What's It Like to Run THE ZOMBIE 5K

Zombie 5K
Credit: NPR

Zombies crave brains. And now, the living crave zombies.

"Zombie culture" (yes, I just typed that) is now so pervasive that Reed Street Productions is able to roll out "Run For Your Lives," a zombie 5k race that hits 22 cites across North America (no, Canada, you’re not safe!) in 2013.

For $87, runners get the express privilege of running a 5k while being chased by actors and volunteers dressed as zombies. There are also obstacles including 4-foot deep mud pits, mazes, and what the company's disclaimers term as "minor electrical shocks." (Trust me, I felt no "minor.") The concept is flag football—you get three flags, and the zombies "bite" you by grabbing a flag. Lose all your flags, and you've lost the game—congratulations, you're now a brain-eater yourself.

The tangible rewards are sparse: You get a medal upon finishing, regardless if you have flags or not, a moisture-wicking performance T-shirt…and a free beer.

I am 44 creaking years old. I have plantar fasciitis in my left foot. I'm six feet tall and 210 pounds. My physical condition can best be summed up as "Goldurnint, I used to play high school football (okay, in 1986.)" I have never ran a 5k in my life. Much less a zombie 5k. I can do math. I know that five kilometers is 3.1 miles, and I do that on the treadmill. I will run "Run For Your Lives."

I mean, what could possibly go wrong?

The experience…is a tad on the exhausting side. You wouldn’t think it going in, but at the end of the race, yeah—you’re grateful for that beer. The race is one thing. The obstacles are another. Add in zombies and you certainly find out just what your lung capacity is.

It’s great for building camaraderie as well. One of the most fascinating concepts of zombie fiction—and one that’s expertly played out in The Walking Dead—is the notion of “compete or collaborate?” When faced with a serious struggle, would humanity come together to help each other out? Or jealously guard that which is ours? If Run For Your Lives is any indication—and let’s face facts, I think we all knew we were going home alive—“collaborate” wins. By the first quarter of the race, a spirit of “Team Runner” vs. “Team Zombie” had already developed, and dagnabit, we hated those biters! Runners with all three flags still intact would offer to go first and draw zombies away so the slower and clumsier (read: me) could get through. Yes, you can make new friends in the zombie apocalypse.

Friends, yes. Flags, no. I lost all three of mine. Please forgive me if I try to eat your brains next time I see you.

If you survive the Jim-zombie, you’d do well to plunk down $87 for "Run For Your Lives.” It’s a good time, and provides lots of stories for your friends. Plus, currency ain’t gonna be worth squat once the zombies take over, anyway.

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