On Saturday morning, I ventured to Lakewood to experience the Run for Your Lives 5K apocalypse obstacle course. One part Tough Mudder, one part The Walking Dead, Run for Your Lives had 5,000 people crawling under barbed wire, racing through smoked-filled rooms and sliding into pits of muddy water. In between these hurdles were 750 volunteer zombies trying to eat the contestants' brains. Of course, no brains were actually harmed during Run for Your Lives; in this race, your "brains" were the three ribbons on the flag-football-like belt each participant was given.
Those participants included fathers and daughters, old college friends, and anyone looking for an organized way to have fun outside on a Saturday. But some people were genuinely interested in proving themselves in staged zombie warfare. One guy in the parking lot said to his buddy, "We're best friends right now, but when this whole thing goes down: Fuck you."
I didn't see this man again during the course, but his was exactly the wrong attitude to have in a simulated zombie apocalypse. I'm not sure what it would be like among the real undead, but the volunteer undead were easily overwhelmed by large groups. The best way to get through a pack of zombies safely was in a team of runners. Basic flag football skills also helped: the half-step fooled most of the zombies.
Though not all of them. I lost two of my flags early on, but made it through most of the course with one left. In the final stretch, the zombies became more motivated, and had an almost vampire-like ambition to kill. When I had only a half-kilometer to go, a zombie ripped off my last flag and I was undead.
The good news was that after the race, I was alive again. And in my reborn state, I wondered why people would pay $87 to be chased by people pretending to be zombies.
Run for Your Lives, and the zombie phenomenon at large, appeals to our apocalypse fantasy. If zombies really do take over the world, then our generation was a finite point in the infinite expanse of time.
But in the meantime, during this race we could pretend that our existence was in danger. The people who made it out alive could feel confident in their ability to withstand a zombie invasion. And even the ones who became undead could feel stronger for making it through the obstacle course. And when it was over, alive or undead, we all could towel off, drive home safely and remind ourselves that zombies only exist in summer movies.
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