I heard about the Zombie Evacuation Race a while back and I was in two minds about whether the idea of running away from people dressed as zombies in a forest would work. ZER is a game with which you are issued a belt attached with three velcro life tags. You need to run the the 5k route and have at least one life tag left to win and be awarded with a 'survivor,' tag. If lose all your tags you will receive an 'infected,' tag instead at the end of the race. You have two sign up options, pay to race or volunteer as a zombie. In my opinion they should be paying these volunteers, but it seems plenty of people are happy enough to do so.
The fact that they said 'We do have electrified obstacles in our repertoire,' was a complete turn off. (Since then I've gone through a Tough Mudder event with electric obstacles and it was the part I disliked most). A year after hearing about ZER my friend Vinay mentioned he was really up for this event. Luckily at that point I'd forgotten about ZER with their electrifying tendencies and ended up organising a team to head down to Pippingford Park.
Signing up. (plus ramblings I just need to get out of my system)..
I signed up team 'Scream At My Face,' with 11 people for this race and had to pay everything upfront. There are benefits to the upfront sign up by one person, as if there's a cut off point it makes people cough up and commit early. However it does create a lot more work for the person recruiting the individual team. Me.
A few weeks after signup the event organisers changed the date and venue. At this point I had a couple of questions and there were plenty of unanswered queries on their Facebook page. They were probably figuring out the logistics but people felt they were left in the dark. If it was their inaugural event I'd had been very dubious. Online I've seen some positive reviews of this event and in the real world I've seen people wearing their shirts so I gave them the benefit of the doubt. A related charity organiser reassured us on Facebook that the event was going ahead and the new venue was much better....
It took them a long time to get back in contact with us by email. (tut tut tut, the email was sent with everyone's email address' copied in. You just don't do that). The email confirmed that all starting times and details for us remained the same, only the venue and date had changed.
By the time I got answers a few more friends were keen to get in on the action. The thing is this time the sign up system had completely changed. It said I had already signed up with my current email address, so I had to create a new email address to register the new group. The new system had a nicer look about it but was still flaky. We were suppose to 'check-in,' to complete registration but an error came up saying 'Unable to find a category for your age and gender (Dob: ###### - Gender: M). Please check your profile.' I sent some emails but had no reply from ZER or Trumin(who run the event management software). ZER have no contact number but I was able to call Trumin who reassured me that ZER need to confirm details of category classifications which they'll do in a few weeks and for me to try again with the check-in then. It was well over a month by the time we were able to finish registration. (There was no communication on when we were able to do this).
Next point. The first group wasn't assigned to any wave even though we had confirmation of our start time. Therefore one of our members didn't manage to check-in in time, which resulted with him checking into a later slot. As it turns out he could have sneaked into our wave as nobody was policing our numbers.
I don't want to sound all negative but as I was the person collecting money from my friends, they were trusting me, they were looking to me for information. So I felt bad when I couldn't answer their questions.
There was no warm up. Having done a few run events now I've come to expect a group warm up prior getting ready. Not the case here. It's my fault to just make this assumption but I think they should have advise us to do our own warm up at least. (unless we missed some announcement).
A staff member in character of an army personnel made the rules and safety briefing fun and lighthearted. He led the start of the run with another marshal running with a smoke flare to create a haze, adding to the atmosphere.
As with all races there's a little bit of a bottleneck at the beginning. Although I think we were quite content with the safety of the others surrounding each other. Our group ended up splitting into two groups quite early on as we all mixed in.
I found a hat along route and contemplated using it as some kind of zombie decoy. My friend Wayne insisted on wearing it instead.
Part of the rules is that if you find any discarded life tags you are allowed to pick them up and use them. So when I picked up a tag I was ecstatic to discover it was in fact two life tags! There are only room for three life tags on my belt so I had no choice but to put them in my pocket. Probably a bit of a grey area with this as you're not suppose to hide any tags, but if there's no room....
Apparently there's blue syringe somewhere on the course that would give you immunity regardless of your lifelines at the end. We didn't come across this. I nearly ran over to a blue plastic bottle though!
One of the obstacles seemed a little sketchy with a network of barbed wire to duck under. I probably felt the least safe here.
At a ditch crossing people seemed to be taking their time, this quickly changed when someone pointed out that we had three zombies on our tail! People began screaming.
One point Andy had his tag snatched which dropped to the floor. I managed to swipe it off the floor at which the zombie congratulated me for, but very skilfully he managed to nab one of my tags in the process. The compliment was repaid.
Unfortunately Elisabeth was the first to lose all her tags. However I do have a feeling she was secretly relieved as now the zombies no longer have a reason to chase her. In fact she began enjoying her new role as an angel guardian (or lollipop lady) blocking the undead from us, to the annoyance of some of them.
Towards the end the crowd had dispersed somewhat. Wayne and I tried to recruit other people to storm the zombies together. It seemed like the best tactic as this gave us better odds of making it through with our tags intact.
There were a few roads to cross but staff were on hand to block the cars. Staff were either in character as military, or oddly a zombie where you weren't sure if you were to thank them or not!
Before the penultimate task we had to run through a poorly lit section of the stadium, only the exit at the end was gleaming. I guess the most worrying thing was tripping up as we really couldn't see anything in there having come from bright daylight. Looking back at it now my GoPro probably gave away my position too with it's flashing red light. I made it through luckily.
The image on the right was captured on my camera. I don't even remember seeing this tunnel monster!
Once we made it out there were a few inflatable obstacles for good measure. At this point I still had five tags. I distributed them between the team.
The final task was to run the length of the rugby pitch with a gauntlet of zombies. I think this was a great finale with spectators able to cheers on everyone. This was exciting to partake and equally as fun to watch. I lost one life before reaching the end of the pitch. As we regrouped we were checking to see who was still 'alive.' To our surprise Elisabeth who had no tags came walking up to us with one tag. She explained one of the zombies looked confused as to why she wasn't running, so Elisabeth said she 'was one of them now!' The zombie laughed and gave her tag.
We had plenty of life tags at the end so we gave our remaining to two other ladies who were very grateful.
As we climbed through the gateway we were presented with our survivor tag. We got a tshirt which was of a decent quality. Plus people from Urban Fruit were handing out a load of their products. I was going to save some for later but I seemed to have consumed the lot right away, much appreciated!
It was a shame the initial sign up was a bit of a mess, but that's something that can be worked out for next time. Overall the Zombie Evacuation Race was a great event and the day itself was very well organised. I was glad none of the electric obstacles made a show. ZER was one of the few events which you feel like you've earn't your finisher memento. I think the game worked pretty well but once you've lost all your tags it does seem like you're in 'God mode,' and could walk straight through the whole course. (You can still race in order to get a good 5k track time).
The only request would have been a secure bag drop, whilst there was an area to leave things it was however unmanned. Fortunately a few friends drove so we left our bags in their car.
Everyone had a great day at the Allianz Stadium and there were talks of coming back again, perhaps as the undead....
"Any tips, reviews and advice are my own opinions and are not to be taken as professional view points. The information on this site is what has worked for me and is here for guidance only, but I hope you gain insight into the various activities I partake in." Jonathan Chen