Last year, adventure races were suddenly popular: Tough Mudder, Mud Runs, Adventure Runs. Email advertisements hit my inbox daily.
This year, the trends changed, and now I get emails for zombie runs!
The first one I saw was the Run for your Lives race, hosted in various cities around the country. The nearest they came to me, though, was Atlanta, which is still a good five hours away, so I never signed up.
Even though…c’mon! I was DYING to try! I grew UP on zombie flicks! Dawn of the Dead and 28 Days Later still gives me nightmares! I HAD to see if I could survive a zombie apocalypse.
So when the rUNdead 5k appeared here in Charleston, conveniently on the weekend before the release of my first zombie-novel, I signed up. My good friend Julia and my brother Jonathan did as well. We were in it together!
The week before the race I caught a nasty cold from my daughter, and it quickly morphed into bronchitis (stupid asthma). The race was on Saturday, and by Friday I was medicated, but still coughing my face off.
My husband looked at me that Saturday morning. “You’re not running.”
But but but! Julia was running! Jonathan had traveled a thousand miles to run! I HAD to run.
I pleaded my case, and eventually, I stood with Jonathan and Julia on the starting line, and I held my inhaler in my hand (a compromise with my husband).
They called the zombies out onto the course long before they let us runners loose. We knew only two things for sure:
- There would be obstacles of varying levels of intensity; and
- Zombies could not attack you while you were on the obstacles.
I quickly formulated a plan and shared it with Jonathan and Julia: Get on an obstacle. Sit. Wait for the zombies to disburse.
My plan…was not a good one.
The race started. We jogged along a wooded path amid a clump of humanity. We had no idea if the zombies (whose makeup was remarkably well-done!) would come out of the woods to chase us, or if they’d be set up at stations.
It was the latter. We heard the screams of frightened people prior to actually seeing any zombies.
Here’s where we immediately ran into issues. Because…the path? It wasn’t more than six or seven feet across. And we were three people running together. And the zombies? Yeah, there were usually five or six in a clump.
Do you know how hard it is to get past five or six zombies when they take up more room than the path allows?
It’s near impossible.
Somehow, we made it through the first group unscathed (translation: none of us had lost any of our three flags). There was an obstacle up ahead: bales of hay stacked higher than I am tall, with a few placed in front as a step-stool. It was surrounded by more zombies.
Well, I shoved my inhaler down the front of my sports bra and made a mad dash for the hay. I launched myself up and over, probably kicking someone in the process. Jonathan was on my heels.
I landed hard on the other side, waited for Jonathan, and turned around to look for Julia, even though there were zombies everywhere. Suddenly, I heard her up ahead. She’d snuck around the entire thing, and was waiting for us just outside of the zombie “station.”
(Realistic, this was not. Clearly in real life, zombies don’t stay in their stations.)
From there, things went downhill for Jonathan and me. He lost his flags in one of the next stations; I lost two of mine to a single zombie grab.
So my brother started running interference for Julia and me. He’d jump in between the zombies and us as we dodged and feinted.
After another obstacle, I dropped my inhaler and told a zombie “time out.” She complied. (Again with the lack of realism, but who cares?) Seconds later, a zombie guy grabbed my ass…and my last, remaining flag.
So. My brother and I were dead.
Julia was still alive.
She became “the Chosen One.”
Jonathan and I? We were suddenly her soldiers…her zombie-slaves, if you want to think about it in Walking Dead terms.
We threw ourselves in front of approaching zombies. We blocked. I threw an elbow here and there.
But still….it happened.
We were surrounded on all sides by zombies. They had no interest in Jonathan and me, our lack of flags marking us clearly as two of the already-doomed.
I stepped one way, in between the zombies and our Chosen One. They moved the other way, growling, groaning, gnashing their (surprisingly clean and non-bloody) teeth.
I’m still not sure how it happened. I’m still not sure how they got past Jonathan and me.
But they did.
“I’m dead,” said Julia with a sigh.
Sure enough, all her flags were gone. We were now all members of the zombie nation.
So. We finished the run without any more sprinting (sprinting is HARD, by the way, even if you’re a decent distance runner), without any more obstacles (confession: I still did the tire obstacles so I could pretend to be a bad-ass), and without any more drama. Our heads hung low, but at least it was a lovely night for a jog.
I did not survive the zombie apocalypse. Me. The writer of zombie stories and the watcher of ALL the zombie movies. I died.
I’ll just have to try again next year, and console myself by knowing this: if the REAL zombie apocalypse were to occur, I’d have weapons, I’d have my husband by my side, and I’d be protecting my little girl. With the stakes that much higher, I know I would survive.