Where I recount the zombie run
If you wanted to formulate an event that said “this is for John,” these are the preferred ingredients:
- Fresh air
- Running or cycling
- Horror movie creatures, but especially zombies
- Good friends
- New people to meet & mingle with
- Pretty, scantily clad women
So, a few months ago, my friend Lindsay asked me if I wanted to run in a “Zombie run.” The answer, of course, was “of course I do.” I signed up before I even really did any research on the event – because we had running, friends, and zombies included.
After looking through the details from the Run For Your Lives website, though, it was pretty obvious that this event might actually qualify for almost everything on my “awesome” list.
You’d run a 5k obstacle course over a trail, wearing a belt similar to what you’d wear within flag football. Along the path, there would be zombies – people dressed in professional makeup, trying to grab your flags, acting like zombies would1. If you complete the course with at least one flag, you finish “alive.”
And then, there’s the after-party, where live bands would play and beer would flow.
As we got closer and closer to the event, the event organizers let out some details of what they’d be doing. There would be obstacles with strobe lights. There would be 4 feet of water. There would be red dye. There would be latex.
The rules for interactions were pretty clear – if you skip an obstacle, you’d be consumed by zombies. If you couldn’t complete an obstacle, you’d be escorted from the course. No runners would initiate contact with any zombies (they actually said something like “you will not touch, punch, roundhouse kick, etc…zombies).
The original plan had me & Duffy spending the night with Lindsay & Jay, but I got roped into playing Guys & Dolls at the local community theater, and Duffy’s favorite high school teacher passed away, with the memorial service during the run. So, the plans changed.
I woke up at 3:30 in the morning to make my way to Jay & Linday’s, where we met up with Amy and worked out way down (Jay & Amy had spectator tickets). With more than 10,000 participants expected (between runners, zombies, volunteers, and partiers), combined with the fact that they were charging for parking, the carpooling was nearly a necessity.
We parked and stood on a line for a bus to get to the start line . . . but, we weren’t moving very fast. So, we asked someone in charge of directing the parking how far a walk we had, and he said “about a mile,” so we walked.
It was cold, but we were excited, and we walked to the registration.
And here, it was obvious where “first time event organizers” were obvious. See, I had my wallet on me, because I knew that I’d need cash to buy anything . . . but Lindsay didn’t bring her purse because she had her husband there. If money was needed, she had something. Because she didn’t bring her purse, she didn’t bring ID. And they absolutely refused to let anybody without ID register. So Jay went back to the car for her license. I’m sure, somewhere along the way, there was a warning that you needed to bring photo ID with you – but when you got to the event, there was nothing of the sort, which is just poor planning.2.
Finally, we got through, and we started the run. We missed the actual start of the 10am run, but they let us run with the stragglers, and this proved both advantageous and difficult.
Lindsay and I have never run together before – we’ve done events together, but it’s always been “meet before” and “meet up afterward,” with the running parts on our own. This time, though, well, I’m a big guy, and there were obstacles, and there were zombies. There were distinct advantages to staying together. So, that’s what we did. After leaving the gate, we struggled to find our rhythm. Simply, my legs are longer than hers.
But, then we hit the first obstacle – a hill built out of hay bales. We climbed and . . . wouldn’t you know, zombies! There were a good two-dozen zombies waiting on the other side. We zigged & zagged and sprinted & spun to avoid them. When I run, I keep a pace that I can maintain for a long time. Here, I simply ran to avoid. I was tired, and I wasn’t even 1/10 of the way in. But, we were still “alive” and we started running again.
Only, well, we couldn’t run. We were at the back of the pack, and this was on a trail, and “the pack” was walking ahead of us, so we walked.
Throughout the run, the strategy remained pretty simple – walk or lightly jog until you encountered a zombie, and then run like hell to get past said zombie.
We climbed a cargo net, we went up and down hills, we went through a covered bridge that had blinds at both ends & strobe lights (but, strangely, no zombies on either side of the bridge). We went over & under saw-horses. Whenever we left the trail for a clearing, there were zombies hither & tither. You sprinted like mad to get away from them.
Once, we saw a “this way or that way” sign, but, looking down one path, we were able to see the dead-end (we were told that there would be times that you’d need to chose between paths, and that one of those paths might be a dead end). We went the other way.
Then, there was a choice to “run or swim.” It was obvious that the running path would be “infested.” So we swam. From end-to-end, it was, maybe 100 yards in slow moving water. There was a rope that you could use to pull yourself across, and I was always able to stand on the bottom (they advertised “four feet of water” but, there were times that the water was well over my shoulders, so I have to think that the runners ahead of me, runner after runner after runner, repositioned the bottom of the river), but you got thoroughly wet.
I was thoroughly wet. So was the ground. And I was wearing Vibrams.
Very, very wet mud, and shoes without any traction didn’t make for a fun experience. It took a lot of effort to stay on my feet right after the swim, and for much of the run afterward. Simply, the ground was slippery from mud.
So, we continued through some monster hills (seriously, there was one that would have been the steepest climb I’ve ever done, running, if I were able to run — a whole team of zombies waited at the top . . . fortunately, being a little bit taller than most, I was able to see them and we caught our breath after the climb before the mad sprint) and through trails.
One obstacle seemed especially stupid. It was a wall, set at, maybe a 60° angle, with wooden blocks to use to help you climb over it. That part was fine – but the other side was a slide . . . down that same 60° angle, into a hay bale. I was fine, but I could easily see people spraining ankles, especially if they cared about their time, for a cheap stunt that didn’t provide any thrill factor.
At one point, we jumped into a horse-trough of red, sweet smelling liquid. Just when I thought the rest of the run might be somewhat “dry,” well, I was wrong.
Along the way, some of the zombies were very, very aggressive. Some of them moved much faster than I’d have thought they’d been instructed to move. Every now & then, a zombie would stare you in the eye and you’d stand-off — with eye-contact made, you essentially played a game of chicken. Most of these, I ended up winning, either because I can be quick when I need to be, or because I’m well in excess of 200 pounds and if I threaten to run you over, well, you need to be a really, really good actor to not break zombie character.
Typically, once you made it past a zombie, that was the end – however, I did see someone get past a zombie and then watch the zombie turn around and chase the dude for a good couple hundred yards. My gut tells me that the zombie knew the runner and this was pre-arranged . . . because it would suck to have zombies running behind you the whole way.
We both finished with one flag left, so we were “survivors” (which meant that our times counted — those who didn’t survive didn’t qualify for end-prizes). We got through, changed, and had a complimentary beer (Natural Bohemian or Pabst Blue Ribbon).
I normally try not to bitch about events – shit happens that is unfortunate any time something is planned. But there are a few things that I needed to complain about.
First, the registration seemed excessive ($80 for runners, $40 for spectators). I know people are looking to make a buck – but when I shell out a decent amount, I expect a bit more than chip timing.
The shirt that you got for attending was just a plain running shirt – it had nothing to do with the event itself (but, you could spend $15-20 to buy yourself a shirt of the event).
Charging an additional $10 for parking, when there is no public transportation option, on top of that registration, is ludicrous. Plus, they parked us in an open field, and watching car after car get stuck in the mud . . . well, someone could have planned that a bit better.
Signs telling you where to go weren’t overly apparent and you ended up half guessing what you were doing and where you were going.
The beer selection was shitty.
The party was set to go all night, and we were there in the morning, so I’m sure that things would get worked out, but there wasn’t much live music while I was there.
My biggest gripe, though, came at the end. Amy wanted to be a zombie volunteer. When she went to sign up, she emailed the event organizers, who told her that their zombie reserves were full, but she was welcome to come to the party. She bought the ticket for the party.
Right before we left, someone made an announcement that anyone who wanted to get made-up like a zombie only have to take their supplies to the zombie tent and they’d be made up. If she had known this hours previously, she would have – even if it meant that she wasn’t on the course, but just mingling about, she’d have been happy. But, now we were leaving, and they were just making the announcement.
All in all, I really did have a good time . . . but I’m just hopeful that these glitches were “first time organizers” and that, as I see them schedule zombie run after zombie run, they get figured out.
If I did this again, I’d have done things a little differently, myself.
First, I’d have adjusted the position of the flags from obstacle to obstacle. I started with all three flags in front of me, thinking “if they want to reach for my junk, go for it.” But with most zombies ignoring anyone behind you, it might have been better to let the flags stand beside me.
I’d have worn different shoes – I only ever run in Vibrams – but, this was “only” three miles, and having some tread for the mud would have come in handy.
In my only previous mud run, I saw the queue for the obstacles get pretty insane as the day went on, but this one was actually pretty well-managed. However, the course was an absolute mess in areas after thousands of wet feet kicked up mud. I’d either make doubly sure that I was among the first people out of the gate or just kick back, sleep in, and party before & after the event.
Ups & downs aside, this certainly got me in the mood for another mud run . . . many more of them.