In reality, being chased by a ravenous zombie would be an activity best avoided. But thousands of people are ready to “run for their lives” for fun March 3 in Union Point.
And they’re willing to shell out $87 for the privilege.
Inspired by the Atlanta-based AMC TV drama “The Walking Dead,” which returns Feb. 12, run organizers have created a five-kilometer obstacle race featuring hundreds of make-believe zombies chasing as many as 10,000 humans.
The first race this year will be held at Durhamtown Plantation Sports Complex in Union Point, about halfway between Atlanta and Augusta.
“We wanted a nice, isolated place in the middle of nowhere,” said Derrick Smith, one of the organizers.
Spots to volunteer to be a zombie have long been filled, Smith said. Registration to run closes Friday Feb. 10. As of Monday, about 80 percent of those 10,000 slots were gone. Spectators can show up for $32 apiece, with tickets available through March 2.
Runners, who must be at least 14, will have to overcome 12 obstacles, including an incline wall, mud galore and possibly a “blood” pit. Zombies won’t actually tackle the runners and try to gnaw their necks — that would cause some liability issues, Smith said.
Instead, organizers set up a warped twist on flag football. Runners will have “health” flags on their belts. If zombies grab them all, runners also become zombies.
The fastest runners finishing the race with at least one flag intact will win prizes such as survival gear. Runners will be placed into four age groups, divided by gender, There will also be a separate category for military personnel.
Some zombies, Smith said, will be stumblers like those seen in “The Walking Dead.” Others will be able to run full blast, as they do in the 2009 film “Zombieland,” shot throughout metro Atlanta and Georgia.
Mauro Reyes, a 42-year-old Atlanta graphics specialist, is one of the 8,000 people so far who have signed on to run – even though he’s never run a 5K before. “I joke that the only times I’d ever run is if something bigger is chasing me and I’m out of ammo,” he said.
He saw the info on Twitter and is a fan of “The Walking Dead.” “I just think it’s going to be fun,” he said. “I’m by no means fast but I’ll be prepared. My hope is to be in a group surrounded by slower people and let them go down first.” (He learned that mentality, he said, from “Zombieland.”)
Jennifer Yarber, a local communications specialist, is a runner and is having second thoughts about how much she and her husband spent. He volunteered to be a zombie and paid $25 to do so, she wrote in an email. But she figures, what the hell: “Even though I paid a ridiculous amount, I’m going to have a good time.”
Smith and his childhood friend Ryan Hogan, both Maryland residents, decided to host a zombie race there for fun last October to help promote Hogan’s apparel company. They hoped for 1,000 local runners. “But as we developed the website [www.runforyourlives.com] and got on Facebook, it became a much larger event,” Smith said.
In the end, 10,000 people from 26 states and several foreign countries showed up to be chased by 400 zombies. “It went viral,” he said.
Runners are encouraged to wear costumes. “There was a Burger King, a Ronald McDonald. And a lot of folks came in suits with briefcases,” Smith said. The average finish time for the Maryland race was about 45 minutes.
Though this is a for-profit operation, an unspecified portion of the proceeds will go to the American Red Cross, Smith said. Representatives from the Atlanta-based federal Centers for Disease Control will also be there, distributing information on disaster preparedness.
He said Run For Your Lives will be an all-day affair, including a pig roast, a Nerf-gun shooting range, a dozen bands and a cash bar. Water will be free. People will be able to camp overnight.
Atlanta is the first of 11 metro areas that are going to be infested with zombie-themed races this year. Others include Indianapolis, St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Austin.
And though the race organizers don’t ‘t have direct cooperation from the producers of “The Walking Dead,” Smith said some of the zombies in the race have showed up on the drama.
“Run for Your Lives”
A five-kilometer obstacle race, with pretend zombies chasing runners.
Start times 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. March 3. $87 for runners (Friday sign-up deadline); $32 for spectators. Burhamtown Plantation Sports Complex, Union Point. www.runforyourlives.com.
By Rodney Ho, Radio & TV Talk