Let me start by stating, for the record, that I do not run. I don’t do marathons. I don’t do 5k’s. I don’t even jog. If you see me running, it’s probably a good idea that you do the same because something very bad is on its way. Think tsunami, derailed train, angry mob of ex girlfriends, etc. Given that I don’t run, it’s pretty safe to assume that I don’t regularly attend events that are based around running. It’s just not my thing.
Saturday, October 26 was different. A friend of mine invited me to go to a race where runners would be chased by zombies and not only had to finish, but had to survive without getting infected.
Ok, I’m listening.
The event was called rUNdead (check out the rUNdead website... there is an awesome "Trailer" video that my friend put together), and this was the 2nd time it had been done in Charleston. Mind you, I’m a big fan of zombies. Not in the sense that I want a pet zombie or fancy eating brains, but in that I LOVE zombie movies. Shaun of the Dead, Zombieland, World War Z, 28 Days Later… I love them all.
It didn’t take any arm twisting to get me to come check out this rUNdead thing. My expectations were pretty low, but I figured it would be fun anyway. Basic “ghost” or “slashed throat” style costumes, people running on city streets, a mask or two worn by hardcore fans. Not a big deal.
I was wrong. So very wrong.
When I showed up to the park, the first thing I noticed was the roped off sections of the course. This was no pavement run. This was a full blown cross country affair. The second thing I noticed, hardly surprising, was the presence of recently deceased people. A few of them. Scratch that, a LOT of them. And these weren’t hokey DIY zombie costumes. These zombies looked real. If I were to wake up with one of them standing in my room, I would have actually shat my pants. The Paul Mitchell School of Cosmetology had a big tent set up where they were “zombifying” people for the race. As you can see from the pictures, the work was terrifying, in a good way. And while I first had expected this to be a more adult oriented event, it was clear that kids and families were more than welcome. Actually, some of the child zombies were by far the creepiest things I’ve ever seen.
While others were getting ready, there was plenty of entertainment to keep you occupied. The start/finish area was littered with vendor displays and tents of all kinds, live music, and of course, beer (this IS Charleston…).
I expected 20-40 zombies. I missed the mark by a little. There were over 200 of them and around 500 runners who would attempt to survive the apocalypse. As the host blared out instructions to the runners and zombies, my excitement was growing, and I was just a spectator. While the zombie virus wasn’t actually infectious, the enthusiasm and energy of the crowd undoubtedly was. I’ve never seen so many people so excited to run through some woods!
The runners were outfitted with belts and flags. The zombies had one task: “infect” the runners by taking their flags. To make things interesting, there were different kinds of zombies. Some would stand in packs, move slowly, and rely on numbers to overwhelm the crowd of runners. Some would hide and jump out as runners passed. Others would start at a distance and sprint after the runners for a certain distance. If you wanted to survive, you definitely had your work cut out for you.
And then, terror.
Perhaps it was nature trying to teach everyone not to be so cavalier about fear and death. Or maybe it was just a hidden hive of yellow jackets (wasps) right in the middle of the course. Either way, about half way through the run, people had more to fear than just losing a flag. A horde of “zomBEES” awoke and decided to crash the party. It was chaotic (and clearly painful) for a while until the course was re-routed to avoid the nest of bees. Getting stung is never fun, but if you came out with the intention of running for survival, you definitely got your money’s worth!
I found out later that two of my good friends got caught up in the mayhem and suffered a few stings.
“When signing up for the rUNdead 5k, we had anticipations of being chased by creepy zombies and ghoulish creatures. Two miles into the run we faced the real terrors – the hornet. After a runner stepped on a hornet nest, we were swarmed by this violent assassin. This created a real like zombie apocalypse scene with runners screaming in pain and terror,” said Paul Maschek. He dropped his keys in the zomBEE zone and had to return to search for them. Some people have no luck at all.
Melissa Miley likes zombies and running in equal measure, so she opted to run the 5k while dressed as a zombie. This decision would come back to bite her (or sting).
“Next time I decide to run through a yellow jacket nest, I will remember not to coat myself from head to toe with syrup based fake blood!” said Melissa.
Melissa Milley and Paul Maschek - Status: Infected
Aside from the brief brush with natural terror, it was clear that people thoroughly enjoyed this run. It was impossible to find a person who didn’t have a huge smile plastered on their face. The race was followed by an awards ceremony that recognized race winners, survivors, zombie kills, and naturally, a costume contest. After that, the new zombie flick “World War Z” was shown on a giant outdoor screen provided by Cinabarre.
Perfect way to cap off a 5k that playfully and literally scared the living crap out of everyone. Next year, count my lazy butt in!