I’ve never enjoyed running.

And I’ve tried to enjoy it. I joined a running club, I got new shoes, I downloaded a tracking app. I feel like a resolution failure; I plan to make a habit of running during the winter, only to opt for greener pastures in fair weather like paddling & biking.

My physical fitness has always been fine. My cardio has been consistently better than my strength. I mean, I could run to save my life, but that’s the end of my motivation.

April 2012: The only 5k race I’ve ever signed up for.

I hitchhiked to the starting line. As with all things that involve running, I was very poorly prepared.

In the back of a stranger’s car, we entered the gates of the compound. This race was taking place on the grounds of Kingseat Hospital & psychiatric institution, one of the most haunted sites in New Zealand, and current home of Spookers Haunted Attraction Scream Park.

Welcome to ‘Run for Your Freak’n Life’ – a 5k obstacle course set in the zombie apocalypse.

All participants get a belt with 5 tags attached. These are your ‘lives’. The zombies will be trying to take your flags. The goal is to finish the race alive.

The runners start altogether, but before you even notice, everyone is separated. You know how when you’re watching a movie, & you think you would make smarter decisions? Everything happens all at once.

One second ago, I was crawling through the mud under a rope net with zombies hissing & arms reaching in from the sides. Next thing I knew, I was running through the woods alone. The only sounds my feet padding on the ground, my heavy breathing & my heartbeat pounding (did I mention I’m not a good runner?) There are screams in the distance.

My mind is clear. Only survival.

At some point I band together with a group of people. We rely on each other like we’ve always been together. There’s a clearing in the bush. No one wants to be the first to cross it. The “tough guy” who has more tags than the rest of us, volunteers. I’m not making this shit up!

Then there was the corn maze. I was navigating up front when there were screams behind me. Run-run-run – right into a dead end, with my ragtag crew hot on my tail. Trapped! That’s where the chainsaw zombie got us, & the one time I actually screamed.

People are getting picked off, you’re jumping over people & leaving them behind as sacrifice. These were once your friends, right?

The zombies are horrifying. They are so convincing – howling, screeching, & never breaking character. I even came across one who was outside a dilapidated old shack. I stopped when I rounded the corner a little ways off, so I was hoping he didn’t hear me. I stood there watching him for 30 seconds or so. He was thrashing against the side of the building, like he got mindlessly caught there & didn’t think to turn around. Until he spun around & locked eyes with me. His eyes were white.

I may have peed a little bit.

There was also manoevering through tires, straight up diving over haybales & wading through some kind of thick stream looking up at the zombies on the banks above.

I also couldn’t stop laughing at the end. What a freaking rush. Is this what a runner’s high feels like?

This was just a drill. I have evidence that if & when the zombie apocalypse comes to fruition, I am dead. You think you’re ready? Really? I did end up surviving, but I thought I’d do better than I did. I’m going to stretch more often now, just in case.

See? I can enjoy running. I can even run to save my life.