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Monsters, ghosts race for a cause

Zombies and ghouls darted past superheroes, Oompa Loompas, Angry Birds and human-sized fluorescent orange crayons under an overcast sky Sunday morning as they took part in the annual Monster Dash 5K road race.

The competition, which took place at the Rhode Island Convention Center, followed a youth race in the morning and a surprise performance of "Thriller" by a zombie flash mob from Studio One, a dance studio based in Lincoln, R.I. After a break in the Halloween music for the national anthem, the crowd of monsters set off under a light drizzle.

Out of the approximately 1,300 people who ran the Monster Dash, most sported some form of costume, some featuring elaborate gore and others donning outlandish wigs. Many ran in teams - Snow White and the seven dwarves turned out in full force, as did King Arthur and his supporters in search of the Holy Grail, who trotted triumphantly across the finish line in 1250th place with coconuts clopping. 

"It was really cute," said Madeleine Muzdakis '16, a Brown Running Club member who participated in the race. She added that she was surprised so many participants turned up in costume.

Race director "Frank," short for Frankenstein's Monster, staggered down the street, pausing for photos with spectators and chasing runners as they returned to the Convention Center. He was accompanied by the "Manor Wanderer," a bloodstained man with safety pins holding together the gashes in his face, who said the two of them return for the race every year to support a good cause. Though the race is a for-profit event, it supports the Gloria Gemma Breast Cancer Resource Foundation and Project Undercover, a local nonprofit dedicated to providing impoverished Rhode Island children with diapers and underclothing.

Dustin Coleman, ticket sales and marketing intern for the Brown Athletics Department, took first place with a time of 17:26.7.

"This is my second 5K in a while," said Coleman, who aside from the CVS Downtown 5K in September, had not run competitively since college.

The Brown Running Club - dressed for the occasion with bear ears, painted noses and a few well-placed dashes of fake blood - also performed well, with Nicholas Hartmann '16 finishing ninth. 

The "Brown Zombie Bears" won an award for best college team. "Which is funny, because we're not very competitive. At first we didn't even know there were any awards," Leo Kadota '16 said.

Emily Hollenbeck GS, who joined the running club this year and describes herself as a "semi-serious" runner, was the first female contestant to cross the finish line.

"It was super surprising," she said. "It was the first time I've won a road race."

Local participants enjoyed themselves as well. Among them were the Tek family from Northbridge, Mass. Beth, Matt and their two-year-old daughter Charlotte were dressed as a "royal family" - the Queen, Prince Charming and Cinderella, respectively. Beth and Matt, both avid runners, said they hoped to inspire enthusiasm for running in Charlotte. But for now, Matt serves as her coachman as she scrolls through iPad apps in her stroller. 

Throughout the race, Charlie Breagy, a race director, could be found running up and down the street taking videos or providing commentary as the contestants crossed the finish line.  

"Put your hands together, Providence!" he exclaimed after the Studio One Thriller dancers dropped to the street at the end of their flash mob performance. "That was great, and I knew nothing about this until they came to me just a few minutes ago. That was absolutely sensational!"

Breagy immigrated from Ireland in 1984, thanks to a track scholarship from Providence College. In 1990, he and a few other Providence College graduates founded the CVS Caremark Downtown 5K, which takes place every September.

Breagy is also a driving force behind the Tour de Patrick, a series of three races in Pawtucket, Worcester and Providence, that takes place every March. Still to come this year are the Family Turkey Trot in November and the Downtown Jingle 5K in December, when each contestant receives a set of jingle bells to run with.

"It's not just a race," he said. "It has to be entertainment, and it has to be fun, and it has to be family-oriented." In keeping with this philosophy, each race is accompanied by a youth race for runners 14 and under, and costumes are strongly encouraged for both the Monster Dash and the Turkey Trot. Breagy cites David Bowie as the inspiration for the surreal and entertaining atmosphere surrounding his race events. "His showmanship was unbelievable," he said.

But of all the races he organizes, the Monster Dash is his favorite.

"This is the most colorful event I do," he said. "I think people all have a great time, including myself."


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