Anytime someone is being chased in a movie, I sit on the couch and think, well, that would be it for me.
I would never get to figure out the mysteries of the island in Lost, because I would be consumed by the polar bear in episode 2. I would be alive when the velociraptors started to eat me. The boulder would mow me the fuck down.
I have always hated running, but I would like the ability to escape a grim fate should one be thrust upon me. Sure the apocalypse is unlikely, but muggers?
Mean geese? Probable.
I’ve done the first four weeks of Couch to 5k probably five times in the past two years, but I always end up stopping for one reason or another. If only Jack Nicholson were chasing me with a mallet, I think. If only some hobbits needed rescuing. WHAT’S MY MOTIVATION WORLD??
Ladies and gentlemen, I present Zombies, Run!
More specifically, I present Zombies, Run! 5k, which is a watered-down, couch-to -5k-inspired version for those of us who used to walk the mile in gym class.
This isn’t exercise, guys. This is a story. This is a GAME.
The app works for Android and iPhone, and the conceit is this: In the zombie apocalypse, you have ended up in a small, walled township that needs your help. One of their supply runners was recently killed, and you will train to replace her. In eight weeks, you will slowly work up from running in 15-second spurts (easy, even for me) to being able to run a sustained 5k.
Each session reveals more context about where you are and what you are doing, introducing an assortment of the other survivors (women! people of color!) and hinting at their backstories and motivations. (The voice acting, thankfully, is pretty good.)
The app draws on your own music playlists, interspersing the songs with instructions and dialogue that give your workout purpose. Some people complain about glitches with this; I haven’t had any problems.
GPS tracks your location, speed, and distance, and these stats are sent to the Zombies, Run! website, where they provide pretty exhaustive records of your performance, which is nice if you are like me and like to see tangible evidence that you are getting better.
Full disclosure: I’m only two weeks in. These past two weeks have been pretty easy in comparison to the regular Couch to 5k app, but there’s going to be a considerable jump in difficulty in my next session, and I’m kind of excited.
Repeat: I’m kind of excited. ABOUT RUNNING.
Things to know before you start:
- The first session is, I believe, the same as the first session for the full Zombies, Run!, which means you will be running for longer periods than you are expecting. Each running session is the length of one of the songs on your playlist. When I did this, my first four songs were five minutes each.
- Some people complain that the soundtrack is buggy and quits; what I think is actually going on is that once in a while it tricks you into running longer than you think you are supposed to—a two-minute run instead of one, etc. Be prepared and don’t restart.
- Each session concludes with a “free-form run” that you can run and walk in whatever proportion you please. I would recommend trying to push yourself on this, because the actual running intervals are so short that I’m not sure you can make it all the way to 5k if you walk all of them.
I think this app is pretty great. But the real reason I know I won’t quit is that I hear the full version is phenomenal. Regular Zombies, Run! is supposedly much more robust, with goals you need to meet to earn supplies to improve your compound—an actual compound that you can see getting fortified on the website. I’ve heard the story is much more complex as well (there’s only so much they can do with a training narrative). And those workouts have either 30- or 60-minute run options, so even advanced runners can play.
So, there you go. If you have previously been a member of Glitterature’s Apocalypse Fodder Club, now’s your chance to get out.
Or, you know, not. Based on a lot of the apocalypses I see, getting eaten by zombies on day one is a kinder fate than most.