Friday, March 22, 2013

Run for your Lives - November 17, 2012

My husband has always been a fan of Zombie flicks. Whether they are first rate or third rate, my husband can't seem to get enough of Zombies. It doesn't matter whether the undead can walk under water, whether they smell or hear their prey, whether there are chaser zombies or stumbler zombies... none of that matters. Ray loves them all. Me on the other hand? I had to look up the differences and then ask Ray if I understood the differing abilities that various filmmakers have given their ghoulish creatures.

I'll be the first to admit that I don't know much about zombies. But I do know that I really enjoy watching the Walking Dead on AMC. Ever since the first episode, I've been sucked in. I started reading Robert Kirkman's The Walking Dead graphic novels too. And much to my amusement, most of my friends were watching this show and reading the stories as well. Because it was less about zombie-lore, and more about what happens to humanity and the drama that ensues when people are staring face-to-face with the apocalypse.

So one night, Ray was surfing the internet, looking up mud runs (because that was one of the things that he really wanted to do when he first started running with our friend Shannon), and he found the website for Run For Your Lives: A Zombie Infested 5K obstacle race. There was an event scheduled for November 17, 2012 at an off roading course near Orlando, and we quickly began to investigate. From what we understood, it was an obstacle course similar to any other mudrun, but this time it was also a cross with capture the flag.

After a little investigation, we learned that we could reduce our cost of participating in the race by volunteering to also perform a shift as zombies. So in exchange for being able to run through this course and have people capture our flags, we also got to spend a few hours dressed as zombies capturing the flags off of other people.* SCORE! twice the fun for less the money!

So we made a weekend of it with our friends Shannon, John and Michelle. Michelle invited her friends Brina and Tracey, and we all arrived before dawn for makeup and costumes on Saturday morning the 17th of November. It was cold. We had stopped for coffee and donuts on the way to the course, but that didn't seem to help. We stood waiting to get checked in, hearing our teeth chatter over the sound of the generators humming in the makeup tent. We didn't have much time to marvel over the fact that we could see our own breath though... we had transformations to undertake.

We wound up using this as our annual holiday card photo.
First they dirtied up our clothes (I wish I wasn't so sun sensitive and could have just worn the bridesmaid dress without the undershirt because it looked dumb, but whatever). Then they applied prosthetic devices on our faces and did our make up and fake sores. This process was cool because a couple of the artists doing our makeup were contestants on Face Off, on Syfy. (I couldn't tell you who because I am not religious about that show, but I have seen it a few times, so it was a cool experience nonetheless).

Then we stood and waited for a little while until the sun rose and it warmed up a little. The final process in our zombie transformation was the application of dirt and blood. "Dirt" was applied with a spray brush and pump sprayers. Blood was far less precise. You stood in front of a tarp and closed your eyes while they threw handfuls of their blood concoction (KY liquid and food coloring). It was like a scene straight out of Carrie.

As an aside, fire ants are attracted to KY liquid, so keep that in mind should you ever want to get frisky outdoors.

Finally, our zombie transformation was over. We made a cute bunch of walkers, right?

Shannon, Me, Ray, Tracey, Michelle, John and Brina ready to eat your brains.

After a briefing of what was expected of us in our role as undead and how this whole race worked, our group hoofed it out to zone 11 of the course which was really somewhat of a natural obstacle. there was a quick way around, that was flat and straightforward, then there was a series of hills that we decided as a group that we wanted to funnel the runners toward to make their experience a little tougher.

John pushing runners toward Brittany and me.
Brittany and me showing off the first flags we got
Ray, Shannon and John worked at the bottom of the first big hill to funnel the people upward to us. A girl that I met named Brittany and I positioned ourselves halfway up the hill to bottleneck the runners and make it like shooting fish in a barrel, and then once at the top of the hill, runners met Brina, then Michelle and Tracey. We worked fairly well as team, and we really had a lot of fun.

One of the things that I noticed early on was that all runners are not created equal. From my own experience learning how to run (thus far), I already knew that there were some slower runners and some faster runners, there were those out to win an award and those out to just have a good time, and there were those who were in top physical shape and those who were out there for the first time trying to decide if this running thing is something they can handle. What I wasn't expecting was the discrepancy between those runners who remembered that this was just a game and we were all people underneath our makeup or running clothes, vs. those who took the game (and perhaps life) a bit too seriously and wanted to protect their flags at all costs.

Don't get me wrong, as zombies, we liked the challenge of "the kill," but runners seemed to forget that as people, the zombies could (and would) get hurt if they were too rough. And it seemed that the girls who were running the race seemed to forget this faster than the guys. I can't tell you how many times I collided with a male runner and we both apologized profusely to one another and checked to make sure that everyone was ok. On the other hand, I also can't tell you how many times I was swatted, hit, or pushed out of the way by female runners (my arms were covered with bruises for weeks after this event). After watching Brittany be (for lack of any other description) hockey checked off the path and into pricker bushes, I felt my  enthusiasm wane. I was out there to have a good time and pretend to be less than alive... I didn't actually want to be less than alive.

After our Zombie shift was over, we had a little lunch and then I returned with Ray, Michelle and Shannon to run the course. Michelle and Shannon ran a faster pace than me, and we lost them very quickly at the start. I was nervous going into some of the obstacles (after falling off of an obstacle at Warrior Dash the week before), but with Ray there, I felt like overcoming my fears was possible.

About halfway into the course, there was an open field that was loaded with Zombies, and I found myself sprinting through it dodging and weaving from the Zombies as they grabbed at my flags. I was having a great time, and I was going far faster than I had ever run before. I had a huge target on my back as I still had 2 of my flags, and there were 2 runner Zombies fresh on my heels.

And wouldn't you know, in the blink of an eye, just as Zombie-Girl snatched a flag off my belt, I must have found the *only* hole in the field with my right foot. My ankle rolled, my leg buckled underneath me, I didn't even have time to put my hands up to break my fall. I landed flat on my face, and felt every joint in my right leg twist and pop on the way down. Suddenly I couldn't breathe, on top of everything, I had the wind knocked out of me.

Thankfully Zombie-Girl who had been right on my heels was the good kind of Zombie, and she took control of the scene right away, getting on the ground with me into my line of vision, telling me to focus on her because help was on the way. Zombie-Girl clearly felt awful. She kept apologizing (as if it was her fault I'm a klutz), and tried to give me my flag back (I didn't take it because she had grabbed it fair and square, but it was a sweet gesture).

The EMTs came and were fairly forceful in their desire to cart me off to medical. When I finally caught my breath, Ray and I had a heart to heart. Would I take the ride with the EMTs back to medical or would I hobble through the pain for the last 1.5 miles and have the ability to look at myself the next day knowing that I had done what I set out to do. Would I know I gave it my best, or would I regret giving up? While still laying on the ground, tears streaming down my face, I weighed my options. And I asked myself why I do this.

What has this whole running thing been about?

And like that, the answer was clear. I do it because I was told I would never. I do it to prove to myself that I can.

I asked Zombie-Girl and Ray to help me to my feet, and told Ray we had some walking to do yet.

And every tenth of a mile from there was excruciating. Looking back, knowing I had less than 2 months left to train for my Disney half marathon, I probably should have taken the ride to the medical station rather than risk greater injury, but I did what I thought was best at the time.

And I finished. It took a really long time. It was excructiating. At times I had to put a majority of my weight on Ray's shoulder, but I finished. I was about to give up while climbing one of the last obstacles (a 15 foot ladder to take a waterslide into a frigid cold dumpster full of colored water), but a couple of other runners reached out to help pull me to the top, and I made it.

And I crossed the finish line.

I no longer had any of my flags, but I still had my pride.

Shannon, me and Ray after dying at Run For Your Lives

*What they hadn't told us when we signed up for both a volunteer shift and the run was that while we would run with flag belts, we would run without bibs or timing chips. We got t-shirts for volunteering, but they weren't the same shirts that runners got either. This was a little bit of a let down, but it was still a really good experience. We had a blast, and I would definitely do it again.

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