So this is crazy. I am soaking wet, having just voluntarily jumped into a pool of freezing cold water on a windy, chilly September day. I am covered in mud, having just crawled on my stomach under an electrified fence in the middle of a field. I’m officially dead. And I’m totally smiling. This is how I ended my experience at Run For Your Lives, a 5km zombie themed obstacle course race. This is crazy not because of the zombies or the mud or the threat of electric shock. It’s crazy because 11 weeks ago I could not run half a block to catch the bus. I’ve never been able to run very far, or fast. In fact, I have vivid memories of an elementary school gym class where I puked on the shoes of a poor volunteer trying to get me to run around the track one more time. But when I heard about this event I figured if there was any an occasion to put on ugly shoes and embarrass myself in public, it would be a race where a mob of zombies is trying to chase you down and eat your brains.
So my friends and I made a team. We even got team shirts, that said “Not a Zombie.” And then I set about training to do this. From couch to 5k, they say. I couldn’t have done it without my weekend running partner, who like me was starting from scratch. And my friend Rory Lindo, who is an actual fitness instructor and taught me many things and made sure I didn’t die. (She teaches a fantastic cardio class called Rock ‘n’ Roar at Sugarfoot Fitness in downtown Toronto, by the way. If you hate gym music and would rather work out to RATM and BRMC, this class is for you!) I even got a zombie running app for my phone for extra inspiration. And black running shoes. By September 22, I was ready.
Everyone doing the Run For Your Lives wants to know things in advance. We all looked at the YouTube clips from past races to get a sense of how hard it would be. But each race is different. So all we really knew is that there would be 12 obstacles and many zombies trying to snatch the three flags on your belt, which makes you “dead”. Having done it I would now add this: it’s not 5k of straight running. Unless you are super keen and get a head start, there are backlogs at the obstacles and other reasons you will be stopping or walking part of the time. There are many, many zombies, and they are not shy about grabbing your flags. I lost all three of mine in the first 10 minutes. Our obstacles included a dark room filled with fog and electrified wires, mud pits, barbed wire, and that dreaded climb/water slide/pool. Memorable moments included crawling under that barbed wire behind a young man dressed like Robin. His green tights were pretty see-through. Alot of the zombies were in costume too — wedding dresses, Sailor Moon, etc. It’s like the zombie apocalypse happened during Halloween, or Comic-Con.
In the end, all members of our team “died” at the hands of the zombies. But all of us finished, muddy and happy. And if Run For Your Lives comes back to Canada in 2013, we’ll be there, with new strategies to survive alive. And even if I never run this race again, I feel better prepared for any undead takeover. Bring it on.