Whether you're an experienced runner who trains regularly -- or the casual type who only runs between the couch and fridge -- a common trait runs between.
We all run faster when we're chasing something -- or being chased.
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Throw in a little fear, anxiety, adrenaline -- three powerful motivators -- and it can feel as though you're running for your life.
That will be the case on Friday, Oct. 5, when the Fox Valley Park District unleashes the Zombie Invasion 5K at Blackberry Farm. The race starts at 5 p.m. It's one thing to run a 5K, but it's a whole different race when each stride could be your last amid an infestation of zombies and a minefield of obstacles.
"You're not just running … you're running to escape," said race organizer Jaime Ijams. "Zombies will be rising from everywhere like the living dead, and you'll also be dealing with obstacles all around. It's a race for survival."
Three different levels of participation are offered -- racers, zombies and spectators. Racers will be outfitted with a belt containing three flags (think flag football) -- these flags represent life. The goal is to finish with at least one flag, or you will be declared "dead."
Racers will start in waves based on ability level, and from there, it's an odyssey of avoidance as they run, climb, crawl and basically scamper as frantically as possible to escape from a sea of bloodthirsty, flesh-eating, brain-sucking zombies.
Two types of zombies will litter the course. Stumbler zombies are the slow movers there to haunt and horrify racers. Chaser zombies are the attack dogs -- they'll be in hot and heavy pursuit of the racers, like a predator pursuing its prey or -- in this case -- racers with flags.
When racers aren't being chased by derelict zombies, they'll be crawling through mud pits, scaling mounds of dirt, conquering a pyramid of hay bales, dangling from a rope swing and crossing through creeks.
"You're not running the whole time like a traditional 5K, because you'll be confronted with a lot of obstacles that require skill and strategy to overcome," said Ijams. "But you'll be running for your life whenever you see a zombie."
Racers with good stamina and athleticism will be at an advantage, but the ability to think quickly and react just as fast is just as crucial.
Zombies will have their own little cult. Though they'll arrive at Blackberry Farm as normal people, a visit to the Zombie Transformation Station -- where staff and makeup artists work their magic -- will create a community of living dead.
It's a great opportunity to involve friends and family -- for groups of four, each entrant receives a $10 discount off the normal $60 entrance fee. Afterward, the lucky survivors and the freshly resurrected zombies -- those that finish without flags -- will celebrate together at the Zombieland Party in the Park that will include food, beer, wine and karaoke.
Picture a mud-caked zombie singing karaoke to the Grateful Dead -- a fitting night cap to what will be a lively event.
Jeff Long is the public relations manager for the Fox Valley Park District. Visit foxvalleyparkdistrict.org to register for the Zombie Invasion 5K.