SAN JOSE -- Driven by their insatiable appetite for human flesh, hundreds of zombies lumbered their way through Kelley Park on Sunday as part of a pre-Halloween fun run.
Instead of eating brains, they were completing the first "Run With the Zombies" 5K for a good cause, raising several thousand dollars to help spruce up San Jose parks.
The undead were everywhere, running and walking the 172-acre central San Jose park in ripped clothes and red paint-soaked shirts and pants, with fake gashes and makeup covering their faces. The sight of costumed runners trudging their way through the 3.1-mile course resembled a much smaller, tamer Bay to Breakers race in San Francisco -- and sure enough, a San Jose State University fraternity, Sigma Nu, was behind the event.
One runner, in a torn-up suit, carried a briefcase that read "will work for brains" and had a hand sticking out of it. Another zombie had a fake baby coming out of her stomach. Others had arrows sticking through the sides of their heads or pencils jammed in their foreheads.
Others got in the Halloween spirit: a dad and son dressed up like zombified video game characters Mario and Luigi. There were cop zombies, doctor and nurse zombies, schoolgirl zombies, princess zombies and witch zombies.
"Zombies are taking over the world, one Halloween at a time," said Bryan Castaneda, 26, of San Jose, who teamed up with his wife, Mary, to apply their zombie makeup with tissue paper and liquid latex.
There were some humans who sneaked in, at a cost of $45, but most of the 600 people who showed up scored the $35 registration fee by dressing up: "I'm glad other people got into it," said Mary Castaneda, also 26.
Armando Valdez and Isabel Lopez, of Redwood City, got up at 5:30 a.m. -- 3½ hours before the race started -- to get ready. They used a sanding machine to rip up an old suit to make it look like it had been torn apart by hungry man-eaters and bought red paint to splash fake blood all over themselves.
"We've never done that," a resting Valdez said after the race.
Near the finish line was a "barbed-wire" cage and containers with green liquid marked "Danger: reanimation chemicals." T-shirts for sale included one marked "Keep Calm and Kill Zombies" and another reading "ZFL: Zombie Football League."
The winners of the race got a hand -- literally, a fake rubber hand mounted on a stand.
And because no zombie event would be complete with without a "Thriller" reference, a troupe that heard about the event showed up for a choreographed zombie dance re-enactment of the 1983 Michael Jackson classic music video.
Weston Furia, a senior at San Jose State who was the on-site coordinator Sunday, said his fraternity uses local parks all the time and wanted to give back. He came up with the zombie 5K idea with this dad after seeing how popular zombies have become. Earlier this month, the sixth annual San Jose Zombie Crawl at downtown bars raised more than $1,000 for cancer and AIDS research, while a Zombie-O-Rama in August featured a film night and crawl in San Jose.
Inspired by those, Furia wondered, "Why not do a zombie run?"
Contact Mike Rosenberg at 408-920-5705. Follow him at twitter.com/RosenbergMerc.