5K Zombie Run coming to Benderson Park in October

srocco@bradenton.comJuly 9, 2014 

UNIVERSITY PARK -- Missy Dietsch loves to run, but her husband? Not so much.

"The only way I would ever run is if I were being chased," she recalls him saying a few years back.

So Dietsch, a stay-at-home mom, created The 5K Zombie Run and debuted her first race at a Dade City ranch in December 2012, a time when "The Walking Dead," the most-watched drama in cable history, was in its prime and the nation's zombie obsession was rampant. Dietsch even stuffed a barn with zombies, a la Hershel Greene's barn bastille in "Walking Dead."

"The show was on the forefront of peoples' minds, so when they heard about a zombie run, they were really excited to join," said Dietsch, 38.

There have been other Zombie Runs in Tampa and Largo, and now the deadly dash will come to Nathan Benderson Park Oct. 11.

"As a family, we love Sarasota. We love to vacation there every summer," Dietsch said. "When Benderson Park opened up, we knew it was going to be a beautiful setting and the perfect place to host a race, so we are really excited to bring it there."

Sarasota's Zombie Run, sponsored by MOR-TV, will be Dietsch's first in the dark. The race begins around 7:30 p.m., and all participants will start with three flags around their waist. Zombies (professionally made-up participants) will chase runners around the 5K track going after their flags, each one representing a life. Participants who cross the finish line with at least one flag intact survive the Zombie Run.

"We hide the zombies so you never really know where they're going to be," Dietsch said, noting there will be about one zombie for every three to five runners.

Children 11 and younger will swarm a zombie zone near the finish line in a last attempt to steal flags.

The race will include a post-apocalypse party with food, drink and music. All participants will receive a T-shirt and a medal.

Last year's Zombie Run in Tampa drew about 3,000 participants. Dietsch is hoping for a minimum of 500 at the University Park run.

As presenting sponsor, MOR-TV will help Dietsch promote the race through ads and street team events.

"We're always looking for partnerships that make sense for us and that are in line with our audience, and we like to be out in the community and engaging with our viewers wherever possible, and we felt this was a perfect fit," said David Lawrence, creative services director for MOR-TV.

Registration for runners and zombies, regularly $90, is on sale for $45 with the promo code EARLYBIRD. Parking is $5. Some proceeds will benefit OneBlood and Goodwill. To register, or for more information, go to the5kzombierun.com.

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