People like running over walls and jumping into water pits rather than just looping around a track, sure. But they like zombies even more.
Working Theory Re: America’s Obsession With Zombies #1: There is a large portion of the population frightened by the outgrowth of the non-human institution. Banks, the American government, Facebook, etc. The zombification of the world is a twisted fantasy of total institutional breakdown. Everything is dead, so there’s no longer anything to be controlled. Human life is only characterized by an attempt to maintain humanness. It’s a reversion back to the origins of humanity when being human was the only thing that mattered.
Why will over 75,000 people sign up and pay for the opportunity to run away from and/or dress up as zombies?
Derrick Smith isn’t really sure, but he’s the one who’s giving people an opportunity to imagine they’re being chased by flesh-eating, half-humans when they’re really only being chased by actual, full-people who look like they want to eat your biceps.
Smith, 29, along with Ryan Hogan, a close friend of his, came up with the idea for the Run For Your Lives race series back in the fall of 2010. They wanted to start a small adventure race, similar to something like the Warrior Dash or the Spartan Race. The Walking Dead was somewhere in the middle of its first season, and both were big fans of the show, so they figured why not? It’d be something a little different, but also a way to capitalize on the growing adventure-race trend. They started with a staff of seven people for the first event in October 2011 outside of Baltimore.
Then 12,000 people showed up.
Working Theory Re: America’s Obsession With Zombies #2: Escapism, pure escapism. The economy still can’t get out of its own way. Politics have cleaved the country into two violent, opposing factions. Everything on the news is bad news. And the world is slowly melting away. A world where there’s only one simple problem—half-dead humans trying to eat you—is a world so removed from the complicated issues which trouble today that it both seems realistic and somehow better.
Run For Your Lives works as follows: Participants sign up to be either runners or zombies. Runners are given two flags. They’re then tasked with running a 5k obstacle course race with a two-flag belt. Obstacles are natural, man-made, and, well, man. Zombies are given life-blurring make-up makeovers and then tasked with guarding a certain zone on the course. Some zombies run after you (sorry, zombie purists), and others kind of loaf around like someone without a soul presumably would.
Zombies try to steal flags, and runners try to avoid them. Physical contact isn’t allowed. (“You don’t wanna make physical contact with the zombies because then you’ll become one,” Smith tells runners. Also: “We’ve had to remove a zombie.”) If a runner finishes with at least one flag still intact, he/she has survived and is eligible for a number of post-race prizes. If a runner has no flags at the finish line, then he/she is technically a zombie and therefore ineligible for prizes.