Run For Your Lives events occur throughout the year in cities nationwide. Sign up early —
the zombie spots, in particular,
sell out fast.
Wright City, Mo.
(St. Louis area)
South Forney, Texas
(Dallas/Fort Worth area)
Visit www.runforyourlives.com for details and to find additional race dates.
Though Rajtar is an avowed fan of classic horror movies of the Lugosi/Karloff heyday, there’s something about the adrenaline rush and the camaraderie that compels him to keep showing up.
“The older I get, the more I want to push myself and the more thrills I want to experience,” he says. “Then there’s the feeling as you’re waiting to go onto the course: Everybody’s dressed as zombies, and we’ve got a common purpose.”
Over the course of multiple races, Rajtar has developed a specific strategy, and fortunately for me, he has signed up for the same race and zombie shift that I have. Eager to learn from the master, I meet up with Rajtar in Clermont, where Run For Your Lives has taken over Revolution Off-Road, a lightly wooded, hilly all-terrain-vehicle park. Early on a Saturday morning, the park’s cellphone-service black hole already seems apocalyptic.
My fellow zombies and I have all signed up for individual three-hour shifts on the course, selecting whether we want to be “stumblers” or “chasers.” “Stumblers” creep slowly toward runners, while chasers can pursue at a full clip. “Zombies don’t have any clear ability beyond that of the human who once occupied the body,” Mogk says. Luckily for today’s living runners, the chaser zombie version of me will boast only the sprinting ability of a hobby jogger who remembers to throw in some speed work occasionally.
Run For Your Lives’ so-called “Zombie Transformation Center” is a large, efficient affair; more movie set than locker room. The race provides costumes for zombies, though you can bring your own, as I’ve opted to do. In keeping with my Central Florida surroundings, I’m dressed in my finest hideously neon souvenir-shop gear, fanny pack and all. Wardrobe assistant James Howard tosses me a robe and asks for my getup.
“I was waiting tables in D.C.,” says the 26-year-old as he expertly slashes my shorts and T-shirt with a pocketknife. “Now I’m a zombie expert.”
Howard’s one of 30 full-time Run For Your Lives staff members and part of a smaller team that travels to each race. He and the wardrobe workers buy clothes by the pound from a Baltimore-area Goodwill and tote the stuff around in giant garbage bags. None of it gets reused after a race. “We haven’t figured out a way to wash all the goop out without ruining a washing machine,” he explains.
Next comes chaser makeup, courtesy of Kaylee Kehne, a 25-year-old makeup artist from Orlando. She scored her gig via Craigslist, “where all strange things happen,” she laughs before stippling my face with red paint, then splattering it with red, alcohol-based airbrush makeup. “The chasers are still running, so they’re more freshly infected and get a bloodier look,” she chirps with a smile. In another line, stumblers get grayed faces, sunken black eyes and elaborate latex wounds.