Zombies Just Want to Have Fun….Part II

Hold on, read no further. This is not the beginning. To truly appreciate this tale, you need to begin at the beginning (hence Part II). So please, if you would, click here. If you’ve read Part I, then by all means, carry on…

Sucking wind and banged up a bit, we jogged through the woods. Others had raced on ahead, some half jogged, half shambled in time with us. The first zombie exposure had been a shock. People wore the kind of expression normally reserved for moments like when you open the front door only to be sprayed in the face by a soured ricotta cheese spewing skunk. You know, part surprise, part disgust.

The trail wasn’t wide and it was chock full of tangle roots, mud, and toe-stubbers. The sun slanting through the heavy forest canopy was beautiful. Lichen covered fallen trees and fern growth provided the perfect backdrop to a Rob Zombie/Norman Rockwell painting. There they were, blood and gore crusted zombies in the path. These were the under achievers, the zombies without any desire to get ahead in life. They served as shuffling scenery, making feeble attempts to reach out for flags as you danced past them.

The trail brought us to an inverted “V” cargo net where zombies waited underneath and on the other side. We crossed this with ease and hit the short tunnels (about 2 foot high and 10 feet long solid pipes/tunnels). After scampering through, we’d have to cross a clearing before entering the woods again. The zombie waiting must have been a NFL cornerback in life. I waited until I thought he was distracted and dashed for the woods. He was quick, I slipped in the mud, and my first flag was gone.

The next series of obstacles would find our party decimated. I was to be the only one of the three of us with any chance of survival. We hit an uphill series of bleachers, having to jump from plank to plank. Upon landing, we had to make it through the field of sprinting, savage zombies. I wish I’d had a camera on my head because it was madness. Pure and simple madness. There were bodies everywhere; zombies, runners, victims and monsters. Somehow we made it through and hitched for breath. However, that had only been half of the obstacle.

Death waited in the form of a hay bale maze. The walls were three or four bails high, the ground a churning mess of muddy water and inside…swarming with zombies. While people contemplated vomiting, fighting cramps and wondering what the hell they’d gotten themselves into, someone began to organize the survivors.

“We have to go as a group,” said the take charge survivor, somehow with enough breath to form words over his vocal chords. “Let’s put the dead people out front, as bait.”

That quote is verbatim. I mean, there’s a no-nonsense, tell it like it is, action Jackson. We knew he was right though and we staggered up to join the throng. To try to do it alone would be flag suicide. At his command, we surged forward, punching forward like a desperate picket charge. Ray went down hard, like push-ups in the mud hard. Face first, six-foot mud spray hard. He made it through with one flag left, looking like a walking Tootsie Roll. I hadn’t been hit, still two flags. The next part happened so quickly that we didn’t realize Jimbo was not with us. There was a third part to this series of chaos and the group was ready to roll through en masse.

It was a downhill run through a field of the undead. There was no time to think, the mob went and we went with it. I shot forward, bee-lining for two zombies, hoping a direct charge at full speed would throw off their decayed brains. I zipped left out of the reach of a zombie who came in from nowhere and then hit the two with a leaping scissor kick, clearing their outstretched claws like a flying squirrel-deer. Just imagine that for a moment. The rest was downhill, literally. I made it through again, with my two flags. Ray was not so lucky. His “crotch-clutch” tactic backfired. He’d placed his last flag squarely above his…um, manhood, hoping that one of the zombies might think twice before snatching at his junk. To begin with, zombies don’t think. Secondly, the wedding dress zombie was not shy in the least. She came in grabbing and though Ray died on the hill, at least he died happy.

We collected ourselves at the bottom of the hill and realized Jimbo was not with us. We waited a bit and still no sign of him. We assumed that maybe he had gone a different route and decided that we’d have to get moving. It was too dangerous to linger any longer. What we did not know was that Jim had never made it into the hay maze with us. He’d been left behind and that mistake would prove tragic. Jim never made it through the maze alive and we would not see him again until after the race was over and he arrived, infected.

We moved on. Ray was now the walking dead, it was only a matter of time before the virus spread and I’d have to put him down. But, for now, he offered to act as a shield, hoping that maybe I’d survive and live to tell this tale….

To be continued in Part III…….Come back to read the conclusion to this tale of life, death, mud and madness…and maybe the odd squirrel-deer or crotch clutch.

Please visit http://runforyourlives.com/ for pure awesomeness or visit their Run For Your Lives Facebook page. Great time, great people. Check it out. And don’t forget to look for Part III, coming soon…

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Zombies Just Want To Have Fun..Part I

You should know that I am infected. There, disclosure. Now we can trust each other.

I mean, it may be any day. These could be my last words as a human and tomorrow I may be on your lawn, clawing at your door, wanting nothing more than to gnaw at your grey matter. That’s right, I was “bitten” by a “zombie.”

Hold the phone, don’t call the CDC. Put the shotgun down. These zombies were human volunteers in make up and costume and my brains were red flags. It was all part of the FIRST EVER “Run For Your Lives” 5K, zombie-infested, obstacle course race. Thousands of victims, I mean runners, descended on Darlington, Maryland to participate in an event that has already grown to 9 annual events from Baltimore to Texas, from Boston to Seattle. Nine crazy weekends in nine cities. Unofficial reports have the number of attendees at 10,000. Probably not far off.

This race/obstacle course/zombie nightmare…let’s just call it “The Event”, was sponsored by WARWEAR and Subaru and counted the American Red Cross as a charitable partner. The company mission: “To prepare you for a zombie apocalypse, and let you party like it’s the end of the world.”

Mission successful.

While nervous runners passed military garbed race officials on their way into the dark starter’s tunnel, while mud-covered, wet and ragged remnants of human civilization crossed the chain link fence finish line, and while campers set up their tents and campsites, music, food and beer did the rest. Fifteen bands jammed all afternoon and into the evening. Food vendors offered Pit beef, pulled pork, warm sandwiches and other delicacies at reasonable prices. Deli slicers worked incessantly, providing fresh meat from the on site smokers/grills. The taps rarely stopped as beer became the medicine for aches and cramps, chills and laughs. This was like nothing I’d ever done before, not even when I was in the Army.

Now, this was organized as a legitimate race event. Runners wore a “bib” pinned to their chest, with a number. We had electronic chip timers in our shoes and times were posted after the race (not that many people were interested in their pace or overall time). The flags were important. This was your life. You started with three and if you finished with even one intact, you were a survivor. All others were doomed. Figuratively. Everyone walked away with a medal. Everyone walked away with bragging rights, having successfully navigated a course that sent runners and zombies alike to the hospital with everything from dislocated fingers to broken legs. Hence the pre race waiver.

I took the starting tunnel with my brother, Jimmy and our friend Ray. We were in the 1:30 p.m. wave, lined up and stretching. We talked about pacing and strategy, how we were going to stick together and how best to fend off the zombies. None of it would matter, it would all go to hell over the next hour.

It should be mentioned that the flags are exactly like flag football flags and there is to be no purposeful contact with the zombies. You can’t hit, kick, push, prod, shove or shiv the zombies. No weapons, no animals, only your legs and your wits.

The gate opened. No turning back.

The weather was beautiful and Darlington might have been lifted off a post card from a New England farming community. An eldritch forest bore witness to nervous runners chancing upon their first zombies on the root-riddled and muddy woodland trail. These were the slow ones, the groaners. They shuffled and groaned (hence the name, original, right?), and casually reached for flags. No worries, screen to the outside, use other bodies as an obstacle. Just keep moving. If only it had all been that easy.

There were twelve obstacles throughout the course. Some were more challenging than others, but combined they left you wet, muddy, sucking wind and at the mercy of the undead.

The first obstacle left me with a knee that looked like I’d been attacked by a badger. It’s still healing. We emerged from the woods into an open field. Hay bails had been arranged in a broad, tall, step-like pyramid. We picked our spots, ran up the one side and then descended into hell.

A sea of zombies awaited the wave of runners. They came at us like flesh hungry jackals, clawing for our flags, grabbing and chasing. The woodline was the only sanctuary. Once we reached that, they’d stop coming after us, content to wait for stragglers or the next wave. If you didn’t come with the main body of runners, you were doomed. Survival depended on collective navigation.

I hit the grass and spun away from a zombie, shot left and used two more runners as screens, darting in between a couple more of the living dead. Then, he saw me. His dead eyes locked on me and he sprinted at me. SPRINTED. This worm bait was quick! I threw it into extreme high gear and bolted. Right into some girl. We both hit the ground, hard. I don’t know if she made it, I couldn’t know. I was rolling as he came, grabbing tufts of grass where my flags had just been. No idea where the others had gone. I gained my feet and shot towards the woods. He was right behind me. I juked right and my feet tangled over one another, pitching me to the ground again. This time it was a rolling launch and I was up and running before he was able to gain any more ground. This was not a 5k race. There was no pacing. This was extreme wind sprints with apocalyptic complications.

I hit the woods with a flying leap, passing an undead gatekeeper and making it to momentary safety with all flags accounted for. Jim and Ray were waiting, wide-eyed and smiling. One obstacle down, all flags accounted for and enough energy burned to have run half the race already.

Too bad we had eleven more obstacles to go….

(To be continued in Part II)

Pictures reprinted from Run For Your Lives Facebook page. Please visit and “Like.” They don’t bite…often.