On Sunday 10th September, Ringland Woods in Norwich, home of Top Dog Paintball, played host to their first Woodland Zombie Run. Set among 50 acres of woodland, the traditional 5k cross-country run was set apart from other runs … by the inclusion of bloodthirsty zombies!
The runners began with three ‘lives’ – in the form of ribbons worn around their waists – which they needed to keep hold of as they made their way around the course. Anyone left with a life at the end would be awarded a ‘survivor’ medal. Losing all three lives did not mean they could not complete the challenge, however their medal would remind them forever that they had been infected by zombies.
It’s fair to say nothing could have prepared the runners for what was to come. As the runners made their way around the course, the cargo nets, fences, tunnels and thigh-deep water pit were the least of their worries.
Making eerie moaning and groaning noises as they lay in wait, zombies roamed the marked woodland path, hiding among the trees, sometimes in hoards, sometimes ones or twos. With dangling limbs, and deathly-looking faces, the zombies suddenly appeared from behind traps – where they tended to linger – rounding on victims of their choice, and grabbing for ribbons. They also crept up behind runners making no sound, taking people by surprise, and preying on lone runners.
Runners were forced to dodge and sprint, veering this way and that, in order to hold onto their lives. It was easy to forget that the zombies weren’t real; the costumes and makeup were outstanding, and the performances were exceptional, with all the performers staying in character throughout the event.
The event was attended by a huge variety of runners, from seasoned members of running clubs, to total newbies, to families and everyone in-between. A solid feeling of camaraderie developed, as runners began to lose lives. Groups of runners stuck together, giving them more of a chance to get past the zombies with lives intact; while those without lives acted as decoys to shield those with lives from the zombies.
The day provided a huge amount of fun with a great atmosphere. Marshals positioned throughout the course to offer advice and encouragement, as well as ensuring everyone’s safety, and of course to laugh at people who as they were cornered by zombies!
There were however some elements that could have improved the event. As there were so many different levels of ability among the runners, it might have been nice to have some grading based on the runner’s ability. Future events could have alternative paths with fewer zombies for the younger or less able runners, or maybe they could have a greater number of lives to start with. The event might have been better with alternative zombie placement; they often tended to congregate in large groups in narrow paths, making it nearly impossible to pass without losing lives. Also, there could have been more physical obstacles; they could have been more challenging and varied too.
Overall though, the event was great fun for runners of all abilities, and thoroughly recommended.