More than 1,000 residents ran for their lives from zombies covered in fake blood and ripped clothing Saturday at the annual Dead Garden Run – Zombie Apocalypse at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden.
The garden hosted haunted trails for guests of all ages to be scared and chased by volunteer zombies.
“Once the zombies came after our group, we took off running,” said Anastasia Gonzales, Barstow resident.
Gonzales had a group of five that stuck together throughout the zombie run.
Runners began with two flags tied around their waist and the zombies’ goal was to retrieve them before the runners reached the finish line.
If a runner reached the finish line with one of their flags still in tact, they received a free beer from the Zombie Beer Garden.
Gonzales said it was harder to avoid the zombies than she thought it would be and only one of the runners in her group was left with a flag.
“It was intense,” said Sandra Felayo, Rialto resident.
“They chased me and I fell a few times.”
Felayo brought her 15-year-old daughter, who was scared by how realistic the zombies’ gashes, cuts and bruises were.
Felayo and her daughter said they never got used to zombies jumping out at them even though they were always on the look out.
“It’s like a deadly game of hide-and-seek,” Felayo said.
Some of the makeup and surprises were too serious for children and were not recommended for those under age 13.
However, an alternative route was created for the 50 kids that attended under the recommended age.
A small part of the botanic garden was sectioned off so that children could participate without encountering the scarier zombies.
“The kids seemed to have a lot of fun,” said Keelan Aponte, a volunteer and student from Los Osos High School.
The kids collected coins as they ran through the trails and won prizes at the end of the race depending how many coins they collected.
While the run is meant to be completely harmless and fun, zombie-volunteer Roxanne Martinson hurt her ankle after a runner did not connect their flags correctly.
Some runners tied their flags down so that they were not easily removable, making it unsafe and very difficult for the zombies.
“There were people that cheated,” Martinson said.
“I fell and hurt myself, but I didn’t let it ruin my fun.”
Toward the end of the run, runners were given one last surprise by a group of men covered in fake blood and gory makeup.
The group, a band called Still Not Dead, is from Riverside and is known for its zombie appearance and themed songs.
The members attends the event every year.
“We play metal music for the zombie apocalypse,” said Rommel Rodriguez, lead singer of the band.
While the group did not play at the event, they took pictures with guests and took advantage of their realistic facial makeup to scare runners.
Rodriguez said that even though the event is smaller than previous years, he enjoyed it because it was more intimate and he was able to talk to more people.
“It is great to be around other zombie enthusiasts,” he said.
Brooke Grasso can be reached at email@example.com.