Editor's note: Aaron Sagers is a New York-based entertainment writer and nationally syndicated pop-culture columnist. He has specialty knowledge in "paranormal pop culture," has lectured at conventions across the country on the topic and is a media pundit on supernatural entertainment. He covers pop culture daily at ParanormalPopCulture.com and can be found on Twitter @aaronsagers.
When it comes to the zombie apocalypse, popular culture has taught us that everyone falls into one category or another: infected or survivor.
You’re either running away from an undead threat, or you're running, and shambling, after your next human snack. Yet the role that’s so rarely discussed with zombie pop is that of a maker.
That has now changed. Instead of an act of God, nature or mad science, the zombie apocalypse has been orchestrated by one man, Derrick Smith
Smith is the co-creator of Run For Your Lives, a 5K race and “zombie-infested” obstacle course that officially launched last October in Darlington, Maryland, and is launching a nationwide roll-out in cities across the country, beginning with Atlanta on Saturday.
A fan of AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” Smith said he and childhood friend Ryan Hogan planned on creating an event similar to intense races Warrior Dash and Tough Mudder to raise the profile of Hogan’s athletic clothing line, Warwear. But then, they were trying to decide on something to run “from,” and the idea of zombies emerged.
Although he doesn’t classify himself as an “avid zombie fanatic,” Smith said he’s always enjoyed the movies and specifically prefers the zombies of “28 Days Later."
“I definitely appreciate the quick-moving zombies and the vacant city setting where there's strategy involved,” he said.
As a result, the 5K RFYL course (3.1 miles) is not a straight shot from start to finish. Smith and Hogan opted for a race where each course is unique and unpredictable.
“All of our course locations are designed based on the existing terrain with about 10 to 12 man-made and natural obstacles included,” Smith said. Furthermore, “there's multiple routes to the finish line, and there might be a couple dead ends, or you might hit a fork in the trail, and one way is going to be a little bit longer.”
He added that the course maps and obstacles are kept hidden, but the Darlington race included a 20-foot-tall cargo net and a “blood pit” filled with red liquid. The “Event Day Info” sent to participants warned of strobe lights and 3 feet of water. Smith also gleefully acknowledged that the Georgia red clay would leave a lot of opportunities for mud at the Atlanta race.
As for the zombies, Smith said they’re actually volunteers recruited through Facebook and Twitter. On race day, runners traverse this wasteland populated by slow and fast volunteer brain munchers.
The runner “survivors” wear a flag football belt with three flags that signify their health. If zombies pick off all the flags, runners are infected by the end of the race and won’t be eligible for prizes.
Meanwhile, the living get a survivor medal and a chance to win swag.
“We actually have health bonuses hidden throughout the course,” Smith said. “So as you're running through, you could lose all your flags, but - kind of like a real-life video game - there's going to be opportunities for you to snag a little health pack that would ensure you cross the finish line as a human.”
The attention to detail and strategy involved could position RFYL to capture the zombie zeitgeist and expand it into the real world as it spreads to 11 more cities in 2012 - including Boston, Los Angeles, Toronto and Pittsburgh, where director George A. Romero's “Night of the Living Dead” was shot. Smith said the Darlington event attracted approximately 10,000 spectators and participants between the ages 14 and 55.
Smith described the runners as a weird mix of hard-core zombie nerds, first-time runners and running enthusiasts looking for a new challenge.
He added that he’s received feedback from people who say they finally have an excuse to run, and that the strategy of the race allows the less athletically inclined to slow down, move with packs of survivors and avoid the next pack of the "dead" walkers. He said that option appealed to him personally, as well.
“I'm athletic, and I participate in recreational sports. But actually, just, like, running from point A to point B, or running around a track, never really interested me,” Smith said. “So that's why we took this direction; the obstacle course race, and then throwing in the zombies, makes it all a little more exciting to actually be running a race.”
As far as what attracts people to the idea of running the race and playing make-believe about life and death, Smith said RFYL attracts different levels of zombie fans, including those who view it as survival training.
“You have those people who have a plan, they have an arsenal, they have the water, the canned food, that whole bit,” he said. “Then you have the people who are more about just thinking about what an apocalypse actually would be; it's definitely an entertaining thought in my mind to think … what are the steps taken to actually survive.”
But he added that he thinks the analysis of the meanings behind zombies has gotten “a little too deep" when “just in general, I think you're dealing with death and what happens after death.”
The Run For Your Lives obstacle course is apparently one hell of a party. Once the race is over, zombies, survivors, infected zombies-to-be and even spectators join in the apocalypse after-party in the “safe zone.” With involvement from the American Red Cross, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and an appearance by IronE Singleton of “The Walking Dead,” Atlanta's all-day event will offer live music, food and drink, an awards show and games (knock the stacked zombie heads over with a baseball).
Smith said this party is nearly as crucial to the experience of surviving the "apocalypse" as running the race.
“We really try to put as much effort into the after-party as we do the race itself,” he said. “If it's the end of the world, you're going to want to have a good party.”
If you think $100 is a lot of money, perhaps you should spend your time getting a better job rather than running races...
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The Infected Zombie 5k Run is also a fun zombie 5k run. They are running in the Midwest and will be hosting a race in a town near you. Stay uninfected.com
"we" (west Colorado, specifically FRUITA) just had a Z-I-R 4 Y L 5k and from most accounts, it was A HOOT! and not that expensive, either. ($0 to park, 40 for runners, 10 for zombies) with T-shirts (unique and topical). i was surprized there were quite a few zombies (many costumes, make-up, were quite good. they could-a been real zombeez ...) - and the #s of participants is about what you'd expect for a first year event. SO, those of you who were in crowded Xpen$$ive zombie-run events, come to Fruita next year! (well, if you have to pay airfare, this may be expensive ...) 100 zombies and 200+ 'runners'.
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Hmmm I'm a dystopian lover as well, but I have never read a zbomie book before! I did watch Resident Evil back in high school and it scared the bejeezus out me haha– I have heard some really good things about The Forest of Hands and Teeth though, and it is on my TBR pile!Have a great weekend, ~Lea @
Spike A Love Story TOO:
You are all bees.
I just signed up for a race called the Monster Bash Dash. Im so excited, this will be my first race and I heard they are a lot of fun! Iv'e got 4 of my friends signed up with me, we are trying to be the largest team there. :)
Make sure to also check out Hero Rush (Herorush.com) The Firefighter-themed 5k obstacle race!
If you love obstacle races, make sure to also check out Hero Rush (Herorush.com) The firefighter themed 5k obstacle race!
That guy in the photo is totally just waiting for a cute zombie girl to try to grab his flags.
A bee flys by.
It looks like one is coming to Florida in May! What a great way to get off the couch and get motivated! Monster Bash Dash near Orlando. I will be there!
I always thought it would be cool to hand those runners vodka in a plastic cup when they run by.
that's been done and the runners who were victimized ended up in the hospital.
Why would you give them vodka when they are expecting water?
So Smith prefers the zombies from 28 Days Later. Well sorry dude, but there are no zombies in that film. Just people infected with a rage virus.
Also they do not eat brains, just like in 98% of the actual zombie movies. This is a popular misconception spawned by one comedy horror film.
28 Days Later is one of the best end of the world, virus outbreak, movie of all time!
Dropping by to say Hi! *waves*Awesome genre pick! Dystopian is sooo good :)Follower here :) hoping you could fololw back! ^^Here's our Genre pick by TheJay2xA @
If you really want to get down to brass tacks, NONE of these zombie movies are true to the original 'voodoo' zombies. But then mindless undead servants shuffling around aren't very scary.
For that matter, the pop jury is still out as to whether zombies are truly dead and reanimated or severely brain-damaged. Walking Dead vs Resident Evil. There is certainly a place in the zombie pop culture for 28 Days Later zombies!
There is one planned for Auckland, New Zealand – it looks cool but I'm too much of a scaredy-cat to compete !
Hipsters ruin evertying. Tired of seeing horm rimmed bearded idiots at gun ranges shooting zombie target with this zombie rifle and zombie ammo.
I would so do this, I am quiting smoking and this would be a huge motivator to get active, I used to run track back in the day, but I could see me bringing my nephews and nieces to this and having a great time, they are old enough to run. :)
someone bring this to alabama i do it in a heartbeat
The only way I will miss this is if I am fighting real zombies, or Santorum supporters, but whats the difference?
Real zombies feed exclusively on brains.. so you're not likely to see many among a crowd of Santorum supporters.
Tthen you have never seen a true zombie film, or have only watched one comedy zombie film!
get your shoutguns and baseball bats out kids time to get us some zombie
I signed up and paid for the MD race. On race day, they were so overwhelmed by the turnout that we got stuck in traffic for about 3 hours (along with hundreds of other participants). We kept trying to get in, and made it to the start line as they announced that there would be no more waves. Still waiting for my promised refund...
Did you ever get your promised refund? After hurricane Sandy they canceled the Sunday 10/28 event and refused to offer refunds to anyone, only "transfers" beware of this company.
to Binky42, ZOMBIES ARENT REAL!
They can make them do whatever they want you idiot. who cares what directors make them do in their movies, ITS A MOVIE, ITS FAKE GET OVER IT. this race sounds fun.
IT'S VAMPIRES THAT ARE CHASING AFTER ME. WHAT DO THEY WANT?
The only downside that they don't tell you is its like $50-$65 for a race, they charge you $10 to park ( which is absurd b/c Darlington is in the middle of nowhere)...and that doesn't include food. It includes one beer. If they aren't even paying the zombies, then they are making a LARGE profit on this. **be wary it says a portion of the proceeds goes to American heart association**. I'll do it next year if they make it more reasonable.
Seriously? With all of the time, planning, effort, and you're complaining about the cost? Here's a thought: don't go. Leave registration spots open to those that think this is freakin' amazing.
I didn't go. Previously I have been co-chair of races for charities and it isn't worth that cost unless a large portion is going to charity. As you can see from the comments of people that did go....it clearly wasn't well planned and enough time wasn't put into it. You must either be part of the 1% or terrible with money.
I agree: way too expensive! The "Boston" (actually an hour away from the city, barely in Massachusetts at all) event is $77-$87 plus the $10 for parking. That's nuts, especially since I don't see that any of the money goes to charity. Sounds like fun, but I just can't justify the expense.
They are sure not paying the zombies. I signed up as a zombie, and was charged $30 after fees for the pleasure of eating brains. It is still cheaper than running the race, but these races are designed for one thing: profit.
Agreed. Total money grab for the unorganized organizers seeking to profit on the fad of zombies... Most who were able to make it and run had fun and seemed to be true fans of the zombie genre. I'd beware of another race by this group. And ont say it's in Baltimore, Atlanta, or wherever when it is over an hour away from those cities.
I ran the one last fall and agree with the comments above that they really need to work out how the first event was handled. Nothing was organized accept the people giving out tickets. The road to get to the course was a 1 lane road onto a mud packed "parking lot" with cars stuck everywhere. But you only knew that after sitting in traffic for 2 hours waiting. I actually got out of my car and walked 1.5 miles to get the bus while my wife sat in the car and waited to park. They took no responsibility for the total lack of details. In addition they charged "spectators" (like my wife who sat in the car for over an hour) $35 just to walk inside the food area and then only when you got in did you find out that you can't see the race course accept a short 400 ft area behind a fence, so really you weren't a spectator to anything but people crossing a finish line. Total cost: running/spectator ticket/parking= $110+
It's a money grab. They don't pay the zombies, they charge them and then they ask people who have already run to go out and be zombies because some of the zombie who were originally there got fed up and left. When I left the race the line of traffic waiting to get in was 4 miles long (I clocked it on the odometer) at 3:30pm and the last race was 4pm.
When I did run I had a great time. It's definitely a workout and the short time your running is enjoyable. But if you're going sign up for the first or second race and get there really early or be prepared to be frustrated for almost the entire day.
, Take the kids and get out of the house. We'll call the police, we don't have a clown stutae. The clown stutae is really a killer that escaped from jail. If you don't post this letter on to 10 videos tonight, the clown will be in your bed at 3:00 am with a chainsaw
I bought the Zombie Diaries for like 2 bucks at Walmart. I am a huegee zombie movie fan so I thought this was a great buy. I was so excited to see it.In short: Worst 2 bucks I have ever spent. This movie shames all zombie films!I have much to say/rant about this movie but it will just get me riled up. It sucked
It's a total money grab. The cost was outrageous, they were even charging people just to watch. The cost would have been somewhat more palatable had the charity been provided a larger part of the profit... which they are not.
I was planning on attending last year but my plans fell through. I'm trying to go since they are holding it closer to my home than last year. Would have had to drive about 5 or so hours last year but now they are holding it close to Pittsburgh (the real zombie capital of the world).
Come to Chicago!!!!!
I went to the event last year, it was a lot of fun. I would suggest it to anyone who is curious about it
Would they be mad if I brought my machete and started taking zombie heads off?
Not to rain on the parade of the guy, but those weren't zombies in 28 days later.
Thank you for the clarification Comic Book Guy!
Worst. Post. Ever.
77 dollars? Yikes.
I had the same reaction, but when you toss in the after party with a dozen bands and othe entertainment and the pure people watching it doesn't seem as bad. I tihnk they even give you a free beer lol.
Unless it is like Warrior Dash that ended before the last heat came in. We didn't even get our beer after running in 100 degree weather. (sigh)
I did the Warrior Dash last year in Mt. Morris, MI. I loved it, including whatever sceptic tank type crap we had to go through. The beer? Either crappy Bud or crappy Bud LIght from a keg. Yum. It wasn't even cold.
I hope this comes to Florida, this is the best idea yet! I've done Warrior Dash and it was awesome, but this sounds even better!
I don't even like zombie movies, but this sounds like an absolute blast. Well, one that might give me nightmares, but I'm sure it'd be awesome before that! What an innovative way to push your limits!
I'm going Saturday. Check out the facebook page. http://www.facebook.com/#!/TheZombieHorde . Pretty cool pics.
I was a part of the 1st event in Maryland and we had a blast. If you want to have a fun day – dont miss out on this event. !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I find this racist.
It would suck if this run coincided with a real zombie apocalypse.
Oh for crying out loud ZOMBIES DON'T RUN!! Every movie with running zombies should be burned.
And I'm wondering if this was organized by the same people who ran quidditch summer camps for Harry Potter fans. Lame-O
how do you know ?
Watch "Night of the Living Dead" again. The first zombie, from the cemetery, was running to get to Barbara in the car and he was stagger-running after her as she drove away.
The "zombies" also talk in that movie. There is no "true" zombie (a term which comes from Voodoo anyway), simply many different imaginations. However, George Romero is the inspiration for the iconic zombie, which were slow moving yet determined.
Stay home, Binky. We don't want to play with you.
All I know is The Downrights are playing after the run in Boston and I'm stoooked.
As a drunk 34 year old living in his parent's basement I find this exciting.
just imagine those sweat soaked undies!
mmmm sweaty mmmmmm
I have a group going to the one on June 2 in Minnesota, we all are getting off the couch and in better shape for this. Nice motivation!! Looks like a really fun and well done event – THANKS!
What do we want?!
When do we want em?
This is so politically incorrect. Zombies were people too!
No more, Greg.
I did the one in Darlington MD and it was an absolute blast. Although there were massive issues with the parking causing some people to not be able to run, it was a highlight to my 2011. Very well done event and a great idea!
Rule #7: Travel light
Rule #1: Cardio
I'd train for that 5K!!
I'd train to run that 5k!!
Salt Lake City has had a zombie 5K for a couple of years. It is a lot of fun and you can run as either humans with a two minute head start or as zombies. Lots of fun for the whole family and a great community
Now this would motivate me into running more.....love it!
Another great issue. Thanks for an opportunity to re-read in order to win a wrdueofnl giveaway!1. 1,632 submissions2. staples, paper clips & lined paper3. Granny Smith, Hazard, Chocolate Cream, French Vanilla4. Wrap rubber bands around hat until adhesive dries.5. 7 (6 + 1 online bonus)6. 0418097. Entries must be postmarked by April 11, 2011.8. Amy Nemeth (Lebanon, OH) & Kristen K. Tierney (Hilliard, OH)9. 8 1/8 (8 1/8 inches)10. Confucius (a smart man!)Looking forward to the May/June issue and the next special issue!
Did a similar run in Alexandria, VA and it was a blast.
I think the american public should demand that all our politicians sign up for the zombie part of this run.I believe they would feel like this was a normal day at their job walking around aimlessly looking around with no apparent direction on where our country is going.At least they would look like they are actually doing something (even though they are not as usual)!! HHHHHAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Would we be allowed to shoot them in the head?
Using the politians would not work because most of the politians would not be attractive to the zombies. No (or very little)....bra....in..s
Don't let politicians run with zombies... they will just try to cater to the zombies for their votes. In some states, they let dead people vote...
I so want to do this. We need one in Western Montana!!
Census data shows that western Montana is already infested with walkers. Nobody really lives there.
I agree with RZ. bring this event to Montana!
I agree! I live in Western MT. I think you should organize one!
I agree!! This really does need to come to Montana! I would be there in a heart beat!!
This is actually what got me into running. I heard about it in November, started the "C25K" program in December, and signed up for the Baltimore event in October.
Nah, I'm holding out for the 5 day 7 monsterthons on 7 continents challenge. Being chased down by Wolfman is my idea of a good time.
I dedicated myself to this "sport" and that is really what it is..Distance running is a sport. In the early 80's, race organizers tried to come up with ideas of how to get more people involved in their events to raise more money and make their race more pipular.
First, they came up with a 5K, when nearly all the races on the road at the time were 10K and above, then they started all of this charity stuff which brought in alot more people most of whom not interested in our sport.
I am sympathetic with charities, my wife has brain cancer and dementia, but her illness and the sport of distance running are two seperate things in my life.
When all of these new ideas to attract more numbers in our sport came about the result could never had been imagined...
Distance running is a sport. Just like baseball or football rich in it's own history and traditions, but you would never know it by the events that you see advertused today....I guess there is nothing wrong with that, but it's interesting to me.
Ask any 7 year old kid at a little league game who Albert Puhols is..i'LL bet they will know.
Ask any runner at any Saturday road race who Chris Solinsky is or Alberto Salazar is and you will more than likely get blank looks...
You wouldn't know it, but our sport is a GREAT sort with great athletes who deserve recognition...
It's more than running amongst zombies with a garmin on and aiding in funding charities...
Maybe they'll have a race for fun sponges and you can win that one.
so you traded your sense of humor for some running shoes I see?
Lighten up, dude. You'll always have the Boston Marathon. This one for us runners who don't take ourselves quite so seriously.
I run for charity (over $14,000 raised so far). I run for fun. I run for the sport. I know who the stars of the sport of running are. Oh, and I also ran the first zombie race in Darlington. I have no idea about baseball players other than Babe Ruth. All runners are athletes and in a country of obesity, and event that gets people moving is awesome.
Dude, it gets exactly the amount of recognition it deserves. It is reflective of the amount of people who participate in running and watching the marathons. Everyone else finds it boring. I ran and my nephew ran and we didn't want to go into cross country or distance running because it was just boring. This is fun. It is entertainment and healthy at the same time.
The authority has spoken! No fun for the rest of you.
I saw this one on clearance today at B&N I went to the atm to get money so I could come back and buy this wkceid awesome plush and the mug, but when I came back they had sold it! Can you look on the bottom of your mug and tell me who makes it? I've been scouring the internet looking for one!
It's usually zombies who do these races and triathlons, this looks like much more enjoyable. Now I want to be chased by someone yelling "brains".
This is great! I really would want to be a zombie. I feel like i could make a very good zombie. AMC's The Walking Dead is a great show! One of my goal in life is to be a zombie on the show.
Noah, You ARE a zombie but you just don't know it yet. LMAO!
bring this thing to nor cal! it would be an absolute blast. i would totally do it
Just talked to the Admin at RFYL. They're going to try and get a run in this year in CA and WA. Check the site to stay updated. Not sure yet if No or SoCal.
Why? So you can say it was "hella" fun? Hella this, hella that? Silly "NorCal" people.
Finally a reason to participate in a 5k!
i did the first racethrid wave and it was a BLAST!!! i made it through with one flag left BUT you got the same medal either way and no extras
This is an awesome idea. I would totally do this!!!
This is brilliant
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