Zombies, Run! is an interactive audio book meets fitness trainer meets game. Having gotten a new phone with a new contract, I have achieved compatibility. Fucking finally. I have been itching to play (listen? do? participate in?) Zombies, Run! since I heard rumor of its existence over a year ago, and the first thing I did with my new tech toy was download both the Zombies, Run! 5k Training and the original Zombies, Run! apps.
The premise of the game is this: your helicopter has crashed in post-apocalyptic zombie territory and you have found your way to a settlement of survivors called Abel and replaced the deceased Runner 5 on their running-scavenging crew. During each 5k training run you become a part of the story as you train with the settlement doctor to prepare to join the runners on their missions outside of the settlement. The main app then gets into the meat of the story with three seasons of episodes for you to run to.
I started with the 5k Training at the advice of Sullivan McPig. I have done a lot of running in my life, but not recently, and McPig told me that the 5k program was geared towards beginners with instructions for when and how fast to run, as well as how to pace yourself and build up speed. It sounded like a good introduction to the game and re-introduction to running. I could hardly wait to get started.
I get bored with running itself quickly; it has always been the after effects of running that I’ve enjoyed (adrenaline rush plus euphoria plus sense of accomplishment plus trim waist). I also tend toward statistical addiction. That is to say, give me stats to track, and I will become obsessively involved in tracking and improving them.
Pre-Zombies, Run, my favorite workout fantasy was always about the apocalypse. There I’d be, running like a fucking hamster on a wheel at the gym (because treadmills make stats easy), imagining sprinting away from zombies, scaling fences, jumping tracks like all the badass heroes of all the badass movie apocalypses. Because otherwise treadmills are fucking hell.
Enter Zombies, Run!, exit treadmill boredom. I haven’t run on the treadmill once since I began. I go running when it is fucking raining, and I am excited about it. I don’t even have to imagine myself into some scene from some movie to get motivated; the world around me is transformed. The movie has come to me, and I am the star. The occasion zombie chase ensues, and I run faster. Fucking brilliant.
Zombies, Run! 5k Training is fucking awesome, but not without issues both technical and temporal. Between story segments music from your phone’s playlist comes on, and sometimes the code that should turn down the music during the next bit of story doesn’t work, i.e. the music continues to blast while the characters talk, and you can’t hear the dialogue. Music comes from a playlist you create beforehand, but if you accidentally put a slow song right where you need a speed pick-me-up, you can’t just skip to the next song mid-mission. For example.
There isn’t much story so far (I’m om week 3, workout 2), just a gradual introduction of characters, a slow build up of atmosphere and back story and potential conflict. It is fun, but it feels a little like Zombies, Run! lite. (Check back after I’ve started the main program though.) Slow and steady. I’m doubling up on missions in order to speed up my arrival at the beginning of the main Zombies, Run! training program, which sounds far more involved, fast-paced, and potentially scary (complete with zombie chase mode!).
I heartily recommend the Zombies, Run! 5k to anyone who has never run before. If you can’t imagine going for a run right now, or maybe fucking ever, but sort of secretly would like to try? This app is for you. If you have experience running, skip the 5k Training, you’ll be fine starting with the main program. I am enjoying the slow introduction, and it is keeping me from overdoing it to the point of hurting myself, but having spent years running four times a week, I’m not the kind of beginning runner this app is written for.
However, it is easy to adapt the workouts to meet your needs, whatever they are. For example, I jog when the story says walk and sprint when the story says run, and that keeps it challenging. Because you can’t die, you don’t have to stick strictly to the audio instructions, so you can enjoy the story while tailoring the work out to meet your needs. Guys I haven’t been motivated to run in years (bikes for the win), and I have run 38 kilometers in the past ten days.
On my very first zombies run, I did 5k. I didn’t even know I could do 5k. I have hurt myself in the past by increasing my running distances by too much too quickly (pro tip: don’t fucking do that), so I tend to be over cautious when starting a new workout program. This time I’m running outside for the first time, in any weather, with a back pack on (not part of the game, but realistic feeling and necessary if I end my workout at the gym where I like to stretch and shower), and I have been averaging 5-fucking-k every run. Miracle app, is what this is.
At home you can load your runs onto the Zombies, Run! website (maps, distance, pace, missions completed) and, rumor has it, when you start the main program you can use the items you collect on your runs to build your virtual zombie terror survival settlement online. If you’re already in, join me here. If you aren’t, get the 5k app for android here and for iPhones here or the main Zombies, Run! app here or here.
I’m already fantasizing about the Running Through the Forest with Warrior Elves version that I want someone to make next.