Many runners struggle when trying to improve their speed and endurance, and some say that a lack of motivation plays a large role in keeping them from their goals. Fortunately for some local athletes, the Columbus Air Force Base found a unique way to keep people moving at Saturday’s Zombie Run. The answer was simple — chase them.
A dozen undead were stationed throughout the 5k course and charged with “infecting” the 150 runners by snatching participant’s flags from them. Two were issued to each runner, which were worn on a belt. If they completed the race with one or both flags intact, runners could boast that they stayed alive despite the zombie hordes, while those who lost their flags became infected, and therefore doomed to become the undead themselves.
Those who showed up on race day seemed excited for the new twists in store for them. Aside from zombies, the 5k also featured several military-style obstacles like tunnels, tire runs, rivers to cross and more than 60 percent of the course was covered in wet, deep, shoe-sucking mud.
Jodie Dollar and Crystal Breckenridge of New Hope said they signed up for the thrill of being chased.
“We’re all about some zombies,” said Breckenridge. “We’re addicted to (AMC’s) The Walking Dead.”
Katie McCraw of Jackson said that she and her friend Patricia Fortner were considering this a dry run for when the zombies take over.
“We’ll be prepared when the zombie apocalypse comes,” she said.
Runners were given the choice of signing up individually or in teams of four and strategies were being ironed out before the run began.
“Larry’s Angels.” a group of three ladies and a lucky man named Larry Myers, all of Sulligent, Ala., had an interesting plan where Larry and Cindy would run ahead and leave Wendy and Heather to die. Meanwhile Wendy and Heather planned to sneak past the zombies while they chased their faster teammates.
A mother-son duo couldn’t seem to agree on a strategy.
Ellen Pratt, who is stationed at CAFB in the Airguard said,” I told him it’s his job as my son to protect me.”
Her son William seemed to think otherwise. When catching up with them after the race, Ellen admitted she died first, losing both her flags in the first half. William also lost, becoming infected in the second half.
The winners, officials reported that about 20 percent of the runners made it back with their flags intact, credited speed and teamwork to their victories. A married couple who ran together, Joy and Nate Merrill of the CAFB, both won with a little creative thinking.
“I died,” said Joy smiling. “But then I stole a flag back from a zombie and made it through.” Nate, who made it though with both flags intact said he just “Ran like hell.”
“It was a lot of fun,” said Joy.
Lloyd Krugman and Geno Burton said they had a blocking strategy that failed miserably.
“One of the zombies was real fast,” Burton admitted. Both men were covered in mud head-to-toe, and seemed nonplussed at their infected status.
All participants received a medal and a shirt upon completion of the run. Officials said they are planning to have another Zombie Run next year.