RUN FOR YOUR LIVES or Survival of the Insane This past Saturday, I ran the Run for your Lives 5k in Clermont, Florida. I set out for Clermont from my hotel at approximately 7:45, not knowing how long it would take to get to the destination, but knowing that they said to arrive two hours prior to your race for check in. I got to the race turn off at 8:30 and was greeted by the sign that had the following image: After turning off the paved road, it was another twenty minutes of moving in bumper to bumper traffic until I finally reached the parking lot, if you wanted to call it that. It was a cordoned off horse pasture, complete with “Steaming divots” (a la Pretty Woman). So, I paid my parking fee, picked up my bag and started my trek to check in. By the time I made it to check in, it was 9:20, and I was scheduled for the 10:30 wave. I quickly pinned my bib on to the front of my long sleeve Superman shirt and strapped my race timer to my right shoe. I then made my way to the drop tent and left my bag with the attendant and began to walk around the spectator pavilion, looking at some of the obstacles that I would no doubt have to take on during my 5k. One of them appeared to be a mini mountain of sand, which I thought would not be a problem (more on that later, and the other one that was visible was a slide with orangeish-brown water coming down it, and four distinct rows that you could slide down. At the front of the pavilion was a stage with a dj and an emcee trying to pump up the hundred fifty or so people that were milling around the pavilion, waiting on their race time to come. I struck up a conversation with several of the people, finding out that they had shown up for a twelve thirty race and an eleven thirty race and were just chilling there listening to the music. There were several games in the pavilion, including a version of “beer pong” involving 5 gallon drums and larger bouncy balls called “apocalypse pong” in which the object of the game was to knock all of your opponents’ drums out by landing the ball inside the drums before he does the same to your drums. I wandered around the pavilion, trying to keep myself loose, for the race. Finally, race time came, and I lined up to enter the fray. The race entrance was broken into three categories: “Appetizers, entrees, and desserts.” I looked at myself, and seeing as how I weigh approximately 187 pounds, figured I would be an appetizer more than a main course and definitely am not sweet enough to be considered dessert for a zombie. So, I moved into the “appetizer” line and waited for the gate to open and to move on thru the darkness into the actual race. After what seems like an eternity, I hear a countdown starting and start in on “3, 2, 1” and the gate opens in front of me and the rest of the racers on the 10:30 wave. I squint and pull down my sunglasses as the sunlight momentarily blinds me as I start jogging out of the tunnel, uncertain of what lies in front of me. I tried to keep up with a group of two guys and two girls that I had met in the tunnel that had stated they were not going to run until they saw the first group of zombies, simply because there was no reason to run until you needed to. I agreed with the strategy and stayed with them, and jogged on along for about a hundred fifty yards and suddenly saw the pack in front of me disintegrate as a staggering zombie came towards the pack of us. We all bolted our separate ways and took off and the race was officially on! From there on, it was a mix of dodge and weave when you saw a staggering zombie wobbling towards you (which was more in the beginning of the race), or jump out of the way when a zombie would amble out of the weeds or woods (as there was brush hiding some zombies), or just stand and watch the zombies with a group. I actually met up with a group of seven runners and hung with them for most of the race, although we never introduced ourselves to each other, we watched out for each other and called out “walker” (when you saw a zombie ambling up behind one of the pack) or “chaser” (when a zombie would take off running after one of the pack and try to pick off a flag). Let me stop here and explain how the race worked. At the beginning of the race you were given a belt with three flags on it. These were your lives: just like in a video game. If you were attacked by a zombie three times or failed to do an obstacle you lost a flag. There were also supposed to be health stations where there were flags for regeneration of your lost life, but that was never seen by anyone in my party. So, if you lost all your flags, your game was over, but you could still finish the race, your time just wasn’t counted as a “survivor”. And they had shirts that said “I died at Run For Your Life” as well as “I survived at Run For Your Life” that you could buy. So, after about a mile and a half we (the group that I was hanging with) came to the first “obstacle”. It was a set of sand dunes that had been tracked thru by five waves already and had four zombies just waiting at various points for us. One of the girls had already lost two of her flags, and the rest of us (myself included) had two or all three flags (I had lost my first flag from a medieval knight zombie chaser during a long stretch of “walkers” that no one saw the chaser and he picked off two other flags out of the group.) We all stopped at the beginning of the dunes and decided to put the single flagged girl in the middle and try to keep the zombies away from her, even using ourselves as human shields if necessary. We moved out and started moving thru the sand, our traction not being what it was on the grass and we started slipping and the zombies looking and lunging at us, but not picking our flags as we fell. We made it thru unscathed somehow. A few hundred yards ahead, the next obstacle arose, it was a mud pit with sand on each side. Fortunately for us, there were no zombies, so we could move thru at our own pace. I jumped in and the water came up to mid calf and was mildly cool as it was about 60 at the time. I tried to move thru the water as quickly as possible and stepped out with my feet and socks soaked thru. After dodging several more sets of zombies the group made it to the third obstacle, which was the wall, which was a four and a half foot barrier, which for someone with no upper body strength is a challenge. Fortunately, I could step onto the piece of wood that held it up and lift my leg over so that counted for me. Yea, cheap win, but I will take it. The group had kept on jogging and left me behind, so I took a “break” and walked for a bit, not really sure what would be coming up next. I was surprised to find a bit of a bottle neck ahead as it was due to a military crawl thru muddy water. Slowly I made my way up to the water and eyed the barbed wire that was over the water. One of the guys that was standing before the obstacle says, “Well, at least the wire isn’t electrified,” and chuckles. With that, I step in and drop onto all fours and start crawling thru the mud. One of the course officials on the other side hollers at all of us in the water, “DOWN LOWER!” and I drop down as low as I can go and military crawl all the way to the other side, mud and water sloshing on the people beside me. As I exit the other side, I proudly climb out of the mud and shake off a little water out of my hair and look ahead at a zombie cheerleader who does a Hulk Hogan pose at one of the runners and grin. I take off jogging and return the pose to her, and she says, “I’m not scared of you.” I quip back, “Good, you’re not supposed to be,” and grin. I keep the grin on my face as I keep alternating walking and jogging until the adrenaline has left my body from the military crawl (about five minutes) and then start back all walking until somehow I catch back up to my group. We stay together until we come to the next obstacle, the maze. It is a darkish setup where you can’t see past the next turn, and you always think you are going the right way, until you make the wrong turn, and then you end up having to turn around and double back. They put three zombies in the side that I ended up going down but they did not mess with me, just walked by me. I made one wrong turn and had to double back, and got out finally. The moment I made it out, I was sorry I did, however, as it made me think of the prison yard from this season’s premiere of the Walking Dead. I dodged as best I could all the way thru the field that lay between me and the orchard of “safety” that ended that zone of zombies. I caught back up to the group, and we turn the corner into the orchard, only to be met by zombie children. Fast zombie children. Scary fast zombie children. We take off for as fast as we can and finally escape, but not before one of the group succumbs to one of them, and he loses one of his flags. We find a health pack, but it’s empty. Typical of the day we’ve been having. The group keeps on, the eight of us, the seven and the straggler (me), because there is power in numbers. We turn another corner and a pack of zombies jump out of the brush and attack us, and one of them gets my second flag. Right before the second mile water station. The whole group is mad about this. It’s like the water was a trap. But we are all thirsty, so we stop and drink two or three cups before walking on. We all round another corner and come to another group of zombies: Zombie Colonel Sanders, Zombie Ronald McDonald, Zombie Wonder Woman, Zombie Xena. Fortunately, they were all walkers and did little damage as they just shuffled after as we had to navigate a hill at the same time as dealing with them. We make it to the top of the hill and go down the other side and see the mountain of sand on the other side. But standing in our way is three more zombies and another group of sand dunes, the group darts ahead, and I just stand there, staring at the dunes. I take my first step, and lose my footing and fall flat. I think the zombies have taken etiquette classes as they do not swamp people when they are down and take their flags. In fact, they are running after the people that are trying to get away from them. I get up and run/slide thru the sand and grab the rope and help a blonde up the mountain of sand and make it up myself. Then the unthinkable happens: I see the finish line. I had been told there was seventeen zones of zombies somewhere on the course, and was approaching zone 16. I gritted my teeth and checked my one remaining flag. It was still there. I looked at what was in front of me. I saw a few walkers but nothing too harsh. I start moving, keeping the pace that I had kept for most of the race. Then I see a big motorcycle biker zombie lurking around a group of trees. He is stalking a couple of runners, so I try to get by and instead he reaches out and grabs my flag, a mere 350 yards from the finish line. I immediately stop, not knowing what to do. I have no lives left, and then remember: health packs or flags. A zombie up ahead hands a flag to a runner. I start putting on the puppy dog eyes, to no good, for the next three or four girls zombies that I pass. I give up and start jogging, deciding to just finish the race. I turn the corner and see another obstacle that says that it involves electricity, and I instantly choose the alternate route, not seeing a reason to do it if there is nothing to lose (you lose a flag if you don’t complete an obstacle, by the way), and run on to the ladder and the the final three obstacles: the drop, the crawl, and the electric fence. They are exactly what they sound like: you climb up a wooden apparatus to slide down a drop that is recycling orangish-brown liquid that rinses off what you have on you, which by now is sand, mud, possibly blood, snot, sweat, tears, pain, and frustration, and carries it on to the next person. You drop into a pool of this fluid at the bottom of the drop and you step out and have to run, jog, or walk, all the while being reminded that you are still being timed to a set of “v” barricades that had barbed wire over it, that you military crawl under. Once you are thru that, you continue to military crawl under a chain link electric fence that is approximately twenty feet long. I did not let any part of my body move up high enough to get shocked but heard people complaining that they were getting shocked on their legs and other unmentionables due to this. When it was all said and done, my time for my first (and definitely not last) Run For Your Life 5K was 1:09:17.9. I finished 337th in my wave, out of 453, and 3755th out of 5303 overall.
This was what I looked like right afterwards:
This was what I was racing for.
It would have been nice to have one flag so I could have had an “I survived the Run For Your Life” shirt, but I am already planning on running in Atlanta in September, and think I have some zombie fodder, I mean some willing runners who will be happy to run with me….. We shall see. . . Maybe that will be the one.
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As always, be kind, please rewind, and remember two wrongs may not make a right, but three rights always make a left.