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My day as a zombie: Run for Your Lives 5k

With so many themed races and obstacle courses out there, sometimes it can be hard to decide in which one to participate. Out of all of those races, however, how many of those do you get to dress up like a zombie and scare the crap out of people? That's what I thought.

Run For Your Lives zombies at the Apocalypse Party
Run For Your Lives zombies at the Apocalypse Party
Casey Morris
With my captured flags at Run For Your Lives Georgia
Casey Morris

Run For Your Lives is an international "zombie-infested 5k obstacle course race." Not only do runners have to maneuver their way through, around, and underneath various obstacles over the 5k trail, but they also have to avoid hungry zombies lurking around every turn. Runners "survive" the race by making it through the finish line with at least one of their three belt flags intact. While the majority of participants choose to run the race, others opt for a different thrill--the chance to be a zombie for a day.

I participated as a zombie at Run For Your Lives Georgia, held on September 14. After being a spectator and reporter at the previous year's event, I knew I wanted to put my haunted house and TV/film zombie acting skills to use and scare the daylight out of runners.

Zombies are asked to bring their own costumes, or at the very least, wear something they don't mind getting shredded and "bloodied." I wore an old outfit originally torn and bloodied for a Splicer costume at Dragon Con in 2009, and then later used for Atlanta Zombie Walk 2010.

When I arrived, I checked in and went into make-up. This was a major production, with professional special effects make-up artists at various stations. Not only did they do a quality job, but everything was organized and ran smoothly.

Filmmaker Morgan Bivens ("Evolution Creek") did my prosthetics, including a fake cockroach on my cheek that stayed put until I got home and into the shower, while his brother and fellow "Evolution Creek" filmmaker, Art Lee, took over on air-brushing. Jsin of Secretroom finished off my look with lots of blood and gore. Roy Wooley, head make-up artist for Netherworld and two-time cast member of Syfy's "Face Off" was also one of the professional make-up artists on hand. For those that needed more gore, one artist got the fun task of slinging blood out of a bucket at the newly transformed zombies!

After everyone was zombified, it was time for a pep talk from race co-creator, Ryan Hogan. Bur first, of course, there were rules. No, we weren't actually going to bite people. Instead, we would infect the humans in a more sanitary way: by taking their flags. We were also encouraged to scare the runners, but not block their way or put them in danger. At the end of the speech, Hogan asked if we were excited, and everyone cheered. He then said, "That's not what zombies say! What do zombies say?" And the crowd groaned in unison: "BRAINS!"

From there, it was off to the course to begin our shift. Once in our "zone," we could pick our spot. Zombies are given the option of different shifts when they sign up, and each was around 3-4 hours long. During this time, several waves of runners will come through, but there are also plenty of breaks to sit, drink water, and chat with your zombie neighbors.

In my experience, there were three types of zombies: the ones that were chasing after the humans to scare them into running faster, the ones that were more focused on grabbing flags and infecting others, and the ones that were really into character and wanted to terrify the runners into thinking they were real zombies. I was the third type. All three types of zombies were needed in order to keep things interesting and fair. I grabbed a respectable number of flags, but what I really enjoyed was getting the chance to creature act again. While my zombie zone neighbors were practicing their undead groans, and I offered this piece of advice: "Do not try to act like a zombie; try to act like you aren't a human." There is no spoon.

Another benefit of being a zombie is the option to also participate as a runner at a discounted race. I saw several runners getting in line for makeup after they were already muddy from the race. Other zombies chose to race after their shift--perhaps they thought their zombie make-up would provide good camouflage?

After hours of fun scaring runners, picking off flags, and enjoying the breaks between race waves on a beautiful Saturday in the Georgia woods, it was time for my shift to end. Post-shift zombies were given the option to remove their make-up with a shower, soap and water, and professional make-up remover. I opted to keep my make-up on for the Apocalypse Party.

Everyone gathers at the Apocalypse Party after the race for beer, food, vendor tables, pictures, music, and dancing. It was a great way to wind down after all of the excitement!

I had a blast participating as a zombie at Run For Your Lives Georgia. I recommend this option to anyone who is considering it. If you're not a runner, this is a great way to get involved (and perhaps scare some of your runner friends like I did!) If you are a runner, you'll enjoy seeing the race from another point of view.

Run For Your Lives has four more dates planned for this year, and four already scheduled for next year. To see if there is a race coming near year, visit Run For Your Lives.