Undead ready to take over Claremont’s botanic garden

The Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden will play host to the zombie apocalypse this spring as the City of Trees becomes the City of The Walking Dead for the first annual Claremont Zombie Run on May 3.

Claremont’s inaugural fun run is a departure from the staple Claremont celebrations or the recent influx of quirky 5Ks like the Fairplex’s Color Run and Bonelli Park’s Tough Mudder. The object in this three-kilometer race is to navigate the trailheads teeming with crawling creatures and come out with limbs and flags intact. A maze of paths to choose from, some of which end in a pit full of monsters, add further mayhem to the madness.

“It’s not your average tree lighting or triathlon,” joked event manager Aaron Berg. “Imagine trying to run through the entire botanic garden as we deploy 200 zombies to jump out and scare you. It’s all about creating a fun, suspenseful competition.”

From 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. the usually tranquil botanic garden will be abuzz with the outbreak and other post-apocalyptic celebrating, including a beer garden, live entertainment and other family-friendly indulgences like a children’s activity center, bounce house, carnival games and refreshments.

There are no age restrictions on plunging into the zombie-infested course, but for those little ones not inclined for a scare, a special, separate course will be available where contestants can race to collect vials of the antidote to cure the zombie virus.

“A lot of people focus on the gory aspect of zombies, but we wanted it to be more than that,” Mr. Berg said. “This is an event the whole family can enjoy.”

The team at J6 Designs—an Inland Empire clothing design, printing and embroidery company—is the mastermind behind the outbreak, trading in their apparel for apocalypse survival gear. After a lackluster experience at another local fun run, the crew opted to take action by starting their own community event. Their zombified clothing line and obsession with recent pop culture favorites like The Walking Dead served as inspiration.

Finding a location for the race was just as easy as coming up with a theme. With their eyes set on Claremont, a favorite local destination place, the team found the perfect race venue within the winding paths of the botanic garden, found courtesy of an afternoon on Google Maps. Though the setting was ideal, they were certain the botanic garden staff would not be as enthusiastic. On a whim they gave Eric Garton, director of visitor services, a call. To their surprise, he was on board.

“It’s great for exposure primarily for the age demographic it appeals to,” Mr. Garton said. “It’s the 20-to 40-year-olds with family, which is a group we don’t always do the best job promoting to. This is one way to get them here to not only enjoy the run, but see what we have.”  

In addition to providing some good, old-fashioned gory fun, the event is also about raising awareness and funds for a few good causes. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the local botanic garden as well as St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The Red Cross will also be on scene to collect blood donations.

Entrance into the outbreak is $45 a person through Friday, March 21. The price continues to rise as the date of the race approaches. Eventgoers are welcome to sit and watch the carnage or participate in any or all of the day’s 10 races and will walk away with a free event T-shirt and admission into the rest of the garden’s exhibitions that day. Make it out of the hordes of zombies with one of your flags and also earn a free beer or other drink of choice. For more information, visit www.claremontzombierun.com.

—Beth Hartnett



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