Run For Your Lives 2012

The end of the world. The Mayans. 2012. Hurricanes, earthquakes, and people biting people. The threat of a worldwide demise, which is out of humanity’s control, has been a frequently discussed topic as of late. That’s why a few of my old college buddies and I decided to take proactive steps towards combating these potential evils by training for the evil of all evils; the Zombie Apocalypse.

It seemed to be a perfect selection of candidates, taking our relationship already founded on furthering education, to an even higher degree of learning: Zombie Survival 101; But how to prepare for such a calamity? After hours of searching through the depths of the internet, a decision was made. Our training method of choice, the “Run For Your Lives” 5k (Darlington, MD location), was selected because this event would surely test our speed, zombie dodging/agility, and resourcefulness in the face of obstacles. (It had absolutely nothing to do with the beer tent at the finish line, I swear!)

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Preparation for the event can be summarized by considering two main categories: short term and long term. The long term motto seemed to be “To each his own,” including anything from jogging, to cross fit, to yoga, to TV channel changing, and even to Zumba (Don’t knock it, the zombies didn’t know what to do with my “Cruz Salsa.”).

The short term preparation is where we really shined. Having dabbled in the art of “it can wait until the night before,” we dove into Youtube videos, blog posts, and the like, viewing footage of previous races, learning tricks about the usefulness of Sharpies (to make a temporary tattoo of your bib number, should your bib become a casualty of the race), bathing suits, towels (for the aftermath), and zip lock bags. Zip lock bags provide waterproof protection for your race essentials, which if you are me, consist of:

  1. driver’s license/ID
  2. car keys
  3. allergy medicine
  4. free (alcoholic) beverage ticket (You don’t want to lose that!)

They did have a “bag check,” also a race staple, but in my experience, despite any valiant efforts in organization, bag retrieval usually turns into complete havoc. So ask yourself, after race completion (and subsequent exhaustion), do I want to wait in a long line to retrieve my drink ticket (and unfortunately ID for my fellow youthful-looking folks) from my checked bag, or do I want to reach into my zipper pocket and start enjoying the sweet taste of victory? In terms of logistics, I carried one zip lock in the rear zipper pocket of my The North Face pants, and an additional one in my TNF Stow-N-Go Sports Bra. It may sound a little unconventional, but I like to think you get extra points for resourceful use of assets in a Zombie Apocalypse. It seems only fair.

Run For Your Lives participant has face-off with zombie near hay maze obstacle. Source:
Hydration is obviously a top priority, but like many other races, the Run For Your Lives had several hydration stations throughout the course. Participants were also free to bring hydration packs (I did see quite a few Camelbak advocates). Of course nutrition is just as important. You want to have a decent-sized, well-balanced meal, but avoid anything that you are going to regret during the race. If you’re unsure about whether bacon, Taylor ham, and cheese sandwich, with a side of leftover pizza, is a solid choice, ask yourself, “would I want to jump up and down and run repeatedly for a few hours after eating this?”. Your body may not give you the answer you want, but it will give you an answer. In all seriousness, while researching is a great usage of time, it’s extremely important to get a good night’s sleep before a race.

The premise of the race was simple. Runners were given a bib number, time recording chip, and flag belt containing three flags (a la flag football) at the start of the race. The object is to come out alive (with flags) as quickly as possible. The course varied in terrain, and runners conquered hills, fields, ditches filled with mud, climbed over walls, under barbed wire, and even swam through 4 feet of (freezing cold) water. In between obstacles were swarms of zombies desperately trying to snatch any and all flags in their path. Some were fast, some were slow, some were well concealed, and others burst straight at you. As you can imagine, racing strategies varied. Some ambitious people went with an “every man for himself” approach, and focused on completing the 5k in the shortest amount of time. Personally, I adopted two survival philosophies: “Stick Together” and “Try to look as sad as possible and hope that there is some humanity left in the Undead.” Surprisingly enough, both had their advantages (Let’s hear it for the “puppy dog face!”). As the race progressed, groups of runners began strategically placing the already dead runners (sans flags) at the front of the group to serve as decoys. It sounds a bit harsh, but it’s the zombie apocalypse. Plus, there comes a heavenly feeling of liberation after losing your final flag, knowing that those horrific brain-eating zombies have nothing left to take from you.

So how did we fair? Race times haven’t been released yet, but in terms of flags, 3 out of 7 came out “alive.” Was I one of them? Did I hold on to my flag for dear life? You bet! Was it a team effort, full of decoys and distractions? Absolutely! Are we any more ready for the zombie apocalypse than we were before? Probably not. But we sure did have a good time. And the victory beer tasted just as sweet as we thought it would. To get better insight into the event, check out my race highlights video. For more information about the Run For Your Lives, and to find a location near you, visit

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