Realize your worst nightmare with the zombie 5K run

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Luckily, they aren't the running zombies.

The "Run for your Lives" zombie 5K obstacle course is coming to Colorado this summer, where fitness freaks bored by the running routine will have to dodge "zombies" -- volunteers complete with fake blood and lumbering steps -- as part of the race.

It's like The Walking Dead, but at a faster pace (although that's not hard to do.)

The braintrust behind the novel idea -- which hits Lakewood's Thunder Valley Motorcross park on July 14 -- is comprised of Derrick Smith and Ryan Hogan, childhood from friends from Bel Air, Maryland, about an hour northeast of Baltimore. Because zombies are so hot right now, Smith and Hogan decided to combine the undead with adventure runs like the popular "Warrior Dash" and "Spartan Race," which are adult-sized obstacle courses straight out of an old Mountain Dew commercial.

"Zombies are really mainstream right now, due really in part to AMC's The Walking Dead," says the 28-year-old Smith, who's not a runner and was pursuing and English degree while working in a hotel, and living with his parents, when he thought of the idea.

The first zombie run attracted about 10,000 people to the Baltimore suburb of Darlington in October. The second race in Atlanta drew about 4,000 people to a rain-soaked, clay-and-mud run there. While planning for that first race about a year ago, Smith says he realized the level of popularity it was reaching meant he could take the race nationwide, which is what he is doing this summer. 

Smith called Westword from Maryland, about two days after finishing up the second Run for Your Lives race in Atlanta. Here's an abridged version of our conversation.

Westword: Has anyone been hurt by a zombie volunteer so far?

Derrick Smith: We have very specifics rules for zombies. Every runner wears a flag-belt and zombies, their rules are that they are only supposed to grab the flags, make sure they are not blocking the runner's path. For the runners on the other side, we say, "You are not supposed to touch the zombie, you are going to get infected. You are not supposed to push or hit a zombie out of the way, or swat [the zombie's] hand out of the way." It's not a contact sport.

Westword: How many zombies and runners are on the course at the same time?

Derrick Smith: All the runners go out in waves, so there are no more than 400 to 450 people per wave. On the course itself, we try to keep our keep our zombies numbers quiet as we do with the course. But I would say that in an ideal situation, for every two runners, there is one zombie.

Westword: Can you tell me about some of the obstacles in the course and a what a typical race route looks like?

Derrick Smith: You're looking at ten to twelve natural or man-made obstacles. We have a blood pit -- a large pool that has red liquid in it. We also have a cargo net 20 feet tall. In Maryland, we had the "terrible tube"; people had to crawl through this large plastic tube, filled with mud and blood.

Westword: It sounds dirty.

Derrick Smith: From the whole set-up week I'm still not clean.

Westword: What are the parties like at the end of the race?

Derrick Smith: We really try to emphasize the party and everything falls back on the theme. You want to have a pretty big party. We get a lot of great local bands to each specific area and we aim for twelve to fifteen bands to give a variety. In Atlanta, we had a funk band and a guy with acoustic guitar. We try to get a mix of everything.

Westword: How did you get the money to start up the first race? I'm wondering about how you explained this idea to potential investors or sponsors.

Derrick Smith: It was certainly bare bones. We had a couple silent investors come in for very basic start-up money and it started with a one-room office and we convinced a couple recent college grads to take on an internship. We hooked up with a great marketing firm and they get a percentage of each ticket. We found the right people and companies that believe in the idea that recognize this potential.

Westword:What's your favorite zombie movie?

I'm more of a 28 Days Later fan when it comes to zombie moves. I enjoy the fast-moving zombies and the scenarios. I also like trying to figure out how to survive when civilization is depleted.

Westword: If you were in a zombie apocalypse, and your death was imminent, would you take a suicide pill or allow yourself to be eaten alive?

Derrick Smith: Go ahead and eat me, that's fine. I'll get a new life as a zombie. Maybe it will be good, maybe it will be terrible. Who knows.

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