How do you survive a zombie apocalypse? Are there any tricks you can learn before it happens? Are you ready?
An explosion in obstacle courses follows that age-old question: are all those hours in the gym making us any more competitive in a Darwinian sense? Joining Tough Mudder, Spartan Beast, and Warrior Dash is new kid on the block Run For Your Lives, a straight up 5K obstacle course with a twist of zombie. Like many keyboard pushers, I thought I'd test myself against the real undead.
Run for Your Lives complicates a 5K endurance obstacle course with ambling, flesh-eating zombies. To ensure realism, I did not train prior to the event. I haven't run 5 feet in as many years. When there's a fire, I'm the guy walking, not running, for the exits. I wanted to know if I could get up from my keyboard, off my pudgy ass, and run like hell if the occasion called for it.
Zombies called for it.
Picture, if you will, a mountain, complete with gorges, freezing lakes, dangerously sharp tree trunks, and rocky trails. Sprinkle in barbed wire, smoke, mudpits, and a house with faulty electrical wiring. Contemplate running through this with zombies sprinting after you.
|I went for "Entree"|
Yes, I know, zombies don't sprint. Neither do they hunger for brains. The event organizers did little research. Try to get past that.
We lined up in one of three tunnels labeled Appetizer, Entree, and Dessert. I was an Entree. A hungry zombie swarm waited for us on the other side. The first few steps were a bloodbath.
Here's how you die. The course follows the same rules as flag football if instead of steroid injected testosterone junkies you played against zombie infected evolution flunkies. Three red flags, tied to your waist, attract undead attention. When they capture all three flags, you join them.
I ran, I swam, I bobbed and weaved. My lungs begged for respite. My legs begged me to die. One way or another, I made it through to what had to be the end of the race. Then I saw the sign: 1 kilometer. I was 1/5th of the way there.
Even simulated, the chase pumps the adrenaline. These zombies, volunteers all, adopted the persona of playground bullies out to get a lifetime supply of lunch money. I found that intimidating enough without the gore dripping from their eye sockets.
I entered a focused state where nothing else mattered but survival. For the first time in years, my creative mind quieted as long unused regions took over - the amygdalae, the hypothalamus.
The part of my brain that didn't control desperate flailing movements observed that heroes die fast. Anyone rushing headlong into the throng got their bones picked.
Runners whispered "Safety in Numbers" before every obstacle. I ran with the pack, directly behind other suckers, uh, runners. I lost a flag when the runner ahead dodged right to reveal a waiting zombie. New plan!
We started the course pristine virgins. Halfway through we were dirty whores. I learned three tricks by then:
1. Blend in: the "zombies" target runners with more flags. By placing my flags behind me (perfectly legal), I kept from announcing myself. The trade-off is that flags behind make easy grabs as you pass.
2. Sacrifice others: One big guy had no flags left. He ran straight for the confused zombies as the rest of us streamed around the outside. This saved me several times.
3. Run like hell: Whenever I hesitated, I lost. There is no shame in running off the trail into wild rose thickets and sharp sticks. Right?
What impressed me most was how fear drove me to desperation. I did things I would never do without dire incentive. I sprinted up a wooden bleacher like I was running on the sidewalk. I'm not sure if fear caused a razor sharp focus that boosted performance, or if I'm just lucky I didn't end up in the hospital.
Did I survive? Yes. Am I proud of it? No. I recognize that chance played a big role. My running mate is a far superior physical specimen, yet he did not survive. This is where I'm supposed to say age and cunning beats youth and fearlessness, but that would be a lie. I survived because I am a wuss.
My tactics were not heroic; they were cowardly and selfish. I can't help but wonder if cowardice is a valuable asset in the next Apocalypse. I know the three rules above will be. Here's my advice: stick with what you know.