Yesterday, I faced hordes of zombies and… I came out a zombie myself! I had such high hopes that I could run through the 5 km zombie obstacle course race, otherwise known as Run for Your Lives (in Washington State) and not be eaten, but it turns out that the undead got the better of me.
The premise of this race is that you have a belt with three red flags on it – and those red flags represent your lives. You have to go through 12 obstacles – and you don’t know what they are going to be before you get there – *and* you have to get past countless zombies who are trying to grab your flags. Are the zombies going to be fast? Slow? Will they jump out from behind the bushes? YOU JUST DON’T KNOW! There’s no predicting zombies, people.
Hundreds of people were out for the big event – runners, zombies, and spectators!
Here are some runners who were in a earlier wave than I was in:
Notice that most of them don’t have any red flags on their belts. That means they didn’t make it out alive! Also notice that they are all covered in mud!
In the race, you could win prizes for being the fastest runner in your age category – but only if you made it out with a flag still on your belt. You could also win for best costume, hence why these Angry Birds were there:
They were having trouble figuring out where to put their flag belts! Oh yeah, and did I mention that it was 38 degrees Celsius out? THIRTY-EIGHT DEGREES! 38 degrees is too hot to do pretty much anything, let alone run a race. But what can you do? If the zombie apocalypse happens and it’s 38 degrees, you don’t get to say “sorry, zombies, it’s too hot to run.” You just run!
I did the race with my friend, Julie, who you may remember from that time we played hockey for 10 freaking days non-stop, and her step-daughter, Megan. We were the Apocalyptic Avengers! Here we are before the race:
Don’t we look nice and clean? And filled with life and hope and flags on our belts?
Here we are lining up for the race and discussing our strategy. Which was basically that Julie and Megan planned to run together and I said, “I’ll probably take off.” Because when there are zombies chasing me, it’s everyone for themselves! (Spoiler: I took off screaming the very first time we encountered zombies. True story.
When we went to line up, you were to sort yourself by how fast you are – zombie appetizer, zombie entree, or zombie dessert:
It’s a bit hard to read in the photo, but appetizers are those who can run 9 minutes per mile or faster, entrees are 9-12 minutes per mile, and desserts are 12 minutes per mile or slower. My problem, of course, is that I’m a Canadian, so I only know how fast I can run in minutes per km! Also, I suck at doing math in my head – especially when I’m more worried about being eaten by zombies than anything else. After some discussion, we decided that we were probably on the slow end of entrees.
Now, I have to say right off – this was the hardest race I’ve ever done! I’ve never done an obstacle course race and I’ve certainly never been chased by zombies. Also, I am trained as a distance runner1, so I usually like to run at a steady pace, keeping some in reserve to be able to go the distance. This, however, was not that kind of race. What I should have been training for was sprinting. Sprinting like hell! The race was a bunch of running – or more often walking – along the path until you came to an obstacle – climbing over wall, crawling under things through the mud, etc. – or, much worse, you approached a field or pathway full of walkers.
Here we2 are jogging along a path that is mercifully zombie-free. It became pretty evident early on that you had to stick together with other people – safety in numbers – as trying to run through a field of the undead on your own was suicide.
And here we see runners approaching some zombies:
And there’s no way around but through, as they say. Which meant that there was a hell of a lot of sprinting that I learned very quickly I was not in good shape for at all! In fact, I lost a flag on my trip through the very first field of zombies that we encountered3. It also probably didn’t help that I was screaming every time I sprinted through a field of zombies – that energy probably would have been better used in my sprinting than it was in my yelling “OH MY GOD!! NO NO NO NO NO NO NO! WHY ARE YOU TARGETING MEEEEEEEEEE??????!!!!!” Live and learn4.
Some of the obstacles required you to make a choice – like this one where you had to chose which way to go through the maze:
Of course, with a zombie blocking the right entrance, I’m guessing these runners went left. When I got to that obstacle, there was no zombie at the front of the maze, but there was one at the end, but she was a slow one, so not hard to get past. There was another point in the race where we had to chose to go left or right along the path, and after a short deliberation we decided to go right because we saw a few zombies on the right path and nothing on the left and we guessed that they were using reverse psychology to try to get you to go left and then there would be something much, much worse on the left. The right path only had a few very slow zombies, so it seemed to be a good choice, but I’m still *dying* to know what was on the left path!
Now, I mentioned that I lost my first flag in the first field of zombies that I came to. I made it through a few more zombie groups with some close calls and then another got me, so that I was 2/3rds dead before I hit the 1 mile marker. When I saw the 1 mile marker, I yelled, “1 mile? How far is 1 mile?? I’M A CANADIAN!!!!” This was a 5 km race and I already thought it odd that an American race used a metric measure for the race distance, but then they had mile markers? WTF? I was way to stressed out to deal with math! I got myself a much needed few glasses of water – did I mention it was 38 degrees out?? – remembered that 1 mile = 1.6 km, realized that I was only about 1/3rd of the way through the race, and wanted to cry because omg-I’m-only-1/3rd-the-way-through-this-race? But I again reminded myself that the only way to be able to stop running was to get the end and I was bolstered by the fact that having only one flag meant that I only had to protect one flag. This actually fared me pretty well for a while, as I had the flag on left hip, so I made sure to always run to the left of every zombie. Sadly, though, all good things must come to an end5 and I ended up losing my last flag in a thick group of the walking dead. At this point, I figured there was no point doing any more running because it was pretty freaking hot and I was pretty freaking worn out, and there was nothing zombies could do to me anymore. In the next herd of zombies, I decided I could just walked through. Now some people had been trying to trick zombies by walking through as if they didn’t have flags when they actually had a flag on their back. One zombie eyed me suspiciously as I approached, so I spun around to show I wan’t hiding flags and said, “I don’t have any flags, dude.” His reply: “Here you go!” as he handed me a flag from his pocket! Colour me surprised! I wasn’t expecting that. I happily said “Thanks, man!” and then went on my way, attaching my new flag to my belt as I went. And about a second after that I thought “Crap! Now I have to run again.” I made it through some more of the race continuing on with my go-to-the-left strategy. I think I was in around the 2 mile mark when I was jogging through a particularly long stretch of zombies, but all of whom were fairly well spaced out and stumbling along slowly. And just as I was feeling confident that I was going to get through this stretch, I heard someone yell from the sidelines, “Zombies! Grab flags now!” Apparently, part of the way of keeping the runners guessing was that zombies were told to be slow zombies at some times and fast zombies at other times! And so it was that I ended up right in the middle of a herd of suddenly fast zombies. And I was done for! I tried to sprint, but there was too many and they were too fast. And so I was dead again.
I continued on through the last mile, resigned to my fate of undeath. One zombie even gave me double high fives6 while moaning “One of uuuuuuuusssss!” Another runner who shared a similar fate with me told me she decided weeks ago that it would probably be best to just become zombified. “Even in a real zombie apocalypse, why not just be a zombie? You wouldn’t have to worry about a job, or worry about your weight, or worry about getting killed by zombies!”
The final stretch of the race was, without a doubt, the most insane thing ever. I’m talking giant uphill, loaded with zombies, and when you crested the hill assuming you had made it – more zombies. Very, very few people made it through that final stretch with any flags at all. Anyone who did – my hat is off to you!
So. Many. Zombies.
At the end, you got to go down this awesome slide into a pool of water. Sure the water was dirty as all hell, but I didn’t care. It was gloriously, gloriously cold water and I just plugged my nose and went right under!
As I waited my turn at the top of the slide, I said, “Oh god, I hope there aren’t zombies at the bottom of this!” and the race volunteer monitoring the slide said, “That would just be mean.” “This entire race was mean! Did you see that big hill full of zombies??”
After the pool, the final obstacle was a very low cage with a bunch of mud you had to crawl through on your belly. Now, someone smarter than me – or at least not so close to heat stroke – would have remembered that we’d been told there could electrical shocks in this race. But not me. As I crawled, I bumped my head into the top of the cage and zap! Because apparently dying by zombification was not enough for me – I had to have my brains zapped out too!
Now, despite the fact that it was hotter than all hell and I got electrocuted and I got zombified in spite of a zombie taking pity on me and giving me an extra life, this race was so freaking fun! I would definitely do it again – though I would do some serious sprint training first. Though I am really, really tempted to be a zombie next time instead of a runner!
Here’s Team Apocalypse after the race, in all of our muddy glory:
I took me quite some time to get all that mud off me and my socks I just gave up on. But I donated my shoes – as I’d worn a pair of my old running shoes, since I knew they’d get muddy – to Project Sole, an organization that gives shoes to people in impoverished nations and disaster-stricken communities.
In reward for my hard efforts, I got this delicious beer:
Post-race beers are the best kinds of beers.
But I also got these scrapes, which I didn’t know were there until I got all the mud off:
Most importantly, however, I have a new race medal to add to my collection:
Best. Medal. Ever.
I can’t wait ’til next year!
- And, truth be told, I’m pretty slow at the distance running too! [↩]
- I’m 99% that the short girl all in black in the middle of this group is me [↩]
- Truth be told, I was happy that I only lost one flag there, because there were a lot of zombies! [↩]
- Er, I guess that should be don’t live and learn. [↩]
- If you consider fearing for you life a “good thing”. [↩]
- Also known as high ten. [↩]