… aka How I Enjoyed Burning Calories While Not Getting Eaten By Zombies
It is I, your old pal the Mighty Jerd, and I have decided to wrest control of The Keys to Running series away from regular contributor Brian Kehs for the day.
So strap yourselves in while I weave a gripping tale of the zombie apocalypse, an obstacle course, ninja rolls, running shoes and survival.
Now if you are a regular reader, and have been paying any sort of attention, you would know just how much I hate running. Seriously… I hate running with a passion.
But that being said, there are always exceptions to any rule and The Walking Dead Escape just happened to be one of them!
So why did I decide to put one foot in front of another repeatedly at a high rate of speed?
What exactly came over me?
Last year at San Diego Comic Con we walked past Petco Park multiple times; seeing all the signs, and the people lined up to partake in The Walking Dead Escape.
It looked intriguing but I hadn’t heard about it ahead of time, so I didn’t get a chance to really see what it was all about. Primarily because downtown San Diego is nothing but a sprawling expanse of shiny objects all vying for your attention during Comic-Con.
For this year’s SDCC though, I made sure to sign up in advance so I could check it out.
Since my wife and I were going to be in San Diego for 5 days, and I knew that anything more than quick hotel workouts just weren’t going to happen amidst the craziness of Comic Con, I figured that in addition to being a cool experience to add to my personal Heroes Transformation journey it would be a good way to get some solid exercise in between all the nerdy goodness I was going to partake in.
Not to mention it just looked cool as hell!
So how did this little adventure unfold?
The Walking Dead Escape
While I don’t want to spoil too much of the experience, because a large portion of the enjoyment was directly related to the secrecy the course was shrouded in, I do want to provide a little insight into what the event is all about and just how absolutely fun it was.
Going into it I knew the following things from the website:
- It was a race
- There were going to be zombies
- There were going to be obstacles
- Some people were paying a crapton of money for the VIP zombie experience
That was about it, and the people working the registration desk weren’t much more forthcoming about what was going to happen within the walls of the stadium either. All they told me was that the course was 30-45 minutes, there were a bunch of different obstacles setup and to not get touched by the army of zombies waiting inside.
This brings me to the most important thing I can say about this event for people thinking about giving it a try – You “win” by making it to the end of the course without getting infected.
It doesn’t matter how long it takes you; there were a lot of people who thought speed was going to be the key and who “lost“. So don’t let the fact you aren’t “a runner” scare you off!
Success isn’t measured by how fast you run! It’s measured by not becoming zombie food!
I got there a little early for my wave and took 10 minutes to warm-up quickly and to see what I could ascertain about the course from the street level.
Peeking through the fences I could see one of the obstacles (a tower climb), a few burned out cars and some zombies (or “walkers” if you want to be technical) shuffling around.
Not a lot to go on but what I did know was that they were not joking around with the SFX for this.
Every zombie I saw looked like it stumbled right of the set of the The Walking Dead and into Petco Park (I came to find out that the crew from the TV show was there doing the zombie makeup… how cool is that?!?) and a lot of them were downright creepy.
As I waited for my group to line up at the entrance, it was obvious when the earlier groups before me started; the echoes of sirens and loud screams filled the air as each group began making their way through the zombie apocalypse.
As I huddled with my wave, waiting to be brought to the first staging area to get our “briefing”, I looked over the participants.
The crowd was alive with nervous energy and very diverse, both in age and in apparent physical fitness. Like I said previously, what really set this race apart was the fact that it seemed like fun for everyone and not just for those pre-disposed to running.
The other thing that really stood out to me as being a major bonus to the entertainment?
The crowd itself.
I find that when doing these types of themed events that if you, and the rest of the crowd, immerse yourself in the situation (role-playing if you will) that the enjoyment factor increases exponentially… and let me tell you, there no better crowd than a Comic-Con crowd!
After 10 minutes or so of getting to know each other, and speculating on what potentially awaited us, we all gathered inside the gate of the stadium and it was time to…
Try Not To Get Eaten
It all began with us receiving a briefing.
The story is that the military is evacuating you and your group of survivors, and it is time to the evacuation facility and await transport.
We were ushered inside and hurried along, coaxed by bull-horns and the yells of evacuation personnel, and almost right away it became obvious that the screams I had heard from previous groups were not contrived… I’m not going to spoil it but the event kicks off so fast, and with such surprise, that everyone immediately adopts a frantic fend for yourself mindset and IT IS ON!
In the beginning there were a few times where I felt bottle-necked (which added to the suspense) but after the first 2-3 minutes the people have spread out sufficiently that you settle into “packs” who seems to be taking things at approximately the same pace.
One of the keys to surviving is teamwork, as there are zombies everywhere trying to get you.
There were multiple times throughout the course where people had to employ a little teamwork and play cat-and-mouse with packs of zombies, drawing them away from obstacles or doorways so that other people could make it through without getting infected.
Essentially this is a giant game of tag, with all of the zombies being “it“.
I came to find out that they all had an invisible substance on their hands, visible only under black light, and that was how success or failure was indicated at the end of the race. At the very end a blacklight was run all over you and you were inspected, if you were clean you were declared a winner!
This allowed people to finish the race out even if the zombies “got them” and honestly at the end of my wave, the ratio of survivors to people who ended up infected was pretty small.
Being able to run fast, while helpful, was definitely not the only deciding factor between life and death as a lot of people who just bolted ahead quickly found out!
In addition to avoiding hordes of shambling zombies (and the sneaky ones hiding around corners and waiting behind doors) there were multiple obstacles to deal with as well.
Don’t let that dissuade you though; in keeping with the event’s theme of being fun for all the obstacles were mostly pretty low-key.
The main intent being slowing people down and allowing the zombies to attack as you climbed down a steep ramp, making your way through rooms filled with vision obstructing stacks of crates or scampered over burned out cars.
The obstacles were pretty well spaced out, and there were two “zombie-free” zones along the way with cups of water for people who felt they needed to take a break. Another nice touch I thought.
Just like a movie, the events built and challenges became more and more intense as the course unfolded culminating in that final epic stretch.
The spectators lining the walls yelling encouragement (and more than few waiting to see people get zombified), the evacuation point within sight and nothing but 5 wrecked cars, piles of concrete jersey walls and 20 or so zombies in front of it. After a 20 minute run I thought it was the perfect way to close this out, so I took a breath and took my shot at surviving the zombie apocalypse.
So how did I fair?
Am I typing this while suppressing an overwhelming urge to eat brains?
Rather than trying to explain it, why don’t you go ahead and just watch instead!
Now, does having such a great time doing this event mean I am going to start running regularly?
Hell no! But it’s nice to know that under certain circumstances even the most hated of exercises can be, not only be tolerable but, downright fun!
Not to mention, I totally plan on doing this again next year (click the link for a video run-through of the 2014 course).
If you are interested in giving this event a shot (I really can’t recommend it enough), head over to The Walking Dead Escape website and see where the nearest event is taking place.
I promise you won’t regret it!
So if something cool like this can get me to actually run, I am positive there is some activity out there for each and every one of you!
Let me know in the comments what cool physical activity that surprised you with how fun it was… and if you have ever run The Walking Dead Escape, let me know how you felt about it!
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PPS: Fan of the Walking Dead TV show? Here’s a fun way to keep fit while watching the show!