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WESTTOWN — For Halloween, people will typically dress up or go get spooked at a haunted attraction.
West Chester Rustin High School’s swimming and diving team, however, took things to a different level by having zombie students chase runners on Saturday at the school’s campus.
Now in its third year, the Knight of the Living Dead Zombie 5K Run allows people to run while being chased by zombies placed throughout the course.
“My daughter is on the swim team and her and another swimmer looked for a zombie run to register for and there was none in the area and the other swimmer’s mom and I said we should do one as a swim team fundraiser,” said Kathy Bates, co-founder and organizer of the 5K.
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Unlike other 5Ks, or even ones where runners dress as zombies, the Knight of the Living Dead features the Rustin swimmers and divers, plus some other school athletes, as the zombies.
Their mission is to chase after the runners and remove flags off their belts.
“Since the course loops around, they get to see the same zombies more than once,” Bates said.
When a racer registers, they are issued a belt with three flags on it – the typical belt used for flag football.
For every flag left on a runner’s belt at the end of the race, a minute will be deducted from their finish time.
Of course, not everyone has to run the whole time.
“Some people will walk until they see a zombie and then run,” Bates said with a laugh.
The race has been a continuing success as with each passing year, more people come out to take part in the Halloween thrill.
“Each year, we’ve had more than the year before,” Bates said. “We will be lose to double what we’ve had in the past. The first year, I was begging for people to sponsor and donate stuff. Now, I have people e-mailing me to ask if they can be sponsors. It has been wonderful.”
This year, the race will have roughly 240 runners, and that doesn’t include the 35 to 40 student zombies along the course.
As is with most races, prizes are awarded to participants.
“We have over $1,500 in gift cards to award and medals for first, second and third in every age group,” Bates said. “First and second from each age group gets to pick from the prize table. All top three women and men get to pick from the prize table and get a medal.”
Not only does the swimming and diving team benefit from the money raised from the event, but also the community.
“We split the money between the swim team and the West Chester Food Cupboard,” Bates said. “Racers who bring either a bag of nonperishable food or a gift card to a grocery store get a fourth flag added to their belt. Not only do we write a nice, big, fat check to the West Chester Food Cupboard, but we also donate several hundred pounds of food and gift cards.”
The race may now be in its third year, but one thing still has yet to be accomplished – someone finishing with all the flags they started with.
“I have never seen it,” Bates said. “We have had some who started with four and finish with three. Two is more common and plenty finish with none.”