Guts & Glory - Claremont Zombie Run


The inaugural Claremont Zombie Run, held last Saturday at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden, ended in a dead heat. Literally. Thousands of participants braved the hundred degree temperatures as well as slews of “zombies”­—volunteers made up to look like the walking dead who were determined to sabotage the runner’s efforts.

Hosted by J6 Events, the first-ever Claremont Zombie Run drew quite a crowd. With more than 2600 runners, 220 volunteers and countless vendors and bystanders, the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden was more saturated with people than it had ever been.

With such an amazing turnout, events manager Aaron Berg says they have created what will most likely become Claremont’s very own annual zombie run. Mr. Berg says the feedback has been widely positive, with runners and volunteers hoping to coming back next year for another shot at the course. “Most importantly, we created an event where people could share in a memorable adventure all while supporting some great causes,” he said.

COURIER photo/Steven FelschundneffCOURIER photo/Steven FelschundneffThose great causes include St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the American Red Cross. Although they hadn’t tallied their final numbers, Mr. Berg estimated that the Red Cross was able to far exceed the blood donation goals for the event.

“We worked hard to promote the blood drive and I think that hard work paid off,” Mr. Berg said.

On the course, runners vied for the chance to win the coveted first, second and third place trophies. But those who didn’t have top times simply tried to finish with their flags intact. Zombies hiding along the trails tried their best to de-flag the runners who were hoping to win their very own trophy for “best zombie.” Runners who made it through the course unscathed received a refreshing free beer or soda.

Before the zombies could take the field, they first had to undergo a full-on zombie transformation. Luckily, the Claremont Zombie Run brought in the professionals. Students from My Beauty Mark Makeup Academy used airbrushing machines to give zombies their gaunt look. Next came the blood—lots of blood. Zombie blood was a mixture of red sugar syrup and chocolate and, while the look was fantastic, the reality was slightly less glamorous. Bugs all over the park were attracted to the sticky sugar and more than a few zombies left with wildly uneven tan lines.

While each group of zombies had their own tactic we schemed together to devise a plan of optimum zombie attack. Stationed at zone one—a narrow pathway at the beginning of the course that winded around large bushes and up a small hill—Jessica, in tutu, diverted runners at a fork in the road to our path. After getting past the prima ballerina zombie, participants had a false sense of security as they passed right next to Jenelle hiding in the brush reaching out of the shadows to snag an unsuspecting runner’s belt. Participants gasped, screamed and laughed at the surprise—some commenting, “she’s a sneaky one!”

What seemed like a short cut from one zombie, turned into an unforeseen, challenging pit of zombies. Our cohorts London Pfahler and Beth Hartnett were not far off, hiding around the corner down the path to surprise runners once again. Ms. Hartnett in her bright pink tutu shuffled and dragged one leg behind her frightening even the biggest men.

We had to remind ourselves not to smile—we were zombies, after all—but we were having such a good time that we found it difficult to maintain a dazed and blank expression, resulting in more than one remark about us being, “cute zombies.”

It was such a fun twist teaming up with a natural and lively venue to host a legion of the dead­ for a day. It was all thanks to Eric Garton, director of visitor services at RSABG, who wanted to find new ways to reach out to potential visitors. However, there was a concern that the event had the potential to negatively effect the garden’s rare collection of plants and trees. With that in mind, coordinators and volunteers worked together to keep runners on the paved trails and encouraged all volunteers to pick up any trash left by guests.

“Upon final inspection, the management at the garden remarked that the cleanup was so good they couldn’t even tell that nearly 3000 people had been there on Saturday,” Mr. Berg informed us.

This clean bill of health for the garden was one of the main contributing factors in allowing the run to return next year. Mr. Berg has confirmed that the Claremont Zombie Run will be returning and will be bigger, better and even more full of zombies.

If you weren’t able to attend the Claremont Zombie Run, don’t fret. J6 will be hosting their next race, the Jr. Hero Run, on July 26 at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. For more information visit