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n this undated photo, zombies shuffle their way toward downtown Willmar from Robbins Island. Two-dozen people participated in the first-ever Kandiyohi County Zombie Walk. A unique 5K race to be held next month at Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center in rural Spicer will feature the walking dead. Tribune photo

Upcoming 5k in rural Spicer, Minn., to feature the walking dead

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Upcoming 5k in rural Spicer, Minn., to feature the walking dead
Park Rapids Minnesota PO Box 111 56470

Competitive runners often dig deep into their souls to muster necessary energy reserves to cross the finish line. A unique 5K race to be held next month at Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center in rural Spicer will give runners a new motivation: Fear.

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A "zombie run" that will take runners on a winding course through the zombie-filled woods of the center's grounds during the early hours of Oct. 20 will challenge athletes to complete the course without becoming a victim of the undead.

"It's going to be neat," said Dan Hubbard, who is working in partnership with the Willmar Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center to organize the race that's titled "Zombies' Bite ... 5K run!!!"

Hubbard said he believes this is the first zombie race to be held in Minnesota.

Beth Fischer, director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the race could attract a couple hundred runners to the area this year and will grow in subsequent years.

"These themed runs are so popular right now," said Fischer. "We think it has so much potential and I think people will come from outside the area."

At their meeting Tuesday, the Kandiyohi County Commissioners gave their stamp of approval to using the Environmental Learning Center for the race.

The commissioners admitted they knew very little about zombies and even less about a zombie run, but enthusiastically endorsed the plan after they were briefed on the details.

"It sounds like a lot of fun to me," said Commissioner Jim Butterfield.

While the race is competitive with prizes offered at the end, Hubbard said runners will encounter physical obstacles and time-snatching ghouls on the trail that will slow them down.

"You won't get your best time, but you will have a good time," he said.

The race works like this:

Registered runners will be given a belt to wear with several fabric streamers snapped to it -- very much like those worn to play flag football.

When they enter the course, trail runners will encounter obstacles that they may have to climb over, under or through. These obstacles -- for example a stack of hay bales to climb over or cylinders to climb through -- are "zombie-free areas" where runners are safe, said Hubbard.

Anywhere else on the trail, however, runners could be victims to zombies hidden throughout the trail who will chase runners and attempt to snatch a flag from them.

"The zombies will be after them," said Hubbard.

"There's no tackling or hitting. It's all about getting the flag," said Fischer.

For every flag a runner loses, several minutes will be added to their run time as a penalty.

"So you don't want to be caught by the zombie," she said.

Hubbard said there may also be shortcuts on the trail for runners to take but warns "shortcuts could be dead ends."

Fischer said about 40 volunteers are needed to make the event happen, including about 24 zombies.

"We will need all sorts of volunteers dressed up in full zombie costumes, she said, adding that people with acting skills and their own costumes and makeup will get to do some serious role-playing. Zombies must be at least 14 years of age.

"Hopefully they'll get into the character," said Fischer.

Although zombies, by nature, are not keen to follow rules, Hubbard said there will be firm rules for the walking-dead volunteers to follow to make sure every runner ends the race without their brains being eaten. Note to readers: Please Google "zombie" for the brain-eating reference.

Businesses are also being invited to sponsor, design, build, place and remove obstacles on the trail.

Fischer said the Prairie Woods Environmental Learning Center is a "great location" for such a run and that a portion of the race proceeds will go to support programs at the facility

The race-day registration begins at 2 p.m. Oct. 20 with a pre-race meeting at 3 p.m. where the runners and zombies will hear the rules of the race. Once the zombies get into location, the race will begin at 3:30 p.m.

The after-race party will include music, food and prizes.

Those interested in volunteering can contact Fischer at the Willmar Lakes Area Convention and Visitors Bureau at 320-231-0280 Ext. 1. Runners can register in advance or on the day of the race. For questions about the race, contact Hu

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