Hundreds of people ‘ran for their lives’ as the living and the undead joined forces – to raise cash for a South Yorkshire charity.
In Barnsley’s Zombie Run, held in aid of the Barnsley Hospital Charity, more than 560 runners raced through a post-apocalyptic assault course near Worsbrough Mill, pursued by deadly zombies.
Katie Cartwright, fundraising manager for the charity, said: “The idea came about from my own love of the TV show The Walking Dead really, plus we knew we wanted a mass event to explode this relatively new charity on to the scene and it’s just been so popular.
“We’ve raised nearly £20,000 in one day and couldn’t be more thrilled with the way in which people have got into the event.”
The illusion was complete with military personnel in full SWAT kit, carrying machine guns and wearing gas-masks as they did their best to guide the ‘evacuees’ through the 5km course, without succumbing to infection.
The route included rugged terrain, from river crossings to swamp trails, and featured obstacles including tunnels, slides and mountains, mocked-up crash scenes and the mysterious ‘flesh store.’
Each runner wore a utility belt with three tickets, or ‘lives,’ strapped to their body and those who made it to the end quarantine point with at least one life still intact ‘survived’ the deadly course.
Katie added: “We’ve had some really imaginative costumes today and it’s great to see people having such a good time while raising funds for such an important charity.”
Among the runners on Saturday was Neil Fretwell, from Barnsley, who was supporting the charity in memory of his son Jaxon.
Neil and his partner Louisa’s lives changed forever when their son Jaxon was born premature last year at just 21 weeks.
He did not survive and the couple’s three-year-old son Ellis found it very difficult to understand and deal with the grief of losing his baby brother.
Neil told The Star: “It was so hard trying to find the words to explain things to him. No-one tells you how to deal with the children who have just lost a sibling.
“We told Ellis that Jaxon had gone to live on a star and he said ‘If you buy me a magic wand, I’ll bring him back’.”
The family’s experience inspired Jaxon’s Gift, a charity appeal supported by Barnsley Hospital Charity, which provides children who have experienced loss with a ‘forget me not’ box – filled with items to help them remember their lost sibling in a positive way.
Neil added: “I wish someone had handed us a forget me not box, it might have made Ellis’s experience slightly easier. That’s why we’re here taking part today.”
Also among the runners was Zoe Smith, from Barnsley, who, aged just 29, suffered a heart attack, three weeks after the birth of her youngest daughter.
Zoe said: “I spent five days on the cardiology ward of Barnsley Hospital and the staff were amazing. They allowed me to keep my three -week-old baby with me and tailored my medication so I could continue to feed her.
“Above all else, they treated me like a person and I’ll never forget their support.
“I’m fortunate enough to be well now and I started running last December. I thought the Zombie Run sounded like fun and it gave me the opportunity to raise money for the cardiology department, so I leapt at the chance to give something back.”