Walking Dead Escape: Zombie apocalypse not for the faint of heart

Aug. 02, 2013 | 2:24 p.m.

PERSPECTIVE

As I dragged myself through the Walking Dead Escape — a zombie obstacle course staged during Comic-Con International in San Diego — a line from “Zombieland” played over and over in my mind.

“Rule No. 1 for surviving Zombieland? Cardio,” Jesse Eisenberg’s character explains at the beginning of the 2009 comedy.

Cardio, indeed, I thought as I jogged up four flights of stairs in Petco Park.

As part of a Hero Complex promotion, I had agreed to run the course, based on Robert Kirkman’s “The Walking Dead” comic series, which later spawned the hit AMC show. Our marketing department had secured a dozen spots in the zombie run, and 10 of our readers were lucky enough to win entry. Places 11 and 12 were reserved for me and my colleague Patrick Day, who ran with a video camera strapped to his head (watch the video above).

Team Hero Complex  before its members run the Walking Dead Escape, an obstacle course staged at Petco Park in San Diego on July 19, 2013. (Jeff Dellinger / For Hero Complex)

Team Hero Complex before its members run the Walking Dead Escape, an obstacle course staged at Petco Park in San Diego on July 19, 2013. (Jeff Dellinger / For Hero Complex)

We met outside Petco Park on Friday evening, most of us already exhausted from a long day at Comic-Con, and were ushered to a table to sign a very long waiver, which included all sorts of gruesome risks, including death. I felt a little like Bilbo Baggins signing his comically long contract at the beginning of “The Hobbit.”

People with megaphones herded us to the gate where the run would begin. More people with megaphones tried to hype the crowd. (I hope that if there ever is a zombie outbreak, the first thing to run out of batteries in our post-apocalyptic world will be megaphones.) While we waited for the event to begin, Patrick recalled watching people cross the finish line at last year’s event. “One guy had a giant, bloody gash in his leg from trying to jump over a table to get away from a zombie,” he told me.

I shuddered, then hatched a plan. I thought of my knee that still clicks when I run, thanks to a particularly bad spill in the nursery school playground. I thought of my ankle, still stiff from when I wrenched it a few weeks back helping someone move. I thought of the bruises on my shins from falling up the stairs at work. Considering my lifelong battle with gravity, the smartest course of action became obvious: Let the zombies tag me, and don’t get injured. These are volunteers in makeup, I told myself. They are not allowed to run. They are not allowed to bite. They cannot hurt me. The only enemy here is myself.

The seventh annual Zombie Walk at Comic-Con boasts more than 500 zombies infiltrating thousands of the living in San Diego's Gaslamp District. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

The Grim Reaper joins the ranks of the undead during the seventh annual Zombie walk at Comic-Con. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

The seventh annual Zombie Walk at Comic-Con boasts more than 500 zombies infiltrating thousands of the living in San Diego's Gaslamp District. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

The seventh annual Zombie Walk at Comic-Con boasts more than 500 zombies infiltrating thousands of the living in San Diego's Gaslamp District. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

The seventh annual Zombie Walk at Comic-Con boasts more than 500 zombies infiltrating thousands of the living in San Diego's Gaslamp District. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Beth Jones tries to eat brains on a stick, held by Raymond Nori. (Kirk McKoy/ Los Angeles Times)

The seventh annual Zombie Walk at Comic-Con boasts more than 500 zombies infiltrating thousands of the living in San Diego's Gaslamp District. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

The seventh annual Zombie Walk at Comic-Con boasts more than 500 zombies infiltrating thousands of the living in San Diego's Gaslamp District. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Ryan Vuletich, left, adds a little theatrical blood to brother Mark Vuletich's eye before joining the Zombie Walk. (Kirk McKoy/ Los Angeles Times)

The seventh annual Zombie Walk at Comic-Con boasts more than 500 zombies infiltrating thousands of the living in San Diego's Gaslamp District. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Andrea Albanez, left, Julia Albanez, Laurianna Carrillo, Laurissa Portillo and Maya Portillo. (Kirk McKoy/ Los Angeles Times)

Giorgio Famiglietti takes a bite out of fellow zombie Jazmine Puentes. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Zombie hunter Tanya Blevins, right, captured Cody Blevins, left, and Kyle Donavan. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

The seventh annual Zombie Walk at Comic-Con boasts more than 500 zombies infiltrating thousands of the living in San Diego's Gaslamp District. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

Zombie hunter Tanya Blevins captures Cody Blevins, left, and Kyle Donavan. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

The seventh annual Zombie Walk at Comic-Con boasts more than 500 zombies infiltrating thousands of the living in San Diego's Gaslamp District. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

The seventh annual Zombie Walk at Comic-Con boasts more than 500 zombies infiltrating thousands of the living in San Diego's Gaslamp District. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

The seventh annual Zombie Walk at Comic-Con boasts more than 500 zombies infiltrating thousands of the living in San Diego's Gaslamp District. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

The seventh annual Zombie Walk at Comic-Con boasts more than 500 zombies infiltrating thousands of the living in San Diego's Gaslamp District. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

It was a modest goal but one that didn’t take into account my competitive streak, or the illogical fear that overcame me each time I encountered a flailing volunteer decked out in bloody rags, yellow contact lenses and prosthetic gore.

I sprinted. I dodged. I faked left, then rushed right. I scraped my knees on the concrete as I crawled through artificial tunnels, leaning away from the edges where zombie arms reached in. I climbed up obstacles and tried not to look down through the widely spaced slats as I walked across them, 10 feet above the ground. I hurried away from a water station where a menacing zombie was lurking, a little too close for comfort.

And then, I ran out of steam. I gasped and limped and nursed a cramp in my side. I thought about all those lunch hours I spent munching carbs and sugar instead of hitting the gym. I saw Patrick and the other Hero Complex runners (they must work out) disappear around corner ahead of me. When I got to the corner, two zombies were waiting. One had red eyes and lumbered aggressively toward me. The other one twitched and shook.

I was trapped. I took a step back. They moved closer.

Just then, a group of “survivors” caught up, and one man made a dash past the undead. As red-eyes fumbled toward him, I ducked past but not quickly enough. Twitchy’s arm grazed my leg. I kept running.

Volunteers wear zombie makeup in the Walking Dead Escape, an obstacle course staged at Petco Park in San Diego on July 19, 2013. (Jeff Dellinger / For Hero Complex)

Volunteers wear zombie makeup in the Walking Dead Escape, an obstacle course staged at Petco Park in San Diego on July 19, 2013. (Jeff Dellinger / For Hero Complex)

The last stretch of the course took me past the observation deck, where my husband and friends cheered for me and shouted warnings about zombies hiding behind broken cars and giant concrete blocks. The run ended in a medical tent, where people wearing lab coats used black-light wands to determine whether we were tagged by zombies.

“You’re clear!” a woman yelled, hurrying me along. Clear? Did they miss the spot on my leg? Behind me, Patrick was told he was infected and ordered to stay back. A woman held a prop gun to his head, fake-executing him in the name of the safety of the United States.

Am I a contaminant threat? I must be immune, I told myself. They’ll use my blood to develop the cure.

I expected to find water bottles and medals or T-shirts at the end of the course, but instead they handed out posters and copies of Robert Kirkman’s “Walking Dead” prequel novel, “Rise of the Governor.” Most of the runners seemed a bit confused.

But the event’s real prize, for me, was a newfound commitment to one of the few things that could actually save me in a zombie apocalypse: cardio.

– Noelene Clark | @NoeleneClark | Google+

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Comments


2 Responses to Walking Dead Escape: Zombie apocalypse not for the faint of heart

  1. Juan says:

    Siiiiick! Just found Hero Complex…man am i glad! time to nerd out! :)

  2. derrick yussuf says:

    how do i sign up to do this

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