How I “Survived” the Zombie Apocalypse

A few months ago, my friend Ed sent an email encouraging me to join him in the RunForYourLives race. For those of you unfamiliar, it is a 5k race where you run through mud and various obstacles while being chased by people pretending to be zombies. At the time, it seemed like a great idea and with some additional encouragement from my friend David, I signed up. I completed the race yesterday, and friends and family keep asking about it and so I figured that I would create this blog summary.

Fifteen of us met at 7AM(!) on Sunday morning to carpool to the event. It was a ridiculously early hour made worse because many of us were up late the night before. We were all excited and I was particularly happy that we were fully prepared including an appropriate car decal. Another colleague brought “The Antidote” (also pictured) and “The Accelerator” to help things along. I have no idea what was in either, but they did not seem to help me in the race.

When we arrived at the zombie site, the first thing we saw was an extremely steep incline after the starting gates. This was surprising giving this quote from the event organizers:

“It’s not overly challenging, it’s geared toward everyone, not just the people that go to the gym everyday. It’s for people that like video games that come to life, it’s for people that like beer, and with zombies chasing you throughout the course, it’s a good motivation to run.” – Source

I was hoping that my intensive preparation of drinking beer and watching “The Living Dead” would properly prepare me, but once I saw the hill, I knew that I was sadly mistaken. To be clear, I am in reasonable shape, but am not a runner. Of course, the idea of training never occurred to me either.

Upon arrival, we immediately checked in and found that we were the first runners. Our organizer, Jonathon, was determined to avoid the crowds and he was successful. However, we also avoided the staff because they were unprepared for people arriving 2 hours early. Eventually we were given our race packets which included a bib with a number and a belt with three flags velcroed to it. You wear the belt as you race and the zombies are tasked with trying to grab your flags which represent lives. As we waited in the staging area, the temperature dropped precipitously. Our two hour wait (thanks Jonathan!) was long and cold and here is a picture of the freezing team.

As the time wore on, we began encountering “zombies.” Ironically, they were doing entirely normal things like stowing their bags, going to the bathroom and in general prepping for the upcoming assault. However, I felt that they were eyeing the crowd, and they reminded me of lions studying a heard of antelope looking for the weak ones. This clown made me particularly nervous and I began to wonder if the organizers had found a small cache of real zombies somewhere.

Prior to the event we had discussed strategies to “survive” the event in numerous emails. My friend Kevin came up with the most interesting approach. He wore pink pants based on a bet and the belief that the “zombies” would see him and dissolve into uncontrollable laughter. Unfortunately, it had the opposite effect and I believe that he was actively targeted. I think that the prevailing wisdom was that someone wearing pants like that did not deserve to survive.

As the race started, I tired rapidly as I climbed what felt like Mount Everest. Stupidly, I ran with the rest of my group who had decided in a testosterone laden moment to start in the lane for 9 minute milers or better. I was clearly outclassed, but continued even so. As my lungs burned, I began to mentally curse Ed for getting me involved. My feelings were further reinforced when I encountered my first batch of zombies waiting to attack the weary runners cresting the hill. My keenly designed avoidance strategies failed and I immediately face planted as my dodge maneuver went horribly wrong. I ended in a pile of dirt with a zombie taunting me with my flag. That was it, game on! (Of course, this statement assumes that I had some game and sadly, I had very little.)

As the race continued, we ran/jogged/walked through miles of wooded paths. The organizers had also decided that mud would be fun and so we trudged through 3-6 inches of mud and crossed waist-deep muddy streams all the while trying to avoid zombies. The good news is that some zombies just stood there and moaned. I called these stumblers and they were my favorite, if you can have a favorite zombie. The worst were the zombie runners. These were undead who would trudge along and moan and then as soon as you pass them would sprint after you. This was particularly troublesome because they were extremely persistent and would chase you for 200-300 yards. Furthermore, they would often team up with stumblers and the two of them made a difficult combination.

As the run progressed, I finally settled on a strategy. I kept all my flags on one side of my body. This also allowed me to fulfill my NFL fantasies and perform frequent spin moves to protect my precious flags. This worked until I was double-teamed. The onslaught of multiple runners and stumblers overwhelmed me and I eventually succumbed. (Note that you can still finish the race when you lose your flags.) To be fair, the ratio of undead to human runners was higher than normal because we only had 75 people racing while a typical race has closer to 400. Thus, very few people survived with a flag intact.

One of my favorite moments was when I encountered a bride zombie. She was clad in a wedding address that had clearly seen better days. I figured that I would try the charm strategy and so as I ran by I said,” Gee you look a nice woman and it seems that you have fallen on hard times. How about we meet for drinks after the race?” Clearly she did not appreciate my overtures and grunted and started running after me. Fortunately, I was able to outrun her as I think that she tripped on her dress. There could be a much larger metaphor that comes out of this encounter, but I refuse to go there.

At the end of the race, we rode two slides into large mud pits. The first one was short while the second consisted of a tarp spread on a tubing hill where you slid down uncontrollably. The long one looked like fun until I started zooming down and realized that the tarp was coated in fine dirt. Sliding felt a bit like running a belt sander with fine grained sandpaper on my legs. It was decidedly unpleasant, but, hey, I was just happy to finish. Here is a picture of our team after the race.

On an ironic side note, I was not the last person in our team. Our fearless leader Ed was even slower than I. He was so far behind that we were concerned that something had happened to him and so we sent an emissary to the medical tent to review the casualty list. Fortunately, he was not on it. He eventually appeared spouting a lame excuse about a shoe getting stuck in the mud. The great news is that everyone completed the course without major injuries and one of us even finished with a flag remaining.

Update: You can see a YouTube video from a race from Saturday, here.

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