COLUMBIA — Neither snow flurries nor the end of the Halloween season could ward off the zombies, Jokers and other costumed runners taking part in the Cross Country Xtreme run held at Midway Sandbar on Saturday.
Runners came from all over Missouri — and other states — to take part in the fifth-annual event.
The path winds through more than four miles of forest and fields outside of Columbia. Runners are encouraged to wear costumes instead of standard running gear and prizes are awarded for both top finishers and best costumes.
This year's event included runners dressed as Mr. Clean (complete with bucket and mop), the Joker from Batman, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and even Chris Farley and Patrick Swayze's Chippendales dancers from the famous Saturday Night Live skit.
The best costume award, however, went to a pack of runners from Blue Valley North High School in Overland Park, Kan. The group came dressed as various cereal characters, such as Cap'n Crunch, Tony the Tiger, and the Trix rabbit.
17-year-old Tom Chapline, or Cap'n Crunch, had a simple explanation.
"Well, I love cereal, personally," he said with a laugh.
Last year's best costume winner, Mike Tripp, also ran again. This year, he was dressed as the Joker from the movie "The Dark Knight." He added a twist, though. He chose to depict a scene from the movie in which the character swaps his trademark purple suit for a nurse's outfit.
"Where are you going to be, other than Halloween maybe, where people are dressed up like this?" Tripp said. "It's great. Really, people go (all) out. It's crazy, so it's a lot of fun."
In addition to the prizes, the high school with the most runners received a $500 donation. The award went to Columbia's Rock Bridge High School, which had 15 runners in the event.
Independence's St. Mary's High School missed the award by one runner. The group braved the cold, snowy morning in nothing but underwear, strategically-placed bandannas and running shoes.
They said they had a great time, even if they were freezing by the end.
"It's a really good race. It's fun to do. There's a whole lot of decorations and stuff." said Bray Addison as the the team huddled around the event's bonfire for warmth after the race. "It never disappoints."
The event is put on by the organization Off Track Events, which puts on a number of other athletic events around the area. Founder and director Mike Denehy said the goal is to "take ordinary events and give them a crazy twist."
Their other events include the Paws in the Park event, the Chicken vs. Gorilla air guitar championship, Columbia's Mayor's Cup scavenger hunt and the LOL Run, another costumed running event.
Denehy was pleased with the large number of participants who came out despite the flurries and cold weather, a fact that epitomizes the group and the nature of the event.
"It's miserable, it's cold, it's actually snowing... It's perfect!" he said with a laugh.