Given that runners now have multiple options for races almost every weekend, it helps to have something that sets your race apart. In my area, I've seen races that incorporate running up the steps of a baseball stadium, races that start at the stroke of midnight, races through tunnels that have been closed to traffic, races in costume on Halloween and races held on Thanksgiving where you can win a frozen turkey.
As it happens, I'm a sucker for weekend warrior events like 5Ks, and the latest one I'm diggin' is the Run For Your Lives 5K Zombie Race and Apocalypse Party, planned for Oct. 22 in Darlington, Md. It incorporates a few of my favorite things - the as-yet-unfulfilled prophecy of the world ending, Halloween and, of course, zombies, which are way cooler than vampires, no matter what the little Twilight groupies say.
In this particular 5K, runners wear flags similar to flag football. They have to run their 5K and get through various obstacles, while trying to stay out of the way of the ever-present zombies on the course. If the zombies grab your flag, you're turned into a zombie. You can keep running; you'll just wind up in a different category (undead) when you finish. You also get marked as undead if you skip an obstacle.
The official website contains Frequently Asked Questions, including:Q: How should I train for the race?A: Run. Watch zombie movies. Run some more.
My personal favorite:Q: I have trained my dog/cat/bird/young child to defend me in case of a zombie apocalypse; can they race with me?A: No. Only registered participants age 14 and up will be allowed to navigate the course. Please do not bring any pets to race or to party; they will be eaten by zombies.
The big event is followed by an Apocalypse Party with the tag line, "There's no tomorrow, only tonight, so celebrate your last days with us." It promises live music, zombie chili and "the all-important antidote, beer." Oh, and you can sign up as a spectator. Or as a zombie, if that's your interest.
Let's face it: I don't know of a runner out there who doesn't already have a drawer full of T-shirts and a bunch of odd random prizes donated by well-meaning merchants. But I can safely say I don't know anyone, runner or not, who can claim they got a good cardio workout by dodging zombies and partying like there's no tomorrow.