Run For Your Lives

In my never ending quest to be an eternal child, I participated in Run for Your Lives – the zombie infested 5K obstacle course, this past weekend in Pittsburgh. Runners are given a belt with 3 flags. The zombies on the course try to take the flags. Participants finishing the course with at least 1 flag get a survivor’s medal. Those that finish without flags get an infected medal.

I signed up for this thing AGES ago. Seriously, I registered last October. Since the time I registered even the event location had changed. I was a little pissed, ok more than a little, that there wasn’t onsite parking. I hate that shuttle crap. And since there is no pre-race day packet pickup, one has to either bring a friend/bag holder or check one’s ID and money. I REALLY hate that.

My wave time was noon and all the instructions said to get there about 2 hours early. I had a long drive and ended up arriving an extra half an hour earlier than recommended but how glad I was that I did.

Parking was in a field that wasn’t nearly big enough for the amount of cars that were coming. In fact, I got the 2nd to last spot in the main parking area. After it was full, the parking attendants started directing cars down this lane cut into a corn field – I am not kidding. I couldn’t see how far away they went, I was just grateful that I wasn’t going there. After parking and grabbing the essentials (beach towel, change of clothes, clean shoes, ID, small amount of cash, filled in waiver, car keys, bug spray, and sun screen) I walked over to where the lone school bus/shuttle bus was. As I walked, I realized that the line for this lone shuttle was more than 300 people long!

After locating the end of the line, I settled in for a long wait, over an hour in fact. The only reason that my wait was so short was that someone must have had the wisdom to wake up some bus drivers and rent some more buses. Like a ray of sunshine breaking through the clouds at the end of a storm, 5 buses showed up at once. In the meantime, I was getting to know the people in line.

The people directly in front of me were a brother and sister. They were super nice and, although their wave time was an hour before mine, we ended up running the course together. In front of them was a local who was very kind in advising me of some local sites. In fact, because of this lovely local, I realized that Pittsburgh is a fantastic zombie destination. He let me know that the original Night of the Living Dead Cemetery is Evans City Cemetery, just outside of Pittsburgh. I went that night, see:

I did drive far enough back to see the chapel but I didn’t explore any further. I wasn’t afraid of zombies. Heck, I finished the Run For Your Lives race with a survivor medal, baby! No, it’s not zombies that I feared. It was the dark and the woods and the who-knows-what’s-crawling-around-out-there.

Just a bit of trivia, groups are trying to raise money to restore the cemetery. If you’re interested, or just want to read more about the cemetery, here’s a quick link.

Also, I learned that the Monroeville mall, also just outside of Pittsburgh, is the mall from the Dawn of the Dead. I had no idea that I could do an entire zombie-themed vacation in Pittsburgh. There was a zombie “museum”/store in the mall, but according to the company’s website, the physical store is no longer at the mall but moving to a new location. You can see the website here.

There is another zombie store that I knew about before I arrived, but it was closed when I tried to visit!!!!! It was because the store had a tent set up at the race site. Had I known, I would have paid more attention to the tent, but I was too busy taking in everything else.

Now, the actual race site is a place called Mines & Meadows in New Beaver, PA. It’s an old coal mine and a current ATV park. I looked it up a bit and it looks like an awesome place to visit, if you own an ATV. You can take tours of the mines in your ATV. Pretty cool. I was thinking that the mines would be an extraordinary place for some zombie mischief. Little did I know that the organizers would be smart enough to incorporate the mines.

Anyway, after way too long waiting for shuttles, we arrived at the race site. I checked in, talked to my new buds then wandered off to socialize some more.

I’m so glad I did!!! I found a lady with a survivor’s medal. So I asked her to tell me about the course. And she gave me loads of tips. But most importantly, she told me about the smokehouse. What is a smokehouse, you may ask? Well, it’s a tent filled with smoke and loads of live wires hanging down all around. I don’t remember reading about getting shocked when I signed up. Being wet and muddy and shocked? WTF?!?!?!

So, in the starting pen, I made another friend: a nice lady that was also running alone. Although we had some varying skill levels, we, for the most part, stuck together.

Right out of the gate, we were funneled down a hill into the mines. The hill wasn’t hugely steep but there was a stream of water running down it and zombies. While trying to avoid the zombies, I saw a man fall pretty hard on the first hill. Then we went into the mine. It was dark and wet and full of zombies. Also, I noticed these wires hanging down. I heard later that these were also electrified.

Coming out of the mine, someone threw about 50 extra flags in the air. Right in the middle of a group of zombies. Most people kept running to avoid the zombies. I grabbed a couple handfuls of flags and stuffed them in my bra. Due to my magical, flag-dispensing bra, everyone in my group got survivor medals.

The course was hard, muddy, uneven, and steep. The obstacles were pretty lame. But I did see one guy fall off of one and hit his head on a log. It was pretty frightening. He got up and kept running, however, I guarantee he felt it later. It took my group about an hour to finish the course. It’s not timed so we just took our time. The smokehouse was notable but no one in my group got shocked. One lady skipped the obstacle. The guy did a full belly crawl. The other lady and I guided each other while listening to people yelling because they were getting shocked.

The worst part was the zombie field. Runners had to run through a field of zombies. It was in here that I encountered the worst part of the race. A zombie grabbed me, to snag my flag, and ripped my race bib off! And then wasn’t letting go. She almost ripped my shirt off! I thought I was going to have to fight. – Before I ran, I heard some runners complaining about aggressive zombies. Supposedly, the zombies were not supposed to run, they were not supposed to touch the runners. Clearly, my zombie assailant didn’t pay attention to the rules.

The rest of the course was rather uneventful. Loads of hills, the blood bath, and the final gauntlet of zombies. The very last obstacle was a fence panel hung horizontally about 2′ off the ground. Apparently, it was also electrified. I managed to get through the course without getting shocked. But another participant told me she had been shocked dozens of times. She was shocked in the mine, in the smokehouse, and, humiliatingly, she got stuck under the fence with a wire on her butt. The entire time she was stuck, she was getting shocked.

At the end of the race, I was really looking forward to the shower tent. It was a tent that had PVC pipes running down both sides. Little holes had been punched into the pipes to make a shower of sorts. By the time I went over to shower, around noon (which was quite early in the day for this event), there was no more water. Sigh. I had to check into my hotel as a stinky, muddy slob.

I love silly. I love races. I don’t trust that there is a knowledgeable person controlling how much of a shock is going through these wires. Just one small slip with these sort of things can be fatal. I will never again participate in this race, even though I had fun, because there is just too much risk in having a course designed to shock wet, muddy people. The participation price was high, there weren’t enough shuttles (initially), there was no water, and some of the zombies were a bit out of control (aside from grappling with the one, I also had my butt grabbed and I’m pretty sure it wasn’t an accident). Again, it was fun, but there were just too many negatives, mostly the electrical shocks, to do it again.

I have my medal and my memories. I got to spend time with some really cool people. I got a great workout. And I have mud that I still can’t get out from under my fingernails. I also have 4 flags even though I only started with 3.

Run for Your Lives is fun, but one should really weigh those risks.




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