Traditional running events — where you start together and simply race a 5K, half-marathon or whatever distance to the finish line — are not going to be interesting enough, it appears, to attract a new generation of runners.
More and more, you see running events with themes or gimmicks, such as obstacle courses, running through tubes, and rolling in mud or foam, among other crazy ideas. (We already have running with briefcases, running to beat a bridge closure, diving into Lake Washington at the end, and running while rock bands are playing along the course.)
One of the latest in the new genre of road runs is The Zombie Run, a national series to benefit veterans and military personnel in need. Here, you wear a few balloons around your waist or back, and you try to avoid getting them popped by people (“zombies”) standing threateningly at spots throughout a 5K or longer course. The goal is to finish with as many unpopped balloons as you can.
This is a national series of races that began in Philadelphia in 2012 and reached Seattle last Saturday (August 17). Some 2,000 runners turned out at Magnuson Park (where I do the Resolution Run 5K every Jan. 1), as well as several hundred people who served as “zombies.” I thought the whole thing was dumb, but I’m a purist and a party-pooper.
Got a good workout in!
I still had fun. In fact, I accomplished my objectives: (1) I ran the 3.1-mile course without doing any further damage to my bad ankle; (2) I got a workout in, and (3) I got to meet up with friends and be a part of a team. Thanks to my Zones co-worker Jennifer Winchester for organizing our team.
This race was untimed, and for good reason. The organizers said you’ll run faster with “zombies” chasing you to get your balloons. That is offset by all the bumping into zombies and fellow runners that you do. Finishing with a balloon or two left is more important in this event than a fast time, and I didn’t see anyone with a balloon left.
Truth be told, I had all three of my balloons popped in the first mile. I didn’t replenish my supply at either of two aid stations, as many did. Instead, I said repeatedly to remaining zombies, “No balloons left.” I believe that not tangling with zombies for most of the race helped me avoid an ankle twist.
Not a full 5K?
Teammate and organizer Jennifer said after the run that she did not think the course was a full 3.1 miles, but more like 2.5 or 2.6 miles, based on her own runner’s watch. It seemed like the full distance to me, but she could be right. I finished in a so-so 38 minutes, which would have been a 5K best for me in 2013. But that was an unofficial time (from my own watch), so I wouldn’t have counted it anyway.
While I likely will not run this event again, I can say I enjoyed just doing a race. Jennifer said she didn’t have as much fun, largely due to the changing terrain of the course — asphalt, cement, grass, turf, gravel, dirt, etc. — which she said hurt her feet. “I am not doing this race again,” she said. (I ran carefully myself when we hit grass and dirt, but I managed.)
There are mud runs and other new-generation road races that have a bright future. Not really sure about this one. Will we be so fascinated with zombies in five to 10 years?
Still, I had fun. At least I’ve not had to clean mud out of my ears the past few days.
Next event: Maybe a 5K this coming weekend. Need to do another good bike riding event too!
Milestone: It’s been two years since my ankle surgery on Aug. 19, 2011. My bad left ankle is in better shape than it was before surgery and even last year at this time. Happy to say that I have run seven races between 5K and 8K distances in 2013, plus much of a half-marathon in a run/walk effort. Feels great to run again, but knock on wood.
Thanks for reading. Till next time.