Picture this: Runners in a 5K are being chased by zombies. That's just what will happen Saturday at Tarpon Springs' Zombie Run on the Pinellas Trail.
The run begins at 10 a.m. at the city's new Fitness Park at the intersection of Live Oak Street and Safford Avenue. The run will continue into the city's annual Haunted Forest, set up in North Anclote Nature Park on Old Dixie Highway.
There will be spooky obstacles for runners to overcome, zombie vaccines to snatch for bonus points and zombies to outwit. Runners will start with two flags hanging from their belts, flag football-style. Zombies will try to snatch the flags because the one with the most flags receives a medal. At the end of the race, runners receive points for each flag they have on their belt. If runners have grabbed and held on to any vaccine items until the race ends, they get points for that too.
"The first 20 males, 20 females and 20 kids to cross the line the fastest with the most flags will receive a medal featuring a sneaker with a broken leg and the 'Dying to Run' logo," said city recreational specialist Daniela Smyth.
But the Zombie Run is not all that's scheduled Saturday in Tarpon.
"Saturday is a day full of events," said city spokeswoman Judy Staley. "The Zombie Run will be a part of the grand opening of our new Fitness Park, located at the start of the run. It's a large new park with adult fitness equipment and exercise lawns."
A Fitness Expo with vendors and demonstrations starts there at 8:30 a.m. Expo participants, runners and zombies will take part in the park ribbon-cutting at 9:45 a.m.
And there are more events, some not just for humans and zombies.
At 9:30 a.m., a dog park adjacent to the fitness park will also have its grand opening. The space features more than 70 trees, wooden bridges, a water splash area, large pipe tunnels, a state-of-the-art surface, benches in the shade and areas for large and small dogs.
A doggie costume parade that starts at 10 a.m. will send some dogs and their owners home with a trophy. The 1-mile parade takes place on the Pinellas Trail and a doggie-aid station is located at the halfway mark. If your dog does tricks, there's a competition for that too. Awards go to best tricks by big and small dogs.
At noon, a more traditional and free Halloween family event begins in the Fitness Park. Halloween Family Funday will have arts and crafts, Halloween tattoos, a couple of alligators on display, an Astro Skate jump house, games with prizes, and outdoor music. A costume contest for children is at 1:30.
And if on race day some of the undead look familiar, it's because those local zombies hang out in the city's Haunted Forest in the North Anclote Nature Park every weekend in October. Stop by after dark for a glimpse of the zombies in their unnatural habitat. Specific times are allotted for children to visit, with a later time for adults.
Have a packed schedule and can't make it for this weekend's events? Have no fear. Make plans to enjoy Halloween fun and food at the Oct. 26 Halloween Food Truck Rally from 4 to 9 p.m. downtown. A shuttle to the Haunted Forest will be available.
"With the Zombie Run, the Haunted Forest, Halloween Family Fun Day, and the Halloween Food Truck Rally on the 26th, there's something for everyone," Smyth said. "Tarpon Springs is your Halloween destination."
Theodora Aggeles can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.