Trails Collective

A Runner’s Guide to the ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE

Listen up, people. I’m sure you’ve noticed the same thing I have; there’s been too much positivity in the news lately. Puppies kissing babies. Babies kissing puppies. Rainbows. Babies and puppies playing together under rainbows. It’s sickening, if I’m being honest. Where’s the realism, the pragmatism? As trail runners, we’re all too familiar with the fact that things can be going just swimmingly until, out of nowhere, some unforeseen variable rears its ugly head and smacks you across the face with its cold, fleshy, dead hand. But whether it be injury complications or uncooperative bowels, experience has calloused us to be nimble and adaptable in our response. Adversity is the name of the game for us. Our comfort zone is outside our comfort zone. We make a living there. And you can’t wish away adversity, or drive it off through ignorance. So this time around, I figured that, rather than giving you some pie-in-the-sky anecdote tied into a vague lesson, or more fluffy feel-good nonsense, I’d utilize this month’s column to focus on something grim but possible, something for which we all must be prepared if/when it comes. I’m talking about the zombie apocalypse. 

Here’s the bad news: zombies running amok will probably spell the end of your chances to ever nab the CR at your local Thanksgiving turkey trot. But the good news is that, be that as it may, trail runners as a group are uniquely equipped to survive and thrive in this challenging, brave new world. How, you may ask? Let me count the ways:

  1. Aerobic fitness

Most obviously, our lean and mean cardiovascular systems provide a distinct advantage. If you are a connoisseur of undead scholarship, you may be familiar with the two most popular permutations of our foes–the it’s-3am-and-I-just-woke-up-to-grab-a-glass-of-water zombie, and the my-legs-are-covered-in-festering-sores-but-they-apparently-still-work-just-fine zombie. The latter, as you may have guessed, is more of a problem. Whereas 3am zombie staggers around at a comically slow pace (or perhaps they are just taking their recovery day very seriously), legs zombie is like any of us after seeing the aid station on the horizon which we know has our favorite chewy Chips Ahoy cookies, except the aid station is you and the Chips Ahoy are your brains. But legs zombie is in for a rude awakening when they encounter the sick fitness you’ve accumulated courtesy of 10x2min hard hill repeats and your weekly 30-min tempo runs. Zombies are stupid (apparently they don’t absorb any of the brains they consume), but they’re not that stupid. When you take off like a flash, they’ll opt for easier targets. Unless Jeff from the local college track and field team who just has to have every segment crown has also somehow been turned into a legs zombie. He always was greedy. Goddammit Jeff. 

  1. Access to Supplies 

It’s well-trodden ground among those sensible enough to prepare in advance for the impending zombification of the human race–what would be the most tactical initial supply stop when the world begins to burn? The local health food store, where you could stock up on energy bars, vitamins, and supplements to keep you alert and chugging along at peak performance? An outdoor outfitter, to snag a long-range rifle and a canoe to navigate the country and haul gear around while avoiding congested highways? No and no. There’s only one correct answer. Your first stop has got to be the running shoe store. Think about it. A pair of Next% 2’s would be completely invaluable, as would some Speedgoats. You could sweep the whole stock off the shelves and hand them out to each member of the survival group which will coalesce around you, their fearless leader, at a later date. Apart from turning you and each member of your squad into human Formula 1 cars on any terrain, you’d all look fly as hell. It’d send a clear message–here are people that can dance around the apocalypse and still have the time and energy left over to be fashion forward. That’s important when you remember that, when the dust settles, you’re gonna need to gain the respect of others and, well, repopulate the earth eventually with little non-zombie babies. And looking good certainly won’t hurt your prospects. 

  1. Fueling

Or, as most people call it, food. Steaming casseroles and pasta dishes; refreshing, cool salad; fresh-baked apple pie; these are all things of a bygone era. You might stumble upon someone with a gas stove here and there and hope to recreate some of the comforts of home, but the bartering price would be high, and the choice between Speedgoats and a gas stove is no choice at all. Those who have ample experience surviving on a rugged, shelf-stable diet will be at a competitive advantage. You might think that that’s not much of a specialization. Canned soup, vodka, and PB&J pretty much describes every college student’s diet at one point, so a sizable chunk of the population has been there, right? True, but have they digested a granola bar while power hiking uphill, puked it out, then popped skittles, pretzels, and wasabi peas down the chute in the next hour, all with Gatorade as a chaser? Exactly. And now, that stomach of steel is like a maximum security prison–nothing gets out. My bet is that it’ll come in handy for the sights–and smells–of zombie world on more than one occasion. 

  1. Navigation

With public infrastructure smoldering and hollowed out cars blocking every major roadway, hopping on the interstate won’t be much of a realistic possibility. But that’s okay, because while you and your watch may not understand each other perfectly well or be on the best of terms, an unlikely skill will have emerged from that rocky relationship–being comfortable with having no idea where you are! Suppose you had been a Garmin whiz with the latest model, weaving together route combinations on the fly that rivaled the roof of the Sistine Chapel in their beauty, comfortable with bushwhacking through the backcountry, enabled by your trusty steed. Boom! No satellites. Not even Mr. Watch is safe from the ripple effects of zombie madness. And with the screen gone dark, you find yourself shut off in a world of uncertainty, biting your nails and paralyzed to make your next move. In an about-face of fortune, the directionally handicapped one, subject of good-natured jeers at the weekly group run for making a record-breaking six wrong turns, is holding all the cards. If you were always lost before, you’ve got nothing to lose now! So close your eyes, pick a direction, and start walking. It’s worked out okay in the past, right? 

With luck, nobody will ever need to reference this article. All the same, I recommend that you bookmark it, either on your computer or in the filing cabinet of your mind, just in case that fateful day ever arrives. But I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom! I forgot one more advantage you’ve got. When you’re hauling ass away from the hungry hordes, you’ll be less likely to pull a muscle and injure yourself, because you’ve been religiously keeping up with your stretching and foam rolling routine! Right? ……Right?

~Vincent Behe

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