If you’ve lived in the Triangle for a while, you may have heard of the Day of the Dead 5K (DOD5K). This race around Oakwood Cemetery, featuring smiley, sweaty, and painted faces, will return for its 11th year on Saturday, Oct. 28. Over the years, the race has raised more than $170K for the Brentwood Boys and Girls Club, primarily serving the Latin American community in Wake County.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, The Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday where families welcome back the souls of the family members they have lost over the years with food, drink, offerings, and celebration. The holiday is celebrated each year from Oct. 31 to Nov 2. For Angela Salamanca, owner of Centro Mexican Restaurant in Downtown Raleigh, the holiday has special meaning.
“The holiday has helped me move through the grief of losing my sister, Margarita,” said Salamanca. “It has given me a shared language and ritual around loss, and celebration of those we loved who are no longer around.”
Originally from Bogota, Colombia, Salamanca has lived in the States for 30 years. In addition to being the founder of the DOD5K, she owns three Latin American-inspired businesses in the Triangle: Centro Mexican Restaurant, Gallo Pelón Mezcaleria, and Ex-Voto in Durham. While Salamanca didn’t grow up celebrating the Day of the Dead, her staff introduced her to the holiday when they asked her to put up an ofrenda (altar) in the restaurant to honor her loved ones.
“We started DOD5K in 2011,” said Salamanca. “A few years back we had been doing smaller events around the celebration of the Day of the Dead, and realized we wanted to have a bigger platform — not only to celebrate this beautiful holiday, but to reach a wider community when talking about grief. We also wanted to create an event that inspired the younger kids to stay and be active.”
This year’s race will start at 10 a.m. in front of Centro Mexican Restaurant. After passing through Oakwood Cemetery, runners will loop back to Wilmington Street. There will be altars for people to leave flowers, gifts, and written messages in memory of their loved ones, as well as an art corner and face painting for the kids, prizes for top runners and best costumes, a dance-off, and a special beer for runners 21+.
The last day to register and get a free T-shirt is Sept. 30 — but non-runners can still be part of this beautiful celebration!
“For us to have the active, diverse, safe, unique communities we want, we have to actively be creating them,” said Salamanca. “We need to show up and contribute our gifts and in that way make a difference. For this event, you can do it in so many ways. You can register and run, and that alone will be helpful. You can sponsor a little runner, pay for a kid from the club to run the race. You can donate money to the race! You can come and cheer for all the runners. In any way you show up, it will make this event better for all. “