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The Long and Short of Zombies, Run! Spring 2016 Virtual Race

I am not really into zombies...says the girl who loves the film "Warm Bodies" and the TV show "iZombie" and only runs because there are undead around.  I have less than no interest in "The Walking Dead" and most other zombie related things, though, so that makes my initial claim legit, right?  Dubious.  I'm selectively into zombies?  I'm digressing, more about the running.

For those who are unfamiliar, there is a really fantastic app called "Zombies, Run!".  It is the only thing that has kept me on any kind of fitness regimen, which it has done extraordinarily well.  I tried different things for about two years before finding ZR.

How does it work?  You start a mission on your app, start running, and hear a segment of the story.  You are Runner 5, runner for Abel Township in post-apocalyptic, zombie-infested England.  The opening is generally Sam, your operator and my hero, talking you through your mission objectives for the day.  It can be anything from retrieving supplies to securing a strategic space to exploring strange occurrences in abandoned areas.  That's what's supposed to happen anyway.  Things sometimes go off the rails, though...okay, they go off the rails a lot... and sometimes also go skidding through the town and rush headlong off a cliff.  After the story segment, your music will play.  You can set your music to play from several different sources and apps and can choose how much time you'd like music to play between story segments.  You know what else you can do?  Turn on zombie chases.  There is no motivation quite like hearing the gargling growl of a zombie right in your ears.

With zombie chases on, you have to run faster in order to escape.  The app will tell you how you're doing by way of a steady beeping.  If the beeping slows, you're doing well and are pulling away from the ravening undead hordes.  If the beeping speeds up, you'd better pick up the pace.  You can keep running until the mission is over, or you can come back in the middle of one.  Lots of customization options to fit your running schedule and goals.  Oh, and did I mention the app is completely free?

So why do I like it?

  • Firstly, the app has an incredibly immersive storyline.  That's helped be the impressively high quality of the story writing and voice acting.  Just complete the first mission, Jolly Alpha Five Niner, and you'll see what I mean.  Top notch work that keeps you coming back to find out what happens next.
  • Next, the characters are diverse and relatable.  The mission A Voice in the Dark pulled at my heartstrings more effectively than most TV shows or movies ever have.  I don't know how anyone can run these missions and not get emotionally involved with these characters.
    • WARNING: Emotional attachment to these characters may lead to bouts of crying, screaming at your treadmill like a lunatic, clapping idiotically, and deep anger at people that aren't real.
  • Unpredictability.  Remember what I said about going off the rails?  Sure, you're just supposed to be running into town to pick up some batteries...when you run into a cannibal!  During these missions, I have done everything from finding chickens, escaped a jail, adopted a puppy, stopped a speeding train, and rescued children.  It's not just the zombies and the running that keep your heart pumping.
Okay, so that's the lowdown on the game.  Now, about this race, the ZR team ran their first virtual race back in the fall.  It did very well from what I understand, but I didn't participate because I didn't really understand what it was.  Weirdly, in just the last six months, I have heard a lot about this concept, so when Zombies, Run! announced a second virtual race for the spring of 2016, I wanted to give it a try.

I honestly wasn't sure it was going to be worth it, as you don't get the course community experience with a virtual race.  Instead, you run the race mission on the app wherever and whenever you like, but you still pay about the same amount to join.  I think I paid about $65 to participate.  The hubs was less than encouraging about the idea.

"It sounds like a racket."

I'm the kind of person that usually has to try something for myself before I believe in it or make a judgement, so I claimed one of the 5,000 spots to participate.  So now for the million dollar question: was it worth it?

Heck yes.

Let's take stock of what came with the registration
  • Super cool tech tee (i.e. Special Threat Response Uniform) that informs others exactly who you are and what you're up to
  • Medal and certificate for completing the race
  • Racing bib, making you a legit participant
  • Mission card outlining your objective (more on that below)
    • All of this was packed up in a fantastically designed package with the ZR logo right next to the air mail stamp (they were mailed from the ZR headquarters in London)
  • Exclusive access to the ZR online community forum, ROFFLENET
    • I've never been very good at social media-ing, but connecting with my fellow Runner 5's has been so fun!
  • Two 5k training missions leading up the the race weeks.  These two missions served as prequels to the actual mission and were only available to the race participants
  • Access to the previous virtual race mission
  • Profiles of the other mission operatives emailed to you in weeks leading up to the event so that you can get to know the folks with whom you'll be saving the world
  • Access to a special phone number to call for emergency situation reports and instructions
Remember what I said about immersive and really well made experiences?  The virtual race was no exception.  This is way more I've ever gotten from any other 5k event.  The bar has been raised, guys.  And it was so exciting!  I don't want to give away the story, as history has shown that this may well be available to others in the future.  Suffice to say the race mission and training missions take place in the beginning of the zombie outbreak before anyone really knows what's going on, and a member of the army has gone rogue with a nuclear warhead.  It's up to you and your team to stop him.  *Cue gasps of excitement and wails of despair*.

I did the two training missions during the week before the day I had chosen to do the actual race.  I didn't record my data for Training Mission #1, but I did for #2.

Check out those stats, y'all.  Less than 40 minutes, which was my goal.  I was so proud of this!  I maintained such a great, steady pace the entire run.  I think it helped that I ate a really good mini-meal that afternoon before I left work.  Also, I was super pissed off.  I'd had a really crummy day at work, which is apparently my running super-fuel.  I've had two runs that I can remember where I was really angry, and they were both amazing.

Look how happy and sweaty I look!  I had run off most of my rage by the end of it.  Oh!  And look at my awesome top!  Heather made it for me.  I am Runner 5!

With the training missions done, race day was approaching.  I actually ended up running it on the same day that Heather ran the Cherry Blossom 10-Miler.  She suggested we run our races together.  It was hilarious...

Heather didn't (and possibly still doesn't) agree with me.

Yeah, I'm not a morning runner.  I've found I do better in the afternoon/evening.  Unfortunately, when race day came, I didn't make the best choices.  I was going-going-going nonstop all day and didn't eat properly.  A cup of tea here, an egg there, and I think there was a banana and some toast at some point, too.  I probably had a proper lunch somewhere in there as well, but I don't remember for sure.  That's how well I prepped.  The time finally came.

I laced up my shoes.  Aren't they cool?  I love the barefoot style running shoes.

My racing bib to provide me encouragement.

My mission.  Sorry, you don't get to see it.  Like the card says, my eyes only. ;-p

I got started.  I was tired.  I could tell pretty early on that I didn't have very good energy.  I hate that.  I should have gotten someone to rile me up first.  I pushed, but I walked a lot more than I liked.  This was nothing like my training mission that I had run just days earlier.  The mission itself, though, was very compelling.  My heart was beaten up a little bit as I listened to each story segment and heard the fate of my comrades unfold.  The music was good, too.  It's funny how some of the songs that play during my missions fits the atmosphere/theme of the mission so well.
  1. "War of Change" by Thousand Foot Krutch - That's fitting right out of the gate
  2. "Shadows" by Red - Yup, we're running straight into danger.  Well chosen, phone
  3. "Dance Apocalyptic" by Janelle Monae - You're hilarious  -.-
  4. "Bring Out Your Dead" by Blindside - And out the dead came!
  5. "Trouble" by Imagine Dragons - I may not have wanted trouble, but it found me anyway
  6. "This is Gospel" by Panic! At the Disco - This is gospel for the fallen ones...oh, wait
  7. "Safe Haven" by Project 86 - That sure would be nice
  8. "Into the Nothing" by Breaking Benjamin - Last song.  Very fitting as we ran into certain death...  

41:48.  Not terrible, but just a hair over what I wanted to do.  I wanted to finish in under 40 minutes like I had before.  I've started pushing myself harder since then to build up my endurance.  Nevertheless, I did it and that's something of which to be proud.

After I was done, I opened up the package containing my medal and finally got to look at it.

"By order of the UK Emergency Government, you are commanded to provide the wearer with all necessary military support.


Words cannot express how much I enjoyed this experience.  The little bits of story released in the weeks leading up only increased my anticipation and made it a more complete experience.  The story complemented the main Abel Township/Runner 5 storyline seamlessly and beautifully.  Not to mention all the awesome gear!  I will definitely being doing it again.  You can download and try the app for free if you want to see for yourself.  If you do, I hope you love it as much as I do.

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