Students beware. On October 30, no one on the University of Connecticut campus will be safe. Instead everyone is encouraged to get into the Halloween spirit by participating in the 4th annual ZombieTHON – Dash of the Dead. “ZombieTHON is our annual Halloween race event that lets participants experience the zombie apocalypse where they literally ‘run for their life’ as a human survivor,” explained Michael D’Alfonso, the associate director of programming and special events at UConn.
Participants will run 2.5 miles through parts of campus seeking out “safe zones” and avoiding “infected zones,” while protecting their three health flags from the zombies. “To survive the race, humans must cross the finish line with one or more of their health flags intact,” said D’Alfonso. “We score the race in two categories when participants cross the finish line – survivor or infected. All participants receive a ZombieTHON t-shirt and survivors will receive a survivor medal. We also have prizes for our fastest survivors.”
Zombies for the event are volunteers and staff that dress up in tattered clothes and makeup. They chase participants throughout the course, trying to steal their health flags. “They arrive early on event day for their makeover and to go through our zombie briefing which instructs them on the rules of engagement and safety guidelines,” added D’Alfonso. “We also stage staff in certain areas as theatrical zombies who play a part in a scene to enhance the course and race experience. They will not chase runners, but are there to provide comic relief or a good scare.”
Once the race is complete, whether participants survived or not, they can celebrate at the Apocalypse Party filled with various food, games, costume contest and the award ceremony. In order to participate, a $10 donation is required. All proceeds from the event benefit the HuskyTHON Organization on campus, which directly supports Connecticut Children’s Medical Center. “The fundraising aspect helps to increase participation and runners feel good about coming out to have fun and support a great cause on our campus,” said D’Alfonso.
Besides contributing to a great cause, D’Alfonso explained the event is a perfect way to get the community into the Halloween spirit. “The event is open to students and general public and the vibe is silly and lighthearted rather than very competitive,” he explained. “Participants dress up in costumes and come together with friends, which makes the events fun for groups and also provides a bit of help when trying to evade and outsmart zombies by working together.”
If you are considering hosting any type of event, D’Alfonso suggests knowing your expertise. What are your strengths as a staff and department as a whole? Can you host an event yourself or is it smarter to find a campus partner or contact an outside service?
“We have succeeded in this aspect by becoming the ‘go-to experts on our campus for directing and organizing race events,” said D’Alfonso. “UConn Recreation invested in electronic race timing equipment and we now direct and chip time all major 5k’s on campus with the full support of the police department and administration. Our department took the time and dedicated resources to invest in something that was costly to frequently hire an outside contractor. This investment has now paid for itself, we have strong connection with numerous partner departments on campus, we are very proud to provide these services and events to the UConn community.”