Only in New Orleans: Undead on the loose in City Park’s Zombie Run Sunday

Zombies are in style everywhere these days, but they never went out of fashion in New Orleans. That might explain why the Zombie Run this Sunday in City Park had 400 people signed up to play the role of the undead, ready to lurch along a 5K course to give “human” runners a little extra jolt of motivation.

“Absolutely! What better city to come to?” exclaimed Alisha Allen, event director of the Zombie Run, which has its headquarters in Philadelphia (another nice old city with buried secrets).

Moss-draped and vast, City Park can have an eerie vibe even without boys and ghouls running rampant. “It’s gorgeous, it’s huge,” Allen said. “There’s really so much potential: abandoned buildings, gravel, fields, waterways. It really worked.”

The run is a cross between flag football and “Night of the Living Dead,” with a fun afterparty. Runners will set out at 7 a.m., wearing belts festooned with heart-shaped balloons that represent their vital organs. Zombies, meanwhile, will be stationed in five zones along the course, intent on seizing those balloons. At the finish line, survivors’ honors will go to those who have guts.

Allen and her friends in Philadelphia are all serious runners, and they go around the country putting on these events whose goal is fitness and fun. Although the Zombie Run isn’t a competitive, timed race, the organizers wanted to help people do their best. “We went back and forth and we thought, when do you run the fastest? And the answer was, when I’m being chased,” she said.

And no doubt, performance improves when the pursuer is a hideous, grave-fresh monster. The Zombie Run will have artists from the Elmwood Halloween scream factory, House of Shock, at work before the race to transform volunteers into scary monsters with makeup and fake blood.

The makeup sessions start at 5 a.m., and Allen said the work goes quickly (it figures; aren’t we all zombies at 5 a.m. anyway?).

It may be the zombie apocalypse. Brad Pitt’s summer thriller, “World War Z,” opens nationwide on Friday, demonstrating that once again New Orleans is on the cutting, chomping edge.

As of this writing, all the zombie jobs were taken. There is still room for human runners in the race. It’s a family event; people of all ages are welcome as long as they’re not disturbed by the sight of corpses galloping wildly around City Park on a Sunday morning.

Registration is $45, and a portion of the proceeds goes to Rebuilding Together, the New Orleans home repair nonprofit.

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Annette Sisco is community news editor. She can be reached at or at (504) 432-9257.