Run Zombie Runby Yelena Calavera / Images by Taryn Scharf / 09.07.2013
Being forced to drag oneself out of bed at 6am on a Sunday morning is no mean feat for a writer. I’m no daywalker. I was looking the part of a zombie when I arrived with my photographer at the farm.
I had ignored the threat of the ‘run’ part of Zombie Run as long as I could reasonably manage. I decided I needed a warm up, so I intentionally forgot the directions to the farm inside my house, parked down the road and then sprinted back to fetch them. It was not long after I returned to my car, fair wheezing, that I realised things were about to get serious. I questioned, for the first time, my previously unassailable surety that I would survive a zombie apocalypse. I couldn’t avoid it any longer. I was attending a 5km run.
I tried to get myself into a zombie mindset. Fetching the photographer helped. She also hadn’t had any coffee that morning so we communicated by means of a series of nuanced grunts. Once we arrived at the farm, the apocalyptic vibes present in the car found wider purchase. A milling crowd of runners with water guns greeted us. The runners seemed to consist of a combination of actual athletes, zombie enthusiasts and LARPing geeks. I felt myself relax in the presence of the other nerds. I knew there was no way they could run any better than I could.
Given media immunity, we wandered onto the course and found geeks of another calibre waiting for us in various nooks and crannies. Horrific effigies of personified gore lurked about in the forest, awaiting the arrival of unsuspecting runners. The revoltingly life-like prosthetic make-up added an element of realism.
But this was not an enactment of the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. There would be no hicks with cross-bows or real carnage if all went well. This being said, we came across one guy who seemed not to be play-acting the part of zombie. He was a creepy fellow, the kind who might actually go for the jugular if encountered somewhere secluded. If a real zombie outbreak were to occur, this would be the perfect place for it to happen.
Rather than actually gnawing off their limbs, zombies were supposed to get hold of the red tags runners were sporting which represented their ‘lives’. Runners who managed to make it to the finish line with any remaining tags had survived the 5km stretch of apocalypse and were eligible for a prize.
Galloping through the woods, with the threat of zombies at every turn was pretty terrifying! Even large men could be heard screaming like little girls. If I had been running, I’d also have been yelling for help. I wasn’t kidding about not being able to run. This got me thinking, I’d have to develop another strategy for survival should the end days be upon us. I’m imagining a sedan chair carried around by hunky male-stripper zombies.
Though the zombies were highly unrealistic in that they still commanded their higher reasoning and could come up with schemes to trap runners, the track gave me some very helpful insights into how to avoid being gobbled up by the undead in the event of the end of the world. This is something that should be added to every school curriculum.
1. Never underestimate the power of the wild sprint. This confuses the undead. They don’t know what to grab when you’re going past at light speed in a muddle of limbs. Flail your arms if necessary, but be careful of the dreaded fore-arm chomp that has caused so many of your favourite movie characters to become meat sacks.
2. When navigating long grass, send your comrades out before you. Wait for the undead to engage them and then gap it.
3. Be bloody careful of steep inclines. The zombies will get you when you are vulnerable!
4. Take some breakdancing classes. Light footwork and feigns never fail to confound zombies.
5. Construct a gauntlet at home. Think Takeshi’s Castle. Improve your agility and those lumbering hunks of flesh will never keep up with you. After you’ve had a good training montage you’ll be invincible. Some gauntlet time is also a great substitute for those awkward dinner parties with the in-laws.
6. Don’t stop to Instagram the zombies, whatever you do.
Why are we so obsessed with the zombie apocalypse anyway? As usual, I have a hair-brained hypothesis. I think it’s because deep down we’re afflicted with an ‘Us and Them’ mentality. We feel like the only moving lights in a dark landscape. ‘We’ are threatened by a malicious and brainless ‘Them’. This, or we want to go back to simpler times and live like hunter gatherers did, once again—having eradicated all the nonsense of our complex civilization. We’re sick of society! We just want to shoot shit and squabble with an intimate group of friends and family and occasionally lose one or two of them to a zombie attack when the plot starts wearing a bit thin.
Either way, pretending to be an undead monster/running away from an undead monster is heaps of fun. Willis, the mastermind behind the Zombie Run, says the turnout was still small compared to the hordes of undead events like this are pulling overseas. Judging by the atmosphere after the race, the event will be much bigger next year.
Zombie Runs are set to happen next in the coastal cities. But Zombie Run is not all just apocalyptic indulgence—a whopping R25k was raised for various animal charities. You can run from zombies or act out your zombie fantasies (within reason) and give back to the community at the same time.
I’ve decided I’ll be participating in the race next year. I’m going to be a zombie kingpin that’s carried about in a sedan chair by brain-eating hunks. I can’t figure out how this will be useful to anyone just yet, but I’ve got a few months to come up with a solid strategy.
* All images © Taryn Scharf