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Preparing for a Zombie 5K Run

Updated on September 26, 2012

Zombie 5k Obstacle Course

Giant Slip and Slide into Pool of Mud at Run for Your Lives Pittsburgh
Giant Slip and Slide into Pool of Mud at Run for Your Lives Pittsburgh | Source

Zombie Infested 5k Course

Preparing to run any 5k should start weeks before race day, but when you are considering a zombie 5k, there are some specific things you should do to prepare for the attack of the undead. Run for Your Lives zombie 5k is one of the most popular races that is held in cities all over North America. After running the race myself in Pittsburgh, PA, here are some tips for others that feel the urge to run for their lives!

How to Prepare to Run 3.1 Miles

The Mayo Clinic offers a great 7 week running plan for beginners which involves running and walking. I highly recommend this plan since the zombie 5K involves a lot of stop and go running. If you can already run 3.1 miles at a good pace, it might be a good idea to try running and walking it since it is impossible to RUN the entire 5k obstacle course. The only way you will be able to get a good overall finish time, is to be able to sprint at some parts and walk fast through other areas.

Every runner is different, so it is hard to say for sure what a good time would be for running 3.1 miles. Age, gender, and the course itself all play into timing. Most runners will tell you to try to beat your own best time each time you run a race. I am a female in my mid-30s and I run a mile three times a week usually under 10 minutes. Prior to running the zombie 5k, I ran 3.1 mile courses (both flat and with hills). My best time was 32 minutes, but that was not running with other people. I did run a small 2.2 mile race with people a few months before the Zombie 5k and did that in 20-25 minutes. So, prior to the Run for Your Lives race, I decided that a good time for me would be under 50 minutes.

Funny Sayings for Homemade Shirts

  • 'Eat Skittles' and have your friend wear a shirt that says "Hi, my name is Skittles"
  • No Brains Hear
  • 'Eat That' with arrow pointing to someone else
  • Got Brains?
  • Males: 'women taste better'/Females: 'men taste better'

What to Wear to a Zombie 5k

Here are some suggestions for things to wear. Keep in mind your clothes will be muddy and ripped by the time you are done, so do not wear any of your expensive running clothes.

  • Skeletoes running shoes or trail running shoes
  • a t-shirt you made yourself with funny zombie sayings
  • zombie-like outfit
  • outfits that match characters in famous zombie movies
  • tighter, quick dry clothes are the best

DO NOT WEAR........

  • hats
  • loose clothing that can get caught on obstacles
  • new sneakers
  • expensive clothes

Things to take with to the Zombie 5K

Make sure you have these things with you for before and after the race:

  • cash for parking, food and drinks
  • backpack with a change of clothing
  • second pair of clean shoes and socks
  • two towels
  • wet wipes
  • bug spray and sunscreen
  • camera
  • FRIENDS...a zombie 5k is more fun if you go with a group


What is a good race time for a zombie 5k obstacle course?

During the Run For Your Lives race, runners wear three velcro tags on belts that zombies try to pull off as you run by. If you finish with at least one life tag you go to the alive area and can win awards if you are a top time alive finisher. Only about 20% of the runners finish alive. Everyone else goes to the dead area and gets a participation medal and shirt. The participation medal is the same for alive and dead finishers. Zombies get more aggressive near the end of the race and running with a group of people can help, but you are not allowed to tuck your tags or fight zombies off, so it is very hard to finish the race with a life tag.

Based on online race results, most people do not finish a zombie 5k obstacle course in less than forty minutes. A good time whether you finish alive or dead would be anything under an hour. I finished my first Run for Your Lives race in 45 minutes and 55 seconds and I was 25th place in my age group and 377th out of over 4000 people. That time was in the top ten percent. Due to the obstacles it is impossible to run the whole race. There are times you will have to walk or climb or go through obstacles and all that slows you down. Before you go to the race pick a target time and if you get done in that time, consider that a good time for you.

Photos of Zombie 5K Obstacles

Click thumbnail to view full-size
this one started with a very steep hill and kept going uphill for about a milegiant slip and slide leads to over 3 feet of muddy waterin the background you will see the black house with fog that has a maze of wires with small electrical shocks as an obstaclelast mile of race is fairly flatafter the race your clothes will be muddy and likely ripped at spots
this one started with a very steep hill and kept going uphill for about a mile
this one started with a very steep hill and kept going uphill for about a mile | Source
giant slip and slide leads to over 3 feet of muddy water
giant slip and slide leads to over 3 feet of muddy water | Source
in the background you will see the black house with fog that has a maze of wires with small electrical shocks as an obstacle
in the background you will see the black house with fog that has a maze of wires with small electrical shocks as an obstacle | Source
last mile of race is fairly flat
last mile of race is fairly flat | Source
after the race your clothes will be muddy and likely ripped at spots
after the race your clothes will be muddy and likely ripped at spots | Source

Possible Obstacles

Every zombie 5k has different obstacles but all of them involve mud, muddy water, crawling, climbing, and some hills. Here are some possible obstacles you may have to deal with. Most of the time zombies are not trying to get your life tag while you are completing the obstacle course, but that may not always be the case.

  • piles of hay bales to climb over and down
  • plywood walls to climb over
  • mazes
  • fences
  • slides
  • giant mud puddles and pools
  • big tree stumps or fallen trees to jump over
  • tires to step in and out of
  • tunnels that require you to crawl through on your belly

Learn the Rules for Fighting Zombies- Watch Zombieland!

What is your favorite zombie movie?

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    • Brainy Bunny profile image

      Brainy Bunny 4 years ago from Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania

      Oh my goodness, I had no idea such things existed! Was it as scary as that video makes it seem, or was it really fun?

    • Natashalh profile image

      Natasha 4 years ago from Hawaii

      This looks awesome! I'd never heard of this before but zombies freak me out and I am a sometimes runner. Sounds perfect!

    • chrissieklinger profile image
      Author

      chrissieklinger 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Brainy Buddy, it was not scary and they did not run after you like that unless you had a lot of tags left near the end. Some people fell and the zombies actually did help them get up. There were areas that you were inside a structure and things squirted at you or bumped you, but all in all it was soooo much fun!!!!

    • chrissieklinger profile image
      Author

      chrissieklinger 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      It was my first 5k and now I can handle anything...I think.... I am not a big zombie person but I did enjoy Shaun of the dead and zombieland and at one point in the race there was a clown zombie like the one in zombieland...it was a little freaky but I did laugh a little as a I ran by. Honestly, the scariest part of the race for me was the giant slip and slide. I do NOT like heights or deep water; I think my heart stopped a little as I went flying down it into the muddy water!

    • angela_michelle profile image

      Angela Michelle Schultz 4 years ago from United States

      The idea of a zombie 5K made me laugh for many reasons. For one, that one exists, two, it is so popular that they do it throughout the US, and three, aren't zombie's slow? I have a lot of friendswho are into running, I'll have to ask them if they have ever gone to one before!

    • chrissieklinger profile image
      Author

      chrissieklinger 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Someone is making a lot of money off a great idea. The one I ran in Pittsburgh had over 4400 people running the course! My husband had to pay $32 to watch. On race day it was $40 for spectators!

    • wilderness profile image

      Dan Harmon 4 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      That DOES sound like fun. I couldn't run a 5K, but it would be fun to watch, too. I'll have to keep an eye open in my area for this.

    • chrissieklinger profile image
      Author

      chrissieklinger 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      My husband 'thought' he couldn't do it either so he just watched and took pictures, but he is doing it next year because it was definitely possible to hike, walk and jog the entire thing. Run for Your Lives hasn't released the 2013 schedule yet, but I honestly would take a flight to one of these races to do it again because it was so much fun!

    • SimeyC profile image

      Simon Cook 4 years ago from NJ, USA

      This looks fun and tiring! We have an annual Zombie walk in Asbury Park, NJ - thousands attend and walk - perhaps they should do a Zombie run too!

    • chrissieklinger profile image
      Author

      chrissieklinger 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      They just released their 2013 schedule; maybe one will be near you :)

    • RunTrainingPlan profile image

      Chris Miller 4 years ago from Raleigh, North Carolina

      I just started running in June and have already completed an 8k and 10k race. A Zombie Run is on my list. I want to do one possibly in the spring along with the Spartan Race.

    • chrissieklinger profile image
      Author

      chrissieklinger 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      The Zombie race will be a breeze for you but make sure you go with friends, it is so much better dying with others!

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