Today was the second year of the Zombie Apocalypse 5K race, a fun event where people could choose to run as "survivors" or as "zombies." Survivors were given a flag football-type belt with two velcro-ripaway red flags and a two minute headstart before the zombie horde was let loose. Last year's event took place at Lee Farms in Tualatin; this year, it was a much longer trek down to Heiser Farms in Dayton (about 30 miles away, but an hour's drive because no freeway went there directly).
Okay, first, here's my racing bib:
I was worried that it would be pretty miserable weather during the race, because that's what it was during my son's soccer match this morning: cold, damp, drizzly. But the sky sort of cleared up as I drove down highway 99 from Portland.
Race time was 5:30, but I arrived just after 4 pm. Like last year, the race organizers had really gone out of their way to create an apocalpytic atmosphere:
The military vehicle pictured above didn't move, but the tank below did!
Meanwhile, I found fellow Uberthon runners Eileen (who was running as a survivor) and Brent (who was watching). We chatted a bit about running and strategy, like where to arrange the survivor flags. (In front to make it more difficult to grab? In back, as a sign of confidence in one's speed?)
We also checked out this, which was something I haven't seen before: pumpkin firing cannons (what a waste!):
Okay, well around 5:20 or so, I headed over to the starting area of the course. Last year, it was just a gun-timed race, which given the large number of participants, was kind of dissatisfying. This year, the organizers got the excellent folks at Uberthons to do the timing. Yea for chip-timed races! Not only that, the organizers actually tried to arrange it so that the fastest people were at the front.
5ish mile pace? No, not me. 6ish? Uh, not quite. Still, even my estimated 7 minute/mile pace put me near the front:
The starting signal was a big boom from one of those pumpkin launching cannons. The first stretch was downhill, and I had to thread my way through some runners who'd started in front of me. Among the more notable costumed people I passed were a guy in a suit carrying a briefcase (but at least wearing running shoes), and two high school or college kids who had started off wearing gas masks. By the time I caught up to those two, one had already taken his mask off, and the other was in the process of doing so. "Man, it's so hard to breathe!" he gasped.
"What were you guys thinking?" I asked as I ran past.
The first 1/4 mile took me 1:26, according to RunKeeper, which was too fast, but what can you do about the combination of needing to get past people, and adrenaline, and fear of the zombie horde?
Half a minute later, the pumpkin cannon boomed again. The zombies were coming on the course.
A two minute headstart sounds pretty good. I mean, if I can run 7 minute miles, then at the two mile mark, 14 minutes will have elapsed. For a zombie to catch me by that point, he or she would have to run two miles in 12 minutes. Certainly doable, but not easy. On the other hand, when you consider that in those two minutes, I covered only 1/3 of mile, it doesn't sound like so much.
Anyway, the race course was filled with volunteer actors: some zombies hanging on tree branches, hiding in bushes, or hanging on the side of the trail; some military personnel armed with (fake) weapons. I wanted to tell the soldiers that they should go waste zombies just behind us. There was also a helicopter overhead that boomed through its loudspeakers, "Attention survivors . . . " and something about zombies.
My second mile was considerably slower. Some of that was the trail terrain -- soft, squishy dirt/mud in spots -- and some of it was probably just not having my best mental edge. It's been a couple of weeks since I've done real speedwork, and that week off to rest my foot didn't help on that front.
Part of the course had us doubling back a long straightaway that we had run earlier. When I hit this part, there were still zombies on the course headed out. Some of them were trying to steal our flags -- not cool. I had to speed up to evade one of them. (Others were just pretending to try.)
I got passed by a few runners, and every time as he or she was approaching, I had to turn to see if it was a zombie. It wasn't until just shy of 2 1/2 miles that a zombie finally caught up to me. Since I had two flags, I didn't bother trying to outrun him. (Good thing too, as it turns out that it was the guy who holds the Uberthon's 5K record!)
So he took the flag on my left side. I still had the flag on my right side, and I kept to the right side of the trail to make it more difficult for any other zombies to grab it.
At 2.47 miles, there was a 90 degree left turn, and a soldier who told us we were almost at the end, just 1/4 mile or so. Huh, I thought, how can we be almost done? But in fact, I could see the end of the course up ahead. I took a look back and didn't see any zombies nearby, so I picked up the pace a little (from 7:30ish to 6:45ish), and yes, crossed the finish line with my remaining flag intact! Chip time was 19:24, which sounds really awesome for me, but RunKeeper said the distance was 2.65 miles. Of course, I started RunKeeper a little late, as it clocked me in 19:08, so maybe the total distance was 2.7 or so miles. Anyway, far short of 3.1 miles.
There I am, holding up post-race proof of my survival! I finished 19th overall out of 580, which is my best percentile finish, but of course, this race attracted a lot of people who weren't in top running attire (i.e., some of those costumes were impossible to run in), so I wouldn't put too much stock into that result.
Four zombies ran faster than I did, but only one of those beat me by more than two minutes, so I did earn my survival. (There were survivors who ran slower than I did who finished with both flags; as I had surmised, running fast could subject you to being picked off by an even faster zombie, whereas running with a crowd could get you skipped.)
Anyway, all in all, a fun time. Looking forward to next year. I may run as a zombie.
UPDATE (10/15): Here's the race recap by the zombie who mauled me.