June is right around the corner and this year's summer forecast includes a zombie invasion of sorts. What's worse is that some of the zombies might be your next door neighbors.
There's no need to worry about battling the brain-eating un-dead on the front porch, though. All the battles will be won or lost on the race course at Frightland during Middletown's first-ever Zombie Mud Run.
Much like a typical mud run, this 5K race course features obstacles to test strength and endurance and lots and lots of mud. The difference is that participants are also trying to stay just out of reach of grabby zombies, who are desperate to get their hands on the hearts, brains and entrails of runners.
Well, not really. What the zombies are really after are the three flags that runners are wearing. Each flag represents one of the vital organs. Every person who makes it through the race with at least one flag can count themselves as a survivor. Those that complete the race with no flags, cross the finish line as a new member of the undead.
Sound crazy? Not to event organizer Patrick Konopelski, who has spent more than 20 years in the haunted attraction business. His most successful venture, Shocktoberfest, brings in hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, all ready, willing and asking to be scared half-to-death. But, about five years ago, he started monitoring mud runs and a new idea began to formulate.
"I've spent the last year and a half of my life creating the zombie mud run experience," said Konopelski. "With all of my background, I knew I could take the mud run experience to the next level with a theme, making it even more fun and even more of an experience."
His first two runs, one in Pennsylvania and one in New Jersey, were successful, drawing in more than 1,500 participants. Success spurned expansion and Konopelski began scoping out locations for more mud runs. This year, he plans to add eight to ten runs to the official schedule, including the one scheduled to take place at Frightland on Saturday, June 15.
"One of the great things about the Delaware run is the location," said Konopelski. "Not only is it easy to get to but Frightland already has a great brand. People from all over know it and recognize it, making it a good fit for us."
Konopelski added that the other great thing about the zombie version of the mud run is that all skill levels can and do participate.
"We are considered a fun run or a gateway run that introduces people to the concept of running," said Konopelski. "We have people who sign up and by the end of realize it's not so much about the running as it is about having a good time. Yeah, you have to run but you're running with friends. It's really what I call participatory entertainment."
Page 2 of 2 - Participation is allowed in several ways:
Sign up as a "human" and try to make it to the end with all three "organs" intact; Sign up as a "zombie only" and do little to no running while also trying to scare runners into a total standstill; Sign up as "zombie" who also gets to run the course as a human during one of several heats that will take place over the course of the day; Finally, sign up to be a spectator and comfortably watch the whole scene unfold before you.
For those who decide to run as a "human," Konopelski said that there are several strategies to consider.
"Not everybody has the ability to barrel through it. If you can't keep yourself ahead of the undead, you have to start looking at who you can sacrifice," Konopelski said. "I recommend choosing your friends wisely."
Those interested in participating as zombies are welcome to take care of their own costumes; however, Konopelski said that they have a team of people on-site who can turn the most innocent face into quite a terrifying picture of the undead.
Frightland will open at 7 a.m. on race day and runs will start every 30 minutes from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Everyone is asked to arrive two hours prior to their start time.
Konopelski expects the race to be very well attended.
"We've already signed up about 400 people," said Konopelski. "And, we're getting emails and phone calls every day with people looking for more information and asking about registration."
Like other events at Frightland, part of the proceeds of this event will raise money for the Leukemia Research Foundation of Delaware. For more information or to sign up for the run, visit www.thezombiemudrun.com/middletown-de-zombie-mud-run.