This past Saturday, I participated in the Survive Alexandria Zombie Apocalypse. Sounds ridiculous? Yes. Stupid? Possibly. A ton of fun? Absolutely.
So what does the zombie apocalypse entail, you may ask? Let's start from the top, shall we?
The Survive Alexandria idea was conceived by the founders of the Urban Evolution gym in Alexandria, VA. The gym specializes in some of the more "adventurous" training aspects and parkour - a style of running that includes treating obstacles as part of your run - jumping over fences, benches, barricades, navigating new routes, etc. The idea for the apocalypse was to play a giant game of zombie tag through the city of Alexandria. Zombie tag, as you may recall from your childhood, is where someone is it, then tags another person (who also becomes it) and hunts more people to join them - spreading the it virus until it has engulfed the entire population. Kind of like a zombie apocalypse.
Last year, apparently 1000 people came. This year, the number was capped at 450 people, supposedly. The event cost $25 to participate - certainly a fair amount for an evening of fun. Some of the money went to administration and supplies, but the majority went to charity. So, some quick math says that $25 times 450 people... raised quite a lot of money for such a seemingly ridiculous event.
So, back to the game. Upon arrival, you were given a Survival Kit with a map, "zombie whistle" (aka swag promoting the gym), a reversible armband, a pencil, an emergency water pouch, a stick of gum <?>, a glowstick and your "brains" token. Every "human" has a brain token and starts the race with the blue side of their reversible armband showing. This signifies human. When you are turned into a zombie, you must give your brain token to the zombie while he records your registration number. You also must flip your armband to red, as you, too, are now a zombie. At the end of the day, the person who either survives the apocalypse (and doesn't get turned into a zombie) wins, and there is also a winner for the zombie with the most brain tokens.
Did I mention the zombie hunters? They were thrown in there to help even the score against the enclosing armies of zombies, armed with NERF guns with which to shoot zombies and claim their brain tokens. Oh, and it starts out with 450 humans and a "small number" of zombies (25) and zombie hunters (also 25). Got it? Good.
Let's start off by saying that I did this with another friend. We're 25 years old and looked for something a bit out of the ordinary to do. In line for registration were folks ranging from about age 13 to 40 or so, some in full costumes. We saw ninjas, Spiderman, some amazing zombie costumes, full camouflage gear, etc. We imagined that 80 percent of participants still likely lived in their parents' basements.
That said, this event was great. I don't care how old we were - this was some of the most fun I have had in a long time. Everyone loves to act like a kid again, and a giant game of themed tag - with costumes, no less - was icing on the cake.
The course was enormous - it stretched throughout all of Old Town Alexandria. Though our adventure was clocked at 3.3 miles, this included bouts of sprinting, some walking, a lot of back-and-forth across streets, etc. that were not included when mapping.
So, how did it go? The competition started at 7pm, probably more like 7:15. The city was broken down into six zones, where each zone had two or three safe zone check points for humans. Humans were supposed to check in at check points in all six zones, then cross the finish line without being turned into a zombie. Exact locations of the check points were a mystery, though the course gave a rough idea as to where they were - think a two block by two block areas. Find the check point, have the staff member stamp your map as acknowledging your arrival, then move on to the next point.
The start of the event was like a scene out of a movie - it was, quite literally, 450 people sprinting in opposite directions out from the starting point. We took our time, conserving energy until we needed to run from zombies. Check point 1, no problem. We then had to travel through a popular dining area (the waterfront by the Torpedo Factory, for those familiar with the area), and quite a few people wondered why we were creeping around, wearing matching arm bands, dashing through crowds of people on a Saturday night. Sometimes we explained, sometimes we didn't. Check point 2 achieved.
By check point 3, we started to suspect that we had taken a less-popular route through the city. There were few other humans on our jaunt and no zombies thus far. At this point, we were offered an armed "escort" through a part of the course by a zombie hunter, who carry the only tangible defense against the zombies. Though we appreciated the offer, we opted to stay on our waterfront route, remaining in apparent anonymity.
At this point, we received text messages from the coordinators of the race. They alerted runners and zombies as to "hot" locations of activity along the way; thankfully the first update was that the infestation had consumed one of the Zone 1 check points, which we were far beyond. Whew.
Shortly thereafter, we linked up with another human. He said his entire group had gotten cornered in an alley by a zombie and he somehow escaped, but the rest of his friends were turned to the other side of the grave. We worked together to try to find the check point in Zone 4, but were struggling to pinpoint the location. Along the way, we turned a corner, and our new friend saw one of his former compatriots, and we took off in a dead sprint in the opposite direction. Soon thereafter, we learn that he escaped the zombies earlier as well and was still human. All was well.
As we continue our quest for Zone 4's check point, a zombie started the chase from a side street, the four of us scatter. Two guys escape. My original partner ran into a dead-end and got cornered by two zombies, only to be turned to the dark side. I got chased by one, outran him, but promptly ran right into another zombie. The deeper into the race you go, the greater advantage the zombies have. What was once eight humans had become first four-and-four, then six zombies to two people. Our mortal existence ended around 7:40pm.
We continued on the course, searching for humans but to no avail. We eventually ran back into the two guys we had paired with earlier, but by this point, the zombie count had amounted to a group of 10 to 12 of us. The humans stood no chance.
And, unfortunately, those were the last humans we saw. We called it a night at 8:15 at the finish line, tired but satisfied, having survived as both human and zombie. And everyone we encountered, too, was a zombie. At the finish, it was reported that no humans had survived to that point. As per the scenario, I doubt anyone survived at all, though I am merely speculating.
Still, the game was exhilarating, physical and adventurous. It took planning, mapping out a course and the strategy to outrun a zombie where appropriate. The lasting image in my head is watching down a side street as one human gets chased by 10 zombies, and every zombie who sees this immediately jumping into the action. It was like a scene from the ...of the Dead movies.
This was a ton of fun, a really interesting - if not slightly ridiculous - way to spend a summer evening. And hey, it was for charity, right?
Published On: August 22, 2011