For 5K runners, zombies are a killer motivator

zombie inside
Panic in the Dark is a goulish good time. Photo by Tory Germann. 

Jennifer Myers byline By Jennifer Myers

Flesh rotting. Wounds festering. They want only one thing — to eat your brain. RUN!

Through Fort Hill, along the boundaries of Lowell Cemetery and inside Shedd Park, the zombies are coming. Outrun them through the 3.1-mile obstacle course with your brain intact, and you get to enjoy a free cold beer at the Lowell Memorial Auditorium.

You heard right. A Zombie apocolypse followed by beer drinking. From the same twisted imagination that brought the Musical Chairs World Championship and the world’s craziest Amazing-Race style scavenger hunt — Smithfest — to the region, Fred Smith will host the second annual “Panic in the Dark,” an 18-plus zombie-themed 5K run on Saturday, Nov. 2.

The fun begins at Lowell Memorial Auditorium where a shuttle transports runners to the creepy course in Belvidere, and dumps them out into the zombie-filled woods.

Wearing headlamps, runners will then make their way through the 5K course, meeting up with the flesh-hungry undead and other spooky, blood curdling scenes at every turn. Those who survive will enjoy a rockin’ after-party at the auditorium with music by the band Bail Out and will receive a free T-shirt, a medallion and a voucher for one free beer (21+ only).

Smith said he came up with the nightmare obstacle run when he was looking for new event ideas and noticed a lot of zombie-themed morning runs cropping up. Then he wondered, why would you hold a zombie run during the day?

“I knew it would be way cooler at night,” he said. “I mean, that’s when zombies are the scariest, right?”

Smith said he doesn’t fully understand the recent boost in popularity zombies are enjoying these days, but does understand the motivation for some people to get involved with this kind of event.

“People are looking for a reason to be a kid for a day and Halloween has become that holiday once a year when people can do that, unlike me who tries to be a kid every day,” he said.

There are two ways to get involved:

• Sign up to run the 5K. Registration fees range from $65 until Oct. 11 to $85 the day of the event *(click here for fee schedule). 

• Be a zombie. Don’t want to run? No problem. Scare the heck out of runners instead. Registration fee is $32.50 and includes make-up by a professional artisit on the premises, access to the Brain Bash after party, free T-shirt and a free beer ticket for participants 21+. 

• Be a spectator. Anyone 18 and older is welcome to join the fun by watching the action in a designated viewing area along the final stretch of the run. Tickets for spectators are $22 and include a T-shirt, complimentary beer for 21+ only, access to the Brain Bash after-party and optional entry in the costume contest.
Runners and spectators are welcome to come in their own costumes. For an additional $10, professional make-up artists on the premises can also turn you into one of the gruesome undead. There will also be prizes awarded in several categories including best costume, best zombies, largest team, best team spirit and top runners.

For more information and heat times visit or contact Fred Smith at

Jennifer Myers has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. A former reporter at The Sun for more than a decade, she now works as an aide to Mayor Patrick Murphy. A history buff, Jennifer can often be found combing through old newspaper clippings and documents at the Pollard Library or rummaging through the attic of City Hall to uncover pieces of Lowell’s past. You can read more of Jennifer’s Mill City musings on her popular blog, Room 50.    

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