time in makeup chairs manned by volunteers from across the region. They gave them fake wounds, dark eyes and crazy hair and poured fake blood on them.
Sarah Fulghum was among the makeup volunteers.
“It’s like a gash or boils or a burn or something else nasty,” she said, holding up hundreds of prosthetic wounds, created by GregoryFX, a Charlotte-based company.
For the Gillelands of Rock Hill, the Zombie Crawl was a family affair. Three members were zombie runners and two ran as humans.
“I’m kind of a zombie fanatic,” said Jacob Gilleland, a sixth grader. “I just find them fascinating.”
Taking ribbons from those walking at the back of the pack was going to be the first order of business, Jacob said. After that, he wanted to move to the front racers.
For mom Rebecca, the event was a way to spend some time together.
“It’s really fun,” she said. “We can do it all together so it’s perfect.”
While Jacob may think zombies are all fun and games, another young Rock Hill resident did not. Melissa Crandall brought her children Tia and Chase out to the Zombie Crawl to help cure her son Chase, 4, of his fear of zombies.
“I heard there were going to be so many activities and lots of kids in zombie costumes, so I thought this would be a good way to show him they’re not real and they can be fun,” she said.
Covered in fake blood, with a ripped shirt and jeans, Chase looked around the room full of zombies skeptically. His older sister, though, was all smiles.
“They’re not scary because they’re fake with fake blood,” she said.
“But real zombies are scary,” Chase said.
The Heart2Heart race organizers set a human-to-zombie ratio limit, one “zombie” for every four humans. One human racer came all the way from Akron, Ohio, so his zombie daughter and Rock Hill resident, Emma Jusseaume, could try and chase him down.
“My 60th birthday is in a few days so this was a bucket list thing for me,” said Randy Heck. “I wanted to run a 5K, so why not with zombies?”
Regular runners Shantay Greer and Kelly Arwood were hoping zombies chasing them would make them run faster.
The pair like to run and thought this would be a fun event.
“I like participating in races because it’s always going to a good cause,” Arwood said.
The festivities didn’t end after the 5K and Fun Run. . Heart2Heart had a full lineup of evening activities, including a Survivor’s Party with food, drinks, games and live music. There were more zombie makeovers and even a zombie wedding chapel where couples could renew their vows or even get married dressed as zombies.
With two zombie daughters and a friend as bridesmaids, Geri and Ashley Boyette renewed their vows zombie style.
The couple has family who were helping with the makeup, including the officiant from their first wedding, and they love the AMC show, “The Walking Dead,” so a zombie vow renewal at an event for a good cause just seemed like fun, they said.
“Everybody loves zombies,” Geri Boyette said.
During the 5K race, Lee Wooden, 17, was the first human to cross the finish line at 20:26. None of the Gilleland family zombies caught Elle Gilleland, 13 and human, who was the first female runner to finishat the 25:40 mark.
Just after the 27-minute mark, the first male zombie to make it was Rock Hill firefighter Casey Nelson, who held up his fistful of human ribbons with pride. Shortly after was the first female zombie, Emma Jusseaume, who outran her human father.
Rachel Southmayd • 803-329-4072