Zombie Run at Guardian Center took place on Saturday, October 24th. The first thing to talk about for this event is the venue. Guardian Center is an 800-acre facility in Perry, GA at the site of an old cold war missile plant that has been called “Doomsday Disneyland”. These days, the facility has been converted into a training facility for first responders to train for just about any type of disaster scenario that they can think of. At the facility, you have things like a collapsed parking deck, a cityscape with buildings in various stages of collapse, a highway built to DOT specifications, a dual rail subway area (with actual subway cars from DC), a dual-lane highway tunnel, and an area with flooded houses. In short, the place looks completely post-apocalyptic, which makes it a perfect site for a Zombie Run.
Now, if you have never done a zombie run before, it operates a little different than a normal race. When you check in, you get a belt with flags on it. As you go through the course, there will be zombies along the way who will try to take your flags from you. So the races become a lot of sprinting as fast as you can and dodging and juking the zombies and then resting when you think you are safe. However, watch out because sometimes the zombies will sneak up behind you when you think that you are safe. So you always pretty much have to be on your guard. You get a medal for finishing the race regardless of if you survive. If you (or somebody on your team) survives with at least one flag left, you get a survivor medal. If your whole team loses all their flags then you get an infected medal. So even if you lose your flags you can still play blocker for your friends.
I found this event this year to be a whole lot of fun, but it was certainly not perfect. This was my second year running this event and I thought the course last year was better than this year. They made some changes in order to try to improve things and I don’t think they all worked out as well as intended. The biggest one for me was that last year we actually got to go through some of the buildings in the cityscape, which was fun and definitely had a very “escape from zombies” feel to it. This year the buildings were off limits, and I think it was because those areas got backed up a little last year. It felt like it was missing something when you had all these cool buildings that you just went around and never into. I hope next year they can find a way to utilize those buildings more.
The other major issue that occurred was that of some of the zombies started to get a little too aggressive. This is still all supposed to be for fun. Both zombies and runners were told the rules, but several people on both sides didn’t listen, and as the zombies started to get more aggressive, it caused some of the runners to do so as well. To their credit, when the organizers heard about what was going on and where the biggest problems were occurring, they reorganized where the zombies were on the fly. Case in point, the subway line was a problem and they wound up pulling all the zombies from that section and moving them to other sections of the course.
Along the course, they had a lot of nice little extras to add to the move and environment, like there were helicopters flying around (and you could pay for a ride), simulated gunfire, cars on fire – some neat touches.
I was part of one of the biggest teams for the event and did want to point out that the race organizers came up to us after the race to get feedback on what we liked, didn’t like, and suggestions on how to make next year better. It is always good when race organizers do things like that to work to put on a better event next year.
All in all, I personally had a great time at the race and the venue is just perfect for an event like this. I think the organizers did a good job, but there is still room for improvement, and they seem very interested in trying to improve next year, so I’m expecting next year will be an even better event. They have stated that Saturday before Halloween is going to be the standard date for this event going forward.