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This weekend I flew down to Baltimore to take part in the inaugural Run For Your Lives 5K, a zombie infested obstacle course about an hour north of Baltimore. I left after work Friday night and despite my love for third rate airlines arrived ahead of schedule even after departing late. I don’t think I will ever get tired of seeing the world from an airplane, especially at night. Besides Boston and New York City, I was able to see Atlantic City, where I had recently been for a bachelor, party from high above. I was greeted at the airport by my friends Katie, who drove from New Jersey, and Noelle, who came all the way up from North Carolina. After checking in to our hotel (the fantastically ancient Wyndham Peabody Court, where they have a designated up and down elevator) and grabbing a late night meal, we woke up at 5:30, out the door by 5:50 and on our way to survive the zombie apocalypse.
We drove up to Darlington, MD where the race took place, only hitting a bit of traffic before arriving at some beautiful farmland and rolling countryside. The parking for the race was in the midst of a cornfield, that despite us being one of the first arrivals was already rutted and muddy, with cars getting stuck. Roughly 10,000 people signed up for this, the first of a series of zombie themed races occurring throughout this year and next. It was obvious the organizers did not anticipate this number of people signing up as they were grossly overwhelmed on all spectrums. First off, they neglected to stock the bathrooms with toilet paper. Then, they had only a small number of school buses ferrying people from parking to the event. Amazingly, everyone had self organized an orderly line for the buses to pick them up. However, the buses bypassed the start of the line, went to the back and loaded up. This happened a second time, and anarchy nearly gripped the crowd until we took to the streets like Tiananmen Square to stop the buses and inform them of the runner’s self-imposed order. Our wave time was set to run at 8:30, we got on the bus at 8:15, but were fortunately informed that due to the level of confusion that was rapidly growing, all races had been postponed. After checking in, sneaking Noelle in, and grabbing our gear (which included a flag belt — the flag belt acted as your health. If the zombies tore off all three flags during the course of the race, you became a ‘zombie’ yourself.) Katie and I funneled in to a staging area that looked vaguely like a bunker. We were surrounded by people in zombie gear, hunting equipment, Ronald McDonald, Wendy, and the King (Fast Food), and ordinary runners. Around 9:00 they let us loose and we started out for the course. The first obstacle was a wall of hay bales about 30 feet tall. Beyond us was a wall of zombies waiting for us to dart past them. I immediately lost a flag and thought this was going to be a rough race. Due to the number of participants and the relatively thin course, we were slowed to a walk between many obstacles. Along the way we had to scramble through pipes, climb a rope ladder (where the zombies positioned themselves underneath to grab flags during the slow climb – I call that cheating), navigate a maze, and then – and then, we had to swim across a frigid pond that seemed prime to have leaches in it. The opposite side of the pond was a 6 foot wall of mud one had to scramble up. We were the third wave, and already the course was a muddy, slippery, slidey disaster. I can only imagine what conditions later waves endured, as the heats went on into the evening. We scaled an immense hill, tackled some hurdles, and had to wade through another ‘blood’ filled pool before hitting the final stretch. The zombies throughout the middle portion of the course were a bit lethargic. But, by the end they were downright aggressive. I think they realized how many people still had most, if not all, of their flags, and decided to take it to another level. I still had my two remaining flags at this point, when a zombie went all out to grab mine– I just tucked my arms down to my side to pin the flags and darted around in circles until I was away from the undead threat. Katie and I finished the course in just over a half an hour. Not too bad for casually walking and running and avoiding hordes of the walking and lunging dead.
After finishing we tried to find Noelle at our designated meeting spot. However, she was nowhere to be found. Growing worried, we wondered if she had been kicked out for sneaking in without paying. Katie and I wandered around cold and wet becoming increasingly concerned before we found her at the finish line, where she had completely missed our finish. We grabbed our free beer at 10:00 in the morning, a refreshing Natty Boh, and then headed back to the car after successfully surviving the onslaught. The traffic for people waiting to get to the venue was four miles long, according to some posts I’ve seen people waited up to three hours in traffic. I’m positive by the next event, and certainly by next May when they invade Boston, the organizers will have this down to a science and everything will run much more smoothly. While many were incensed and frustrated by the level of disorganization, all I have to say to them is: come on people! This was about having a good time, not running a hyper-competitive race!
On the drive back to Baltimore, I was able to satisfy my Sheetz quota for the year – for those of you that
don’t know, Sheetz is similar to a Wawa or a Quick Check – a gas station that also serves made-to-order fast food. Sheetz was a staple of any Gettysburg College graduate’s diet for the four years they were there. And much like Stine Lake, the cupola, and Musselman Library, a Sheetz elicits fond and profound memories. Once back at the hotel, I promptly passed out as Katie and Noelle showered. However, once roused, we went down to inner harbor, grabbed some lunch where the restaurant we were eating at ran out of Yuengling! A crime against humanity if there ever was one! The rest of the afternoon was spent hanging out with Occupy Baltimore hula-hooping, wandering over to the sketchy end of Baltimore (I know what you’re thinking, isn’t all of Baltimore sketchy? Not always – Mount Vernon resembled Beacon Hill, which was where our hotel was located) so Katie could add to her tattoo collection. While in Africa she got two tattoos: one of an elephant symbol and another of the outline of the continent of Africa with a footprint located where she was in Swaziland. This tattoo, however, was of a four leaf clover with a ladybug that as a yin-yang for its shell. This is to celebrate Katie’s unnatural ability to unearth four leaf clovers. That night, we ate at a restaurant called Alewife. When we walked in, the host was wearing a Lord Hobo jacket, this is one of my favorite bars in Cambridge located in Kendall Square. I asked whether he had been there. His response was not only had he been there, he owned the place! He now has three restaurants, two named Alewife (the other is located in Queens, NY) and then Lord Hobo. There was supposed to a half hour wait to get a table, but after talking about Lord Hobo for a few minutes, we were immediately seated. As with Lord Hobo, Alewife had a fantastic beer list (I will forgive them for being out of Troegs Scratch 44) and the food was great as well. Given our early morning, we were done with dinner and drinks and in bed by 10:00. I flew out early the next morning, arriving in Boston for my birthday with enough time to have a great brunch at the Cognac Bistro with a friend and have another fantastic dinner with my sister and Peter that night.
And that ends my whirlwind birthday weekend of friends, celebrations, and zombie assaults! To everyone that wished me a happy birthday, thank you all very much!