This race is designed to be obstructed with challenging yet fun obstacles, all while having flag-snatching zombies chasing and reaching for you, Flag Football style. Every 5k course is a little different, depending on the location. Most of it looked like a piece of cake, but there was more than meats the eye (...see what I did there?). I consider myself somewhat of a seasoned runner (mmm...seasoned runner...) and actually thought I'd be laughing my way to the finish line with all my flags intact...hahahahah...keep reading.
Race day: Glen Helen Raceway, San Bernardino, CA - 8:30am
Myself along with two other coworkers signed up for this back in February and chose the 8:30am wave, the second wave of the day. It was perfect as we didn't want to run in the heat, we wanted the zombies to be "fresh" (so to speak) and not tired and out of it like they probably were in the middle of the day, and we also wanted to get in and out before everyone else. Low and behold, as soon as we get there, it's already packed with people signing in as runners, zombies, volunteers, etc. After we sign in and got our runner's bibs and flags, we make our way back to the car to leave our phones and stuff in the trunk and take last minute pre-race "selfies" and post them on Instagram. You know you'd do the same in a whole "in case we don't return after this, this is what we looked like!" fashion. We start making our way to the race line right around 8:30am. The three of us start pumping each other up by telling one another how completely bad ass each of us are and do a weird group hug sort of thing, and then the next thing we know, we're off!
BAM! An immediate OUTBREAK of Zombies everywhere in all directions. Not even the first minute into it, I'm down one flag out of five. These bastards were FAST. As I'm running, I'm also realizing that this is technically the desert, not some flat, paved pathway. The desert is all dirt if you haven't noticed, and hundreds of people scurrying about equals dust clouds and that's exactly what you're breathing in. GREAT. By this point, not only are my lungs both sandbags already, but this also dried the hell out of my mouth and I found myself several times, bent over on the sidelines trying to generate some saliva to spit it all out so I can keep going. Definitely didn't see that one coming, but I guess these are things that you'd run into in a real zombie invasion - also something The Walking Dead doesn't tell you! Remember to log that away, as geography is evidently crucial, not to mention the recovery period you'd need after running for your lives. If any of you reading this are writers for any zombie show, please stop mowing the grass and address the fact that the ones currently surviving are SORE!
Meanwhile back at the ranch...after the first "infected zone", we literally run into a barrier of about 4ft walls to climb over. I scratch my head for about two seconds until one of my coworkers comes behind me and gives me a boost. He was in the Navy so he has that to his advantage. I hop over and take off running again, dodging the undead, left and right, and left again, constantly slipping and twisting my ankles in the grooves and trenches of the dirt path. I'm definitely not as stealth as I had hoped I'd be for this. As this race goes on, we're finding ourselves crawling through tunnels that start out large enough to walk in without crawling, but then end up squeezing ourselves out of on our tummies at the end, only to find MORE zombies waiting for you on the other end. More running. Slow down after that sprinting up that dusty incline to catch your breath? Sure, if you don't mind losing anymore of your flags. I look down at my "belt" and see I still have about four more dangling from my sides. Sweet! That's enough confidence to keep me going even though my mouth keeps drying out from all the dirt I've been inhaling. We battled crawling through the mud several times, in freezing cold water so cold that I couldn't talk without stuttering. You were forced to crawl through it on your hands and knees unless you didn't mind being sliced up by the barbed wire cage right over your head. I look over at my coworkers, semi-laughing, semi-seriously saying "What the hell are we doing?!". It gets better.
The race track loops around where the finish line is and for a brief moment, we thought we were almost done, but oh no, not even close. We still had to brave the smoke house, which I'll have you know, was littered with wires hanging down to the ground that were actually electric. I'm as serious as the day is bright. I could hear people being zapped and heard them clutching their shoulders and legs in pain. This was the moment I was absolutely dreading. I heard about this upon review and in complete disbelief, totally suspected that the electricity part was fake and just meant to scare you, but I was absolutely horrified to discover that it was true...very, very true. I took one look at that and decided "Oh hell no!" and got on the ground and rolled my way through it. Worst part was over, or so I thought.
By this time, I had lost a few more flags and had about two left. As I made my way near the finish line, there was another hoard to battle before the last obstacle, which was the blood bath. I lost my flags somewhere in there, the last one being unfairly, I felt. I chose to be among the ones who didn't cheat, because honestly, what's the point? I was kneeled over, choking on dirt and had absolutely no spit. I was off to the side in a personal time out, which you were allowed to do. One of the zombies walked over and mugged me of my last flag. I'm thinking to myself, "Really? You're going to be that kind of team player?" I wasn't going to put up a fight like other sore losers did, so after I collected myself, I decided to keep on truckin' and finish this damn thing for myself. I waited for coworkers to catch up to the blood bath obstacle, where you had to climb monster-truck-sized tires and jump into a dumpster filled with red water. Yes, a dumpster filled with freezing cold red water, and you had to swim across it and climb out. After that, you had one more final run for it, uphill, and then crawl under another fence with a 3ft clearance, only this time I didn't see the "electric" sign and zapped a good one in the shoulder. Yep, definitely real. I crawled out, covered in mud and "infected", but totally finished and feeling like a bad ass!
After the three of us finished, we met up and found each other and made our way to the water station to clean our filthy mouths out and collect our free shit which included an ice cold Newcastle. We were donned with medals, either "INFECTED" or "SURVIVOR" and cheers'd each other a race well done. After we chugged our beers, and then changed clothes in the parking lot (wetsuit-on-the-beach style), we then walked back to the Apocalypse Party "safe zone" area to donate our muddy shoes to Project Sole. This event wasn't entirely a charity event, but offered opportunities to donate, including to the Kennedy Krieger Institute which gave you an extra "life" flag.
This whole event was worth every penny and I've decided to do it again in March. Only this time, I'm going to try and double as a runner AND an in-the-field photographer of some kind, getting the down and dirty shots! That being said, this is actually something I don't mind setting my camera down for and actually experiencing from a runner's point of view, but I'd also love to capture the moments not all the photographers are willing to do; get their equipment wet and muddy! Time to shop for water-proof casing.
If I could add or take away anything, I would definitely suggest RFYL to add speakers along the course playing loud and fast rock and metal music to somewhat pump you up with adrenaline as you're hauling ass. It was weird how quiet it was out there. Not eerie and spooky, but kinda weird.
If any of you in the D are into the dismal world of zombies, give this a second look. Feed the hungry! -Zombies or the living.
*Photos from the event NOT taken by me. Credit: https://www.facebook.com/run.for.your.lives