While the blog’s zombie content has dwindled in the last few years, I still love the genre. As it happens, I also like running – or rather, jogging. When the opportunity arose to combine these two, how could I possibly miss it? I didn’t.
If zombies and jogging sounds like a familiar idea, you may have run into the game Zombies, Run! (see my review here) which is basically an audio adventure you listen to while running, and has zombies chasing you at random times meaning you have to pick up your pace. Well, Zombierun Finland was basically this but as a live action version: a group of runners sets off for an approximately five kilometre run, with the route infested with zombies of both the shambling and the running variety. Every runner has three “lives” represented by plastic streamers attached to their clothing, and the zombies try to grab these streamers. If a runner loses all of their lives, it’s game over for them.
A group of six from our kung fu school entered as a team (“The Rage Monkeys”). The happening was advertised as a combination of exercise and pop culture experience, and it most certainly was. It was a warm day and it had rained earlier, so it really turned out to be a sweaty evening. I wasn’t just because of the weather, though…
Zombierun Finland was mostly an excellent event. There were some glitches with the biggest being the whole group running off-route before the organizers managed to turn the runners in the right direction. Some runners lost all their lives very early in the run, which was obviously a letdown for them. However, considering that it was a fairly large, first time event produced by volunteers, it was very well executed! The zombies had excellent makeup and props, as you can see from the photos. This really added a lot to the feel of the event.
With the glitches dealt with, on to the good stuff. For me the absolute best thing about the event was the way it created many of the things I love in the genre. The whole run started with a very authentic mass panic. I think a fair few people were expecting an easy start with the zombies steadily trickling in along the way. I know I was. Instead the horde attacked us right off the bat and it was full-on chaos. I was just going along with the crowd when it started parting and it seemed there were zombies everywhere. People were screaming, zombies were moaning…awesome! When we got our group together a few hundred metres later, there was a genuine “is everyone ok? Did you lose any streamers?” dialogue very much in the vein of “did anyone get bitten?”
There were plenty of other genre moments. The slowly starting panic as a runner zombie attacked a large group from behind and created a sort of stampede where you couldn’t see who’s a zombie and who’s a human runner. That was very much 28 Days/Weeks Later. There was the solidarity between strangers in the lull between attacks (“So, where are you from? Man, I was expecting something far easier…”), the cruel logic of letting the runners in front of you distract the zombies to allow you to pass, the tired desperation of not wanting to run another step and seeing zombies up ahead and that feeling turning time and time again into determination to survive. At one point I was genuinely happy to catch up with my two remaining teammates and we had a great “so we’re the last ones alive?” moment.
For me a memorable moment was one near the end of the run, when we entered an abandoned factory. It was dark inside, and I made the mistake of staring into a bright window for a moment, causing a blinding afterimage to obscure most of my vision. Through the afterimage I could vaguely make out zombies shambling in the dimly lit room, adding a good touch of genuine panic to my escape.
So, how did I do? Fairly well, although I didn’t survive. Like plenty of others, I met my end in the murderous final room of the factory – a small enclosed space with too many of the undead. Of our team of six, only one made it to the end alive. Afterwards, with no need to run anymore, we sat at the end zone sweaty, tired, happy and fake-bloody, munching on the donuts, apples and canned pineapple chunks provided by the organizers. Not a bad way to spend time with your friends.
All in all, it was an awesome, fun evening and a really memorable experience. I’m really looking forward to attending next year, and maybe helping the organizers to make it even better. If any of the organizers are reading this, a huge thank you from both me and our whole team for creating such an event and doing a great job with it!
Here’s a bunch of photos lifted (with permission) from the event’s Facebook group. I hope they manage to convey some part of what made Zombierun Finland 2014 great. You can click on any image for a larger version – they open in a new tab. The second photo has our team, clad in black. Yours truly can be seen in the back, entering the underpass.
Photos by Matti Tervonen:
Photos by Ritva Savonsaari:
Photos by Anna Eskelinen: