Runners dodge zombies for charity in Grayslake

When does a light sprinkling of rain actually enhance a sporting event?

One example would be Saturday's inaugural Dead Last 5K Zombie Run in Grayslake to benefit The Oasis teen center.

About 170 horrifically made-up zombies — played by students from Grayslake Central and North high schools — threatened about 150 runners of all ages by attempting to steal the colored flags they wore around their waists.

All agreed the clouds and rain that struck about halfway through the race only enhanced the spooky atmosphere on the wooded grounds of the College of Lake County.

“We like the somber notion of it,” said Grayslake High School District 127 Superintendent Catherine Finger, a founding member of The Oasis and the creator of Saturday's fundraiser.

Finger was made up as a zombie herself, though she stayed in charge at the start and finish line while students did all the scaring.

Unlike a typical run, competitors didn't stick to a steady pace or trajectory. They sometimes strayed quite far from the path to avoid the grasps of the unpredictable zombies.

The goal was to finish with at least one flag to be considered a survivor, though extra flags could be obtained at a few different points along the course.

Nevertheless, Grayslake North teacher Emily Weiss' students saw to it that she finished with none. But she had a fantastic time along the way.

“I used to play basketball,” Weiss said. “I had to bring out a lot of my old basketball moves.”

Weiss had invited Finger to talk about the fundraiser to her public service class and had a parent give a zombie makeup demonstration on Thursday.

“I really think it was a creative way to bring the community together,” Weiss said.

Grayslake North junior Zach Kottmer is normally a soccer player, but such a unique 5K race attracted him to do some pure running for a good cause.

“It was different. It was a fun different,” he said. “It gets your mind off the running.”

Grayslake Central student Daniel Shalit said the strategy the zombies were told to employ was to look at their toes and move toward runners by sound rather than sight, like those on the television show “The Walking Dead.”

Many of the runners, fueled by adrenaline, had smiles on their faces as they dodged the zombies, but the atmosphere got the better of a few.

“I made a lady cry,” Grayslake Central student Tiffany Reid said. “I felt bad.”

The Oasis, which will benefit from the event's proceeds, was opened in 2006. It provides live music and other activities for about 16,000 students ranging in age from 12 to 18 years old.

Finger said the organizers would likely know on Monday exactly how much money the event made.

Winners of the race were divided into categories of age, gender and “undead” or “alive.”

  Zombie Cannon Hanebuth, a senior at Grayslake North High School, center, torments runners Saturday along the route during Grayslake’s inaugural zombie run. Bob Chwedyk/
  Zombie Cannon Hanebuth, a senior at Grayslake North High School, center, and fellow zombies torment runners Saturday along the route during Grayslake’s inaugural zombie run. Bob Chwedyk/
  Grayslake North High School history teacher Robert Nicoletti runs the gauntlet of zombies Saturday during Grayslake’s inaugural zombie run. Bob Chwedyk/
  The start of Grayslake’s inaugural zombie run on Saturday. Bob Chwedyk/
  Zombie bride C.J. Cusick of Grayslake Central High School gives a scare to runners Saturday during Grayslake’s inaugural zombie run. Bob Chwedyk/
  Katie Parnell of Morton Grove finished first overall Saturday but finished dead, losing both of her flags that the zombies tore off her during Grayslake’s inaugural zombie run. Bob Chwedyk/
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