As you may already know (because I haven’t shut up about it) on Saturday we were invited to the Run For Your Lives Zombie 5K race in Millville Minnesota. Not being able to let anything zombie-related, we loaded up and prepared for a great time.
Lost as always, we got checked in a little late and started roving the grounds to get our bearings before we started out the day. Runners and future zombies were already starting to arrive, so we got to work right away.
The idea of the race is simple, you have a belt with three flags attached that represent your “life” or “health” similar to your favorite zombie apocalypse video games. The zombies scattered throughout the course try to take your flags as you run, dodge and maneuver through a series of obstacles along the course. Make it to the end of the race with at least one flag still attached and be considered one of the lucky survivors. Lose all your flags? Okay, you can still complete the course and get a commemorative medal, just do it without your delicious brains in-tact.
The Minnesota event ended up having around 3,500 participants in attendance, which is pretty substantial. This was the first year in Minnesota, will they come back? I’d feed my left arm to a zombie to see them again.
One of the most important parts of a Zombie 5K is having lots and lots of delightfully terrifying zombies, and the event paid out in spades. We got to wander around behind the scenes and play with some of the volunteer zombies and the makeup artists that made the transformation from living to living dead possible. I was surprised at how incredibly organized and easy they made it look. An assembly-line team passed the ghouls back and fourth from priming, to eyes, to scars, to blood and gore.
After a wave of zombies gets prepared, they are escorted onto the course and get a location and “job”. With volunteers from all walks of life they had plenty of slow, shambling zombies and plenty of fresh, feisty sprinters to keep the runners on their toes.
The race happened in waves throughout the day, with each runner being timed for accuracy. Like cattle the runners are ushered into caged lanes. Clinging to the bars of the new cages, the runners get to worry about what awaits them when those doors open as they are berated by a very funny US Army soldier barking with Drill-Sargent flair. The path in front of them fills with smoke before the camo-clad course official throws the doors.
I can’t give everything away, because that just wouldn’t be much fun, but along with the grueling run, the hot weather, and the zombies lunging for your “brains” they also have a bunch of extremely challenging obstacles to overcome along the way.
This particular black “barn” is filled with smoke and a shocking surprise. You climb into one of the three tunnels and try to make your way to the other end. Careful, not only do you have to deal with the horrors inside, you also have to worry that you may have chosen the wrong path. Chose the wrong tunnel and find a zombie surprise waiting to munch on your brains on the other side.
The most amusing of the obstacles is the giant water-slide that has been set up at the very top of a rather steep hill. Runners end up flipping, flopping, twisting, turning and ultimately plummeting into the mud puddle at the bottom.
Puddle? Okay, maybe not. More like a giant, gritty pool of slop. Some may have escaped the rest of the obstacles relatively clean, but once you slip into that soup, you might just be dirty enough that the zombies might avoid you.
When you’ve finished your race, you might be pretty angry at the zombies that took you down. You may be wanting a little bit of revenge. Subaru sponsored the race and set up a miniature “runners revenge” obstacle course. You get to dig through a bucket of severed limbs, fling dead bodies and eventually plunge a zombie into a nice cold dunk-tank. Subaru also had out their stylized “Official Zombie Escape Vehicle” which was really cool to check out and made a great photo-op to everyone who came to the event.
The most common comment we heard from runners after the race was “I can’t believe I just did that!”. The spectators had a great time too, though I do hope to see more zombie themed vendors and better course access for the press next year. Then again, next year I may just be too busy running for my life to care.
Interested? Run For Your Lives still has several stops left for 2012. Check out the schedule on the Official RFYL Website and find one close to you. Want to see more pictures from the event? Visit the ZombieSlam Facebook Album.