We love zombies in our office. We all watch The Walking Dead, read World War Z and the Zombie Survival Guide. At my desk I have a cooler that says “Human Head Inside” and a zombie doll that holds a brain in his little detachable zombie hand. We all feel pretty confident in our ability to survive the impending Zombie Apocalypse. But we needed a true test. Along came the Run for Your Lives, zombie infested 5k/mud run.
We signed up for the Run For Your Lives, Zombie 5k back in April. I have to admit I had been excited for this ever since. As far as I know it is the first (but not last) of its kind. You get the joy of running a 5k, the challenge of a mud run and the chance to test your zombie avoidance skills. It can only be awesome, right?
Pre Race- As previously mentioned, I signed up for this race back in April. I should say WE signed up for this in April. A group of 4 of us that work together all signed up. You have to pick a wave start time when you register. We went with 11:00am with the idea that it was their first race. Hopefully by the time our wave started they would have worked out any major issues that came up.
The folks that run this event are media whores (in a good way). Prior to the race they advertised all over the place: radio, YouTube, during the Walking Dead and all over Facebook. They were extremely quick to answer any and all questions you sent them or posted on Facebook. The only thing I would have added is an email just before the race that included the wave time. We all forgot between April and October and had to email them for the information (which they quickly provided). I even tried to pimp the race with this blog (and the 4 people who read it) as well as my Facebook account. I thought they had a brilliant idea and I wanted to share it with as many people as possible.
Race Day- We were warned (by email) to arrive 1-1.5 hours ahead of time. We decided we wanted to be there 2.5 hours before it started. That was the best decision we made all day. Ask most people who went to the race that day and they would tell you the biggest issue was parking. Traffic was backed up for miles and it took some folks hours to arrive at the site. Many people missed their assigned wave and some missed the race in its entirety. Some people were REALLY angry. We didn’t drive up I-95 and our back road route led us right to the parking lot (possibly cutting off hundreds of other cars). Later in the day the blocked our little shortcut but we really lucked out. There was a 10$ fee to park, which I wish had been included in the price.
***The race officials are already addressing this for next year and have plans to use nearby stadium parking to alleviate the burden. I also believe they gave refunds and lots of apologies to those that missed the race.
They bussed folks from the parking lot to the race site about 1.5. People that were running late were skipping the bus and just walking/running down the road. We were there early enough that we took the bus (which took almost as long as walking).
Once we arrived at the site of the Apocalypse we signed in, got our shirts, timing chips, bibs and a belt with three flags that would represent our life. Lose your flags and you were doomed to wander the earth as a zombie. We only had about 30 minutes before our start time so we hit the baggage check and bathrooms (I heard a rumor that they did not empty all of the Port-A-Potties throughout the day but they were OK at 1030). 15 minutes before the race (with one team member running late) we had to choose between Appetizer (fast runners), Entrée (medium), Dessert (slow). We went with Dessert and wandered into the start tunnel. I was ready for the awesomeness. It was a beautiful day and we were about to come face to face with the living dead. Nothing could ruin this. And then the race started..
The Race: We laughed and joked as we approached the first obstacle (stacked hay bales). Beyond the hay you could see the shambling zombies waiting for us. Awesome. I sprang up the hale bales ready to finally see if I was up to the challenge. I was not. I slipped at the top of the obstacle and tumbled down the other side (where hungry zombies awaited). I recovered quickly and found myself face to face with the undead. Utilizing my ninja training, I zigged to avoid him. I should have zagged. For the second time, I slipped and tumbled. Good news is I avoided a quick death. Bad news is a heard/felt a “pop” in my hamstring and I knew I was in trouble. I tried to jog it out and it was just straight pain in my right hamstring.
We gathered our group together and headed into the woods. I hobbled into the woods. I figured my day was ruined, but I was going to complete this regardless of any injuries. Down the trail we encountered more zombies (slow zombies). At this point we were startled from behind which we thought was a fast/sneaky zombie but turned out to the last person in our merry band (running without a bib, timing chip or life flags).
We came upon a cargo net climbing obstacle (this is the only one I skipped), followed by a crawl through a concrete pipe, zombies wandered about both waiting for a meal. We then climbed the first of MANY hills up to a hay maze. It was brutal trying to avoid zombies in such a confined space. It was also extremely muddy and a lot of people ended up covered in mud. I hobbled on although I may have lost a flag here.
We went through a covered bridge that had a strobe light but no zombies (boring) before coming to a decision: take the water shortcut or the longer land route. Since every step was painful for me, I wanted to go through the water and our group dove in.
MY GOD IT WAS COLD. Take your breath away cold. It felt like my chest was being squeezed and it was hard to breath. One of our team needed to be helped/pushed/prodded to the other side. I swear it was deeper than the 4 foot sign indicated. I had to pull myself across with the ropes or I might still be there. In retrospect it was a bad choice. Take the land. I heard they later closed this obstacle b/c it was too cold. Good decision by race management.
Luckily the sun was still out and we dried a little as we continued through the race. The next section was marked by long muddy hills up and long muddy hills down (my shoes had 0 traction). It was really hard to gain footing and not fall all over the place. The scariest zombie was out in the woods of this section. She was lying down out of sight by the side of the trail. We were laughing and joking when she sprung up. Luckily my pants were already wet so no one could see me wet myself.
We entered the gauntlet which consisted of some over/unders, a wall climb, running through intestines and a jaunt through a pool of blood. I wet myself for the second time, when a zombie sprinted up behind me and possibly took a flag. I thought I had already lost them all so I was trying to be a distraction for others (the good of the many over the good of the few theory).
Finally there was one last muddy steep hill to climb with a few zombies to dodge. I think I lost my last flag here. If I had known I had any left I would have tried a little harder. I was 1 zombie away from surviving with a bum leg. We crested the hill, slid under a fence and marched to the finish line were I took my place among the recent undead. Half our party lived and half our party died but we all had hour worth of laughs (yeah it took us an hour, we walked most of the time). Everyone received a finishers medal (it was the same medal for the living and undead)
Post Race: They had hoses available to wash off the gore from a hard day of zombie avoidance. We drank our free beer and headed back to the car. They had lots of food and other vendors and live bands if you were inclined to hang out. If you paid to be a spectator, this is all you got to enjoy. They should have somewhere that spectators could watch some of the carnage. That would have made it worth it. It was still fun to see all of the costumes people choose. There were Ninja Turtles, Ghost Busters, people in suits, nurses, Waldo. A little bit of everything. We went with “wear what you wear on a normal day b/c you never know when the Apocalypse will begin” theory.
The race organizers were very responsive to concerns that users expressed (mainly via FaceBook) and I would expect them to address the issues people brought up. Let me also mention the race staff and some zombies showed concern about me hobbling through the course and offered to get me help and tried to direct me to the first aid stations (like there would be first aid during a Zombie Apocalypse..they get overrun first). I really did appreciate their care and concern for my well-being.
Lessons learned: Wear shoes with traction, use baggies to keep things dry, arrive early and look for alternate routes and ARRIVE EARLY. Be mindful that the zombies are people too (or they once were), don’t try and run through them or over them. They could use more course security to protect their zombie workforce from the throngs of racers.
Goodies: We received the medal, a ticket for a free beer, and a T-shirt. The shirt had no Run For Your Lives logo which has already been noted by the race organizers.
*****5 stars for me. Yes they have some things to work on, but it was the first race of its kind. I didn’t see anything they couldn’t or seemed unwilling to fix. I will definitely sign up for this next year when it returns to Maryland. I would HIGHLY encourage everyone to give it a shot with a group of friends. It was the most fun I think I ever had at a race.
—They have a ton of great photos and video to give you an idea of what to expect. I will upload my photo as soon as I get the chance.