Couple expands love of terror: Wisconsin Zombie Mud Run
The husband-wife operators of the ghoulishly acclaimed Wisconsin FearGrounds have created a new haunt that makes "run for your life" a realistic exercise.
More than 100 zombies will chase an expected 2,000 participants, seeking to drain their lifelines and leave them dead at the finish of the first Wisconsin Zombie Mud Run, on the Waukesha County Expo grounds. To give the runners a glimmer of hope, the 13 obstacles, including a slime pit, will be zombie-free zones.
Each participant will start the 5-kilometer run with three lifelines, similar to flags in a flag-football game, and those who reach the finish with life left, spared from the zombies, will be declared winners. The race will not be timed.
Ann Marie and Tim Gavinski trace the origins of their entry in the fast-growing obstacle run market to Tim's stay in Germany decades ago.
"My husband got to sleep in Frankenstein's Castle," Ann Marie said. "He remembers that and being creeped out and just loving it."
Tim, 52, carried that love of haunting back home, and through his retirement from the military.
For more than 20 years, the Gavinskis turned their home into an elaborate, must-visit stop for Halloween hunters in Waukesha. They expanded their annual creep show into a business and opened the Wisconsin FearGrounds at the expo center in 2006.
Haunted Attraction Magazine rated it the No. 1 must-see terror tour in 2011, and the FearGrounds remain in the top 10 of the nation's haunted house rankings.
Mud, slime and zombies seemed to be a natural extension.
"We like to entertain people and we're looking for other opportunities," Ann Marie said. "People are constantly trying to enhance their exercise routine and are looking for a thrill and a challenge.
We have slime, and the flag football element and hundreds of zombies chasing you on the course."
While new to the obstacle race market, the Gavinskis aren't exactly rookies. They spent two years researching similar spectacles, can tap their large employee base from the FearGrounds and have vast experience in moving people through their fears.
"Just in this week of setting up the obstacle course, we learned so much," Ann Marie said. "We already have a list two pages long of things to do for next year."
Proceeds from the Wisconsin Zombie Mud Run – 3 percent of the registration fees plus donations – will be shared with the This Time Tomorrow Foundation. The Wisconsin-based charity provides financial support to cancer victims and invests in research.
Ann Marie said both Gavinskis lost their fathers to cancer, providing added motivation for their new labor of love.
"We're in the entertainment business," she said. "We want to hear people laugh and cry and scream. To see them excited, and the positive energy, that's a reward for me. That's fantastic."
The frightening fun mixed with exercise, starts at 9 a.m. Saturday, and will continue in waves through the afternoon. Registration will be open on-site, at $85 per entry.
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