It’s always easy to judge survivors in zombie films and television; you sit in the comfort of your home, on your soft and cozy couch, and you judge. You could do it better,right? You’d survive the onslaught, and reign as supreme ruler of all the remaining humans. I know this, because I’ve done it, too. After today’s experience, I will forever withhold my judgement.
The Walking Dead Escape at SDCC left me covered in sweat, fake blood and shame. I would NOT survive a zombie onslaught; like, not even close. I would go under with the first wave, and walkers would feast on my tasty, tasty flesh as a yummy appetizer before they devoured the rest of the out of shape, smorgasbord of humans.
In celebration of the 100th issue of The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman, Skybound (his Image Comics imprint), and Ruckus Sports created an amazing zombie-survival obstacle course around the exterior of Petco Park in San Diego. There were three different ways to participate: as a survivor, as a walker, and as an spectator. I participated as a survivor, and I mean that in the loosest meaning of the term. I made it through, and I even made it through very quickly (I was the second one through), but if the course had been 100 yards longer I would have collapsed. Kids, don’t smoke; it greatly decreases your ability to run from zombies.
The most impressive aspect of the entire event was the amount of dedication and detail the staff put into creating a realistic zombie scenario. Every walker was decked out in professional make-up, designed and applied by KNB EFX, which is the effects company who creates all the nasty, gore-filled walkers on AMC’s The Walking Dead. In addition to the zombies, there were also participants acting as FEMA workers, directing you to safety, providing you with water, telling you which way to run, and just generally yelling, “RUN RUN RUN, GO GO GO.” Regardless of how many times I asked how much longer I had to run, I was never able to get them to break character. Throughout the course, the television sets on the outer platforms of PetCo park (generally used to show the ballgame to people who would rather be drinking at a stadium bar) were broadcasting news footage of the zombie onslaught. A lot of effort and forethought were put into creating a realistic and believable scenario. Some of this detail was lost, though, as it flew by in the blur created by me running way faster than I thought I could run. Luckily, this same forethought and effort was put into creating the actual course.
The course ran about half the circumference of the stadium, utilizing every level of the stadium. Basically, it was a lot of running UP. Up stairs, up rope bridges, up cyclone fences, up stadium ramps. All areas not at an incline were rife with walkers and general obstacles: cars to cower behind, blood-strewn tunnels to crawl through, fake dead things to jump over, etc. None of it was too gruesome, though I have a fairly strong tolerance for that sort of thing.
The point of the run is to make it through the course without letting a zombie touch you. In a sense, it had a flag football feel to it. At the very end of the course, you are scanned with a black light to detect any of the residue a walker’s touch may have left on you. I was completely sure I had made it through untouched, but I was told differently when I reached the end. Depending on whether or not you were “infected” you are either given the opportunity to try to run away, or to take a “bullet to the head.” I opted to run away before the “FEMA volunteer” had time to finish describing my second option. Had I opted for the bullet to the head, I would have been outfitted with a fake bullet wound and released back into Comic Con. Honestly, I wish I had chosen the bullet.
When I finally made my way outside into the muggy, San Diego evening, I found I was splattered with fake blood and generally soaked in my own sweat. This created two separate instances of shame. One, despite my best efforts I had still been infected by walkers. Two, I am horribly out of shape for someone my age. After wiping most of the food coloring and corn syrup off of myself with a moist towelette in my purse (a perk of being constantly over-prepared), I walked away with my head held high. I ran for nearly 30 minutes straight and I didn’t die or anything. For me, that is a victory.
If you want to feel equally victorious (or actually victorious) check out The Walking Dead Escape during SDCC, at PetCo Park through July 14th. Tickets are still available at the door, for both spectators and survivors.
I ran the course with my co-worker and nerdy cohort, Manny Lozano. For Manny’s take on the apocalyptic marathon, check it out here.