On a calm dark October evening, I’m sprinting as fast as I can along a muddy embankment next to a busy street I’ve never been on before. Oh, and there’s a bloody, rotting zombie chasing me. I slide through some scrimpy twig bushes, dart past an advancing car, get on the sidewalk on the other side of the street, and, when another zombie pops out, hop back into the roadway. Around me, crowds of people, bloodstains on their shirts, run screaming and out of breath from flesh-hungry soulless zombies. Who could be responsible for this madness?
“I hate Halloween, personally,” says Kjersten Salzman, a five-six bleach-blonde super-fit young woman and founder of the Dawn of the Dead Dash, a running race through urban areas in cities of the Pacific Northwest. Unlike a normal 5K, the course is infested with zombies, eager to devour your brains. If a zombie tags you, you become a zombie, too. Only four people ended up safely untagged at the finish of last year’s inaugural dash in Tacoma (Salzman). Before this year’s race, the first in Portland, Kjersten tells me, “This is scary. I’m scared. I wouldn’t want zombies jumping out at me at eight o’clock at night.”
Then why did she create the Dawn of the Dead Dash, a nighttime race near Halloween without a set course in a neighborhood littered with zombies? A few years ago, Kjersten, who owns and runs a fitness studio in Tacoma, received an email about a themed 5K on the East Coast where racers dressed up as zombies.
“It didn’t seem that fun,” Kjersten says, “but it gave me some ideas. I had wanted to make more of a ‘fun’ than ‘run’ event for a while. I thought, ‘I can do it way better than that.’ The typical zombie lover isn’t the typical fitness person. If I can get more people involved in fitness, then I’ll do it.”
* * *
500 zombie lovers wait in the Bossanova Ballroom on a Saturday evening in October, about to get involved in fitness. Scarlet curtains cascade from ceiling to floor in a square-shaped tall room, packed with racers wearing the Dawn of the Dead Dash race shirts– a white t-shirt with a large bloodstain across the belly and the words “I’m fine.” Everyone receives the shirts and a glow stick when they register for the race; anyone wearing the shirt is participating in the race, and people with a glow stick around their necks are still human survivors. Anyone not wearing the glow collar could be a zombie. I study the race map while we wait for Kjersten to announce the rules. The “course” winds through neighborhoods just south of Burnside on Portland’s east side, although it looks like you can take any route you want as long as you hit all three checkpoints and end up back at the Bossanova Ballroom on Burnside between Seventh and Eighth Street.
Since I arrived and registered, all sorts of zombies and humans have filed in to join me. All but one of the zombies is a woman. These women are into it, too, wearing fake bloody skin patches, drawn-on burn wounds, and plenty of green makeup and fake blood. They put some noticeable effort into their costumes.
“This is how Portland does zombies,” says the only male zombie. In addition to the obligatory green makeup, he wears a San Diego Chargers football jersey with “Brees” on the back. Drew Brees hasn’t played for the Chargers since 2005, so I guess the jersey makes him a member of the living dead as much as his makeup does.
Around seven o’clock, after Kjersten sends the zombies out to hide along the course, the racers themselves start to file in. Few of them look like the type of people you’d expect to see at a fall 5K. For starters, half of them are wearing jeans. Why in the world would you run three-plus miles in jeans?
A lot of the runners are prepared to become zombies. Almost half of them already have their zombie faces on. I’m probably the youngest person there, apart from a teenager wearing a black sweatshirt and his jogging-suit-wearing girlfriend. There are a surprising number of doctors, looking like they just got off work, thinking scrubs and medical badges would go well with rotting jawbones. There’s a “Where’s Waldo” zombie, a white-collar reverend zombie, some scantily clad nurse zombies, and a lady wearing creepy contact lenses that make her eyes seem all white.
Two grey-bearded men and a young woman wear what seem to be these loose-fitting, bright white spacesuits. They’re from the Centers for Disease Control, which is the charity beneficiary of the Dawn of the Dead Dash (according to the back of the “I’m fine” shirt). The CDC has always been associated with zombies, because some zombie movies blame the CDC for creating a rampant disease bringing corpses back to life (Campbell).
Many road races these days donate a generous portion of their profits to charity. A 5K race benefiting the Special Olympics in New York features zombies trying to pull flags off runners, like a zombie-themed continuously running game of flag football (De La Rocha B1). At the Hairy Gorilla Half Marathon in Albany, New York, racers pick up as many bananas as they can along the 13.1-mile course to support the HIV program at Albany Medical Center (De La Rocha B1). The Warrior Dash is a 5K obstacle course through a mud pit, attracting 15,000 racers in Portland and raising over $1 million for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital (Baron). Hero Rush is a firefighting 5K experience created for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (Hero Rush). New themed road races have sprung up all over the country in recent years. Themed races are becoming popular as a way of getting people who wouldn’t normally run to participate in something that doesn’t seem like a run.
Kjersten agrees that sometimes fitness needs to be in disguise to attract a broader audience. “I know that fitness goals, big or small, are challenging,” she says. “What we want to do is make fitness fun again.” Kjersten’s Tacoma studio, Elev8 Fitness, mostly attracts late 20s to mid 40s women who used to exercise, who used to be on sports teams, and want to get some of that back.
“Guys don’t seem to like a little blonde girl making you vomit,” she says. Kjersten is adamant that Elev8 isn’t a gym; it’s a fitness studio. “It’s just four walls and a floor,” she says. Clients at Elev8 use the human body to do the work, and Kjersten describes their style as “cross-fit without the heavy lifting.” In her fifth year of leading workouts at Elev8, Kjersten takes pride in the fact that she’s never done the same workout twice.
“I never want people thinking, ‘crap, I have to go to the gym,’” Kjersten says. “I never want to single anyone out, so I make everything based on time more than repetitions.”
* * *
After shuffling down the stairs, watch running, I take a sharp left to exit the building. Everyone else goes right, but the empty streets might offer a faster run. And make me a lone target for zombies. Safety in numbers, I decide, doubling back to catch the crowd pouring out of the brown brick building. The streets seem oddly empty for this time of night so close to downtown, and without a car in sight, most of the racers run straight down the middle of the road. Kjersten told us to take Ankeny Street to get to the first checkpoint – so I blow past Ankeny and hang a left on Ash.
“Let’s follow this guy. He seems like a good runner.” The teenager in the black sweatshirt starts to jog along beside me, followed by his girlfriend. They introduce themselves as Kevin and Audrey as we glide down the dark Ash sidewalks. The youngest trio in the race, Kevin, Audrey, and I pass hordes of other glow-collar-clad runners as we near the first checkpoint. Tree branches and parked cars and trashcans and street signs, all are dark shadows rushing by against the deep blue backdrop of the evening sky. Running at night can be exhilarating. At 16th Avenue, I check my watch. We’ve gone almost a mile in eight minutes – a relaxed pace for me, but Kevin and Audrey are beginning to labor. Eight minutes. The zombies were released three minutes ago….
A sign for Buckman Elementary flashes in a runner’s headlamp. I motion for Kevin and Audrey to follow me to the right, towards a pitch black blanket of space I assume is a field and the checkpoint. A chain link fence surrounds the whole field, but there’s a gap right near the school building, so we start to – I stop in my tracks. Two women step out from behind cars on either side of the gate. Could these be the first zombies of the epidemic yet to come? They start to groan at the passing runners, and proceed to crack up with laughter.
“I guess we’ll take the long way around the field,” I tell Audrey and Kevin, as we calmly jog around the zombies. The fence doesn’t have another gap until two blocks later, on the opposite side of the field. A string of jogging humans, glow sticks reflecting red off their race shirts, file into the field towards the dimly lit checkpoint. I find a volunteer, extend to her my race number, and she swipes a blood-smeared finger over the “checkpoint 1” mark. The watery juice runs down my number, not showing up at all, and I ask her to do it again. The second time it leaves a faint pink stain over number 1 that runs down into number 2. The woman turns to mark another racer. Good enough.
Kevin and Audrey, blood-marked as well, stand panting, hands on their hips. I weigh my options; go on ahead, alone, to beat the crowds and possibly the zombies? Or hang back with the group to avoid being the only zombie target? Lots of people are already starting back towards the gap in the fence, so I follow suit and start to jog. Kevin and Audrey catch up to me, asking if I know where to go next. The map says to take Stark all the way east to 26th, where checkpoint two sits on the edge of Lone Fir Cemetery. That plan goes out the door as a zombie runs through the intersection, herding the now slightly thinner crowd to the right, off of Stark Street.
Audrey pulls out her map and we stop under a dim streetlight. A shadow slips out from behind a car in front of us. Alarms go off in my head. “Right there,” I say, pointing between Kevin and Audrey. The roughly 30-year-old woman is dressed as a WWII-era soldier, complete with a green-brown beret, an eye socket painted black, and strings of sinew peeling from her cheek. We turn around, only to see two screaming middle-aged ladies running from a woman in a white dress, rotten flesh exposing her lower jawbone. I take my chances with the soldier zombie. I look her in the eye, over the hood of a 90s sports car, and smile. It’s probably more of a haughty smirk, but it gets her attention. I lurch to my right. She takes a step to her left. Kevin and Audrey run around the car to the left, down the road. I have a sudden vision of myself climbing over the roof of the car and jumping over the woman’s head. Wait a second. This is a 5-foot tall lady wearing high heels. I break to my left, sprinting down the middle of the street in the direction Kevin and Audrey went. The zombie soldier has no chance.
We turn east onto Morrison Street, which runs along the South edge of Lone Fir Cemetery. We aren’t the only ones veering from the map. The street is dotted with runners decked out in bloodstained shirts and glow collars, zombies guarding the sidewalk or obstructing the middle of the street… and cars. The north side of the street doesn’t have a sidewalk; only a curb separates the road from a steep muddy embankment covered in tiny shrubs leading up to the fenced-off, forebodingly dark cemetery.
* * *
Before the race, I chase Kjersten around as she takes inventory of t-shirts, glow sticks, and paper clips, and discusses the state of fitness in America today. She is rather opinionated on the topic.
“We’re dying,” she says bluntly, pausing her frantic pre-race preparations to lambaste her fellow countrymen. “We’re fat, lazy, and unhealthy as an overall nation. We eat crap, we work long hours, sitting, we’re tired after work, so we go home and eat more crap. We need more options for food. We can’t have McDonalds be the easiest and fastest option.
“We’re dying, we’re unhappy, we shouldn’t be. There’s no reason we have to live like that, but we do, and it’s beginning to spread to our kids, too. It’s a lot easier to come home and put a movie on for the kids than to go take a walk with them.”
An avid athlete in high school and college, Kjersten began her career working as a personal trainer in big gyms like 24-Hour Fitness. “I hated being a personal trainer. I would only see people once in a while, and I didn’t feel like I was making that big a difference in peoples’ lives. Every gym I worked at was the same. I kept thinking, ‘I can do this way better,’ so I decided to take a chance and see what happens.” What happened was her very own personalized fitness studio, Elev8 Fitness, and Kjersten has no regrets.
Kjersten says that Elev8’s most important aspect is its personal connection with its clients. “I know your name, your kids’ names, I know where you live, I know that your dog died last week and you can’t exercise because its funeral is today. I’m not going to make you wake up and run six miles after your dog dies, but if you don’t have a dog or it didn’t die, I damn well will text you, email you, show up at your house, and get you to come to the workout. It’s all about accountability.”
So here she sits, greeting fat, lazy Americans with a smile as they walk in the door. Will a single 5k be enough to change lifestyles? Could the Dawn of the Dead Dash be the start of a new fitness phenomenon?
“The only way to find out is to try,” says Kjersten, resigned. “You know, the least you can do is try. We’re serving beer, for crap’s sake. It’s a start.”
* * *
Soon enough, pulled along by the throng of runners advancing down Morrison, I get separated from Kevin and Audrey. This stretch makes up for any lack of zombies I may have felt in the first part of the race. Green-faced goons force me to alternate between running on the sidewalk, running on the embankment, and running on whichever side of the street has less traffic. Luckily for me, once the zombies realize I can outrun them, they go for slower, easier targets. A phrase on a racer’s t-shirt rings true: I don’t have to run faster than the zombies; I just have to run faster than you.
After a few long blocks, the trees to the north clear and reveal a slender crescent moon perched atop a hill. From what I remember of the map, the checkpoint should be at the top of this hill, at the entrance to the cemetery. A shadow passes in front of the moon, a zombie straddling the thin road. I pause to let a group of black-clad, hefty racers catch up to me. Hopefully the zombie will go for someone else, because right about now I doubt my chances of squeezing past him on this narrow street. A stray light illuminates his blue-and-yellow Drew Brees jersey. The San Diegan zombie scans the crowd, locks his eyes on a target, and starts to advance. Shit, why me?
I unconvincingly feign to my right before breaking to the left. Drew Brees follows on my tail as I hurdle the curb and tear up some bushes bordering the road. The zombie reaches out a pink, fleshy hand, coming within inches of my chest as I backpedal, crashing into the cemetery fence before regaining my footing and surging up the hill. Ducking under a low-hanging branch, I steal a glance behind me to find myself still pursued. A few more moments and he gives up, turning around to focus his energy on some slower morsels downhill.
Kevin and Audrey appear at the top of the hill with me. The second checkpoint seems to be the area lit under a streetlamp. A bundled-up volunteer blood-stamps our numbers while a bearded man with a beer gut argues with a zombie over whether he had been tagged or not. Every other person entering the checkpoint takes off his glow collar and submits it to a worker’s burlap bag, joining the growing ranks of the undead “it.” Audrey sits down on the curb, breathing heavily.
“Give us a minute to rest,” Kevin says, bending over, hands on his knees, whispering quietly with his girlfriend. I start to jog away from the checkpoint, planning to go half a block or so back and forth to stay warm and get in a better workout.
“You’re not leaving us, are you?” Kevin asks, he and Audrey looking up at me anxiously.
“No,” I say, fiddling with my gloves. “I’m… uh… just trying to figure out where we go next. We’ll have to go south and bust past that dude again,” I say, motioning at where we came from with the Chargers’ Drew Brees covering half the street.
Kevin and Audrey look down at the ground and pull out their map. I jog in place, waiting for my fellow apocalypse survivors to come up with a better plan. Kevin shows me his suggestion on the map. “Let’s go north, and loop around this way to avoid that guy.”
We go north. Another zombie guards the other entrance to Lone Fir. We try to sneak around him, but he notices us and it’s a dead sprint for the next block. Luckily, there are still some other racers around us, distracting the zombie and allowing us to break free.
The next few minutes is an exhilarating game of cat and mouse, running up and down hills, down side streets to avoid suspicious-looking people, squinting to see street signs under dim porch lights, looking at the map and retracing our steps. Eventually we end up on SE Belmont, which could take us all the way west to Colonel Summers Park. Kevin tells us to tuck our glow stick collars into our shirts so it’ll be harder for the zombies to recognize us.
“But isn’t that sort of like cheating?” I ask.
“This is a zombie outbreak,” Kevin says. “Anything goes. Besides, we’ll take them out again before we finish.”
Belmont is a relatively busy street for this part of town. The road’s well lit, lined with convenience stores, and has a well-traveled road and sidewalks. The lighting aids us more than the zombies. When we see zombies up ahead, we just cross the street to the other sidewalk and continue jogging. It’s hard to tell who’s a zombie and who’s just a regular old pedestrian walking around on a Saturday night, so we end up almost continually zigzagging across the street.
The park looms ahead, and like the other two checkpoints it’s lit by a faint glow in a vast black hole of grass. I lead Audrey and Kevin straight through the middle of the field, avoiding the street where zombies might lurk. The decision comes back to get me; with every step, my feet sink several inches into the mud. The volunteers mark our numbers under the lights just outside a covered basketball court. A group of bearded, pant-sagging skaters smoke and slide on the pavement– the volunteers look uncomfortable and cold on the grass outside.
Kevin and Audrey pause for just a few seconds. Their breath fogs the crisp fall air as we look at the map. The stretch from checkpoint 3 back up north to the Bossanova is the longest portion of the race, and, I assume, the most covered in zombies. We could cut through the heart of the race, approaching the ballroom from the southeast, or…
“We’ll run to Grand,” I announce to my new friends. Grand Avenue sits a few blocks West of the Bossanova, and seven blocks west of the route on the map. It’s a safe route – why would the zombies go so far out of the way? – but it adds an extra five blocks or so to our journey.
“Yeah, okay,” Kevin says. We exit the checkpoint heading west, gingerly avoiding a large man sprinting for the checkpoint and a young lady chasing him. At the intersection of Taylor and 12th we come across another zombie. He’s dressed up elaborately in a ripped shirt, stained with mold and blood, with fake teeth and rot on his neck. I recall that he started out as a runner: a fast runner.
There’s no time for a tricky strategy; the man bares his bloodstained teeth and charges right at me. I turn around and book it. I twist around a parked car and leap onto the sidewalk. The zombie, who if not dead would look like a British office worker, gives me a run for my money. In fact, he looks rather like the main character from the 2004 British zombie movie Shaun of the Dead. Shaun was never turned into a zombie, but I’m running too fast to get the chance to tell my pursuer this. The clacking of his shoes on the concrete gets slightly louder as we run down the sidewalk. The road turns left ahead. I could try turning on the slippery, leaf-covered sidewalk, or I could take my chances with the street. A long truck obstructs my view of the street, and those might be headlights I see or it could be a streetlight, but the sidewalk dips out from under me and I end up in the middle of the road.
* * *
Fear is a powerful motivator. Just the fear of the chance of a possibility of a zombie outbreak causes Internet chat rooms and meme databases to go up in flames. Robert McNeill of the Belfast Telegraph is a cynic regarding the zombie craze. “It’s a free country,” says McNeill. “Some of us collect stamps. Some of us amble, shamble, and groan” (McNeill).
Zombies could just be called a “craze,” like romantic teenage vampires. The monster of the day has been featured in popular TV shows like The Walking Dead, and in recent news after a Miami man ate a homeless man’s face off and a few weeks later when a Maryland college student ate his roommate’s heart and brain (Campbell). A fungus in the Amazon has been found to take over and control the brains of ants (Campbell).
The term “zombie” originally came from the Haitian voodoo religion, where a witch can control the actions of a dead person (Eldridge). Zombies, as we know them, uncontrollable disease-spreading re-animated corpses, first appeared in popular culture in Night of the Living Dead (Eldridge). The 1968 movie was a gory, taboo-violating thriller that started a steady increase in popularity for the fundamentally scary monster (Kehr). Zombies are the basis of all other monsters – dead corpses coming back to life, old fears coming back to haunt again – but are routinely derided as slow, unintelligent, thoughtless, dull monsters. This slow, determined, unchangeable will to kill may be what makes zombies so scary. “The kids in the audience were stunned,” says film critic Roger Ebert of Night of the Living Dead. “There was almost complete silence. The movie had stopped being delightfully scary about halfway through, and had become unexpectedly terrifying” (Ebert). Monsters unmoved by love or sentiment, human bodies removed of mind and spirit – zombies explain the fear of death. Even if the bodies still exist, buried in the ground, even if the flesh is brought back to life, the soul that makes us human is vanished without a trace.
It seems natural that zombies should one day meet running – where athletes end up so tired and brain-dead they almost feel like zombies themselves. Every single active sport (not including sedentary games like golf or bowling) is at its core running with different variations for the arms and a different challenge for the mind. Yet running as a sport strips away the roles of the arms and mind entirely. Thoughtlessness is what makes running so great; your body handles the sport and you can fill your mind with whatever you want. Countless times I’ve almost slipped off the side of the road or run into a car because my mind was so detached from what my body was doing. Runners and zombies aren’t all that different. Runners’ bodies and zombies’ bodies seemingly function on their own; runners’ minds are often somewhere far away, and zombies’ minds are, well, dead.
* * *
My reckless running doesn’t harm me this time. I barely catch a glimpse of the empty street before I reel to my left as the zombie pounds after me. I sprint down the side of the street for another block, many colors of cars flashing a metallic grey beside me, and once the zombie turns around I stop to catch my breath. A girl shrieks behind me, and varied footsteps bounce off the dark yard-less houses, squished against the sidewalk without so much as a strip of grass. I wasn’t anticipating running this hard tonight; I feel a heat in my legs that I can only hope doesn’t become a burn. Kevin and Audrey appear beside me.
“You guys made it past that zombie?!” I ask, failing to hide my astonishment. I felt that since I had such a difficult time making it past that guy, that either Kevin or Audrey surely would be caught. A short woman with stringy brown hair and glasses runs up to us, and I almost sprint off before I notice she’s wearing a glow collar.
“Can I run with you guys for a bit?” she asks. Now I’m even more shocked at the number of people who escaped the zombie I had thought was fast.
“Sure thing,” I say, although after a few minutes running west on Belmont we’re pretty spread out, Kevin and Audrey trailing a half block behind me, and the lady a block behind them. I wait for them under a bright white light illuminating an empty parking lot. As we double check the map, the stout woman with glasses catches up to us.
“Are you guys going to the first checkpoint?” she asks. Kevin looks up at me, and cringes.
“The first checkpoint’s back that way,” I say, pointing in the direction we came from.
“Like, a ways that way,” says Kevin. I feel sort of bad for the woman; she’s been following us for five minutes or so in the wrong direction. She turns around, heaving a glum breath, and starts to jog back into the thick of the zombie-infested residential neighborhood.
Grand Avenue is a main thoroughfare with constant traffic, lined by 7/11s and Northwest rain gear shops. The sidewalk has more people who aren’t participating in the Dawn of the Dead dash: hobos; early night drunks; twenty-somethings just beginning a night on the town. I jog on ahead as Kevin and Audrey take a walking break. The Rose Garden Arena lights up to my left and the neon of Burnside looms up ahead. I turn the heads of two scruffy college-age guys wearing heavy, unzipped flannel jackets as I jog past. Well, I am wearing a T-shirt with a giant bloodstain on it, a glow stick around my neck, running shorts in 40° weather, and I’m running through the middle of downtown in the blackness of 8:30 at night. I might look a bit off, but hey, this is Portland.
I get to Burnside and there aren’t any zombies in sight. In fact, there aren’t any people in sight in the two blocks separating me from the final destination, the macabre Bossanova Ballroom. I turn around and start to jog back toward Kevin and Audrey.
“What’s going on here?” says one of the scruffy college guys as I jog past them again. “What are you doing?”
“It’s like a race. Sort of,” I reply. I get Kevin and Audrey to start running again, and I turn back around to run north.
“Can we stop? I have to pee,” complains Kevin.
“Come on, we’re almost done. Just run a bit more,” I say.
“I’m so confused,” the college guy says. “This dude’s running this way, that dude’s running that way, and that guy has to pee?”
I chuckle and make sure Kevin and Audrey are still following, when I spot a patch of white a block behind us, running…
“Go,” I say, picking up the pace. The woman in the white spacesuit is running pretty fast, faster than you’d think she could run. Running right at us. She’s gaining on Audrey.
“Turn up ahead,” says Kevin, “see if we can lose her.”
We duck around a corner to see an empty street, with no cars or jutting-out walls or anything else to hide behind. Two garage doors to our right offer a bit of concealed space; the doors are sunken in to the wall maybe two feet or so. I hide in the corner of one, Kevin and Audrey in the other, and we wait with bated breath.
I peer out from our hiding spot, trying not to go too far out and risk the zombie spotting us. The spacewoman, bemused, jogs through the intersection of Couch and Grand, acting exactly like a monster in a Scooby Doo episode acts when those meddling kids hide behind corners.
Kevin whoops in celebration as I fist-pump the air. Just a few more blocks to go, around cars, through empty streets, and the Bossanova looms ahead. We dip into a coffee shop parking lot across the street, making sure there are no zombies in the area, and run across Burnside as soon as the traffic clears.
We run across the street, right to the door, and get tagged by zombies.
“Wait a second!” I scream in anger. “I thought she said no puppy guarding!”
“You guys were cheating too,” a blonde woman says. “You can’t hide your glow collars.”
Sheepishly, I look down at my glow collar, still tucked into my shirt. I pull it out, saying, “whoops, I forgot.”
“You guys made it,” an Asian Elvis Zombie tells us. “You made it this far, let’s just say you survived.”
We dance in victory through the door, slide by the ogres guarding the tavern, bound up the stairs four at a time, and claim our victory water in the sparsely-peopled ballroom. Maybe a tenth of the people who started are back in the ballroom, almost none still wearing glow collars. Any way I turn, every mouth I see is stuck in a permanent genuine smile. A familiar face stands near the entrance to the bar. Kjersten shares smiles and stories with tired and happy racers, but from her empty smile and vacant eyes I can tell she would rather have run the race herself than spent the night with logistics and directions. Thank you, Kjersten. Someone had to do it.
“Did you guys finish without being tagged?” she asks us.
“Yeah!” Kevin shouts.
“That’s awesome! I think you’re the first girl finisher,” she tells Audrey.
After Kjersten goes through the winner’s bag from Deschutes Brewery to weed out anything inappropriate to give a minor (eliminating over half the prizes), Kevin, Audrey, and I stretch on the wooden floor, giggling like little girls as we retell our antics and bask in the glory of a job well done. Then it hit me. This is what Kjersten was talking about. This is the youthful delight that makes fitness fun again. I realize, I remember, why we run. We don’t run just to lose weight or to get a faster time or to win championships; we run so we can enjoy moments like this.
Bill Bowerman, the great Oregon track coach, once described the natural progression from crawling to walking to jogging to running (Galloway 35). Sometimes, when you run, it feels like you’re ever so close to picking up your feet and flying. There’s something natural, intuitive, about flicking your feet out in front of you and swinging your fists like wrecking balls. Sometimes everything just works; your mind is clear, your feet are free, your legs are moving of their own will. In that moment, you stand on top of Mount Olympus and rule the world. As runners, soccer players, swimmers, mountain bikers, joggers, pick-up basketballers, monkey bar swingers – as active people, we know the youthful joy of a body in motion. The Dawn of the Dead Dash showcases the contrast between humans and zombies, between life and death. Zombies don’t laugh or cry. Zombies don’t feel excitement or fear. Zombies don’t keep friendships. Zombies don’t crack jokes or appreciate the company of someone else. Traditionally, zombies don’t run. Running is proof that we’re alive.
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