Wednesday, April 3, 2013

2013 DFW Zombie Run!

Oh wow. Words cannot express how disappointing the DFW Zombie Run was... but don't worry, I'll still use a few thousand words trying. Just think of this miserably long post as a symbolic representation of that miserably long race. 

What is the DFW Zombie Run? It was advertised as a night-time adventure 5k. The website promised obstacles, a mud pit, and awesome swag (well, a t-shirt and a bag). Most importantly, it promised zombies. Each runner would start with 4 flags (flag-football style) and spend the race trying to evade zombies (volunteers) to keep their humanity (flags). If a runner crossed the finish line with at least one flag left, they'd be dubbed as "still-human" and receive a medal for their efforts. Even those unfortunate enough to get infected (lose all their flags) would still get to enjoy an awesome after party (they really kept talking up the amount of free beer they'd have) and get entered into a raffle for the undead (not raffling off the undead... but limiting the participants to only the undead). Sounds awesome, right?

The website even went into detail about what kinds of zombies we'd encounter: 

  • Runners - 28 Days Later style zombies that could run after you
  • Walkers - Zombies that would move slowly but travel in hoards. If they surrounded you, you were toast. 
  • Transition Zombies - Zombies that would actually transform into zombies mid-race (because not every zombie starts out looking like death... they need time to rot and have their instincts kick in). They'd apparently have a loud, twenty second transformation process that would give nearby runners a head start to get away. Also, apparently they'd be missing some essential things that normal runners would have... like maybe a bib or flags or something. 
  • Creepers - Zombies that would apparently be really slow (and maybe crawling?), and would be of little concern as long as you weren't in a narrow space.

When reading up on it, I loved the amount of detail they put into everything. They had professional looking commercials and a million rules. It seemed like they really had things figured out. 

Oh how wrong I was. 

My first clue that things wouldn't be as seamless as I hoped should have been the fact that after the automatic e-mail confirming my registration last month, I received no correspondence or information from them about the race. That is, until the day of. They sent out a waiver at 2am the day of the event asking everyone to bring a signed copy of it. Why that waiver wasn't on the website, included with the confirmation, or e-mailed earlier, I don't know. Fortunately, I was planning on stopping by my office to pick up some things anyway (which really didn't help my claims of "oh, I don't work too much, I totally have a life" when I ran into the very same boss that accuses me of the opposite so often), so I was able to print it out no problem and didn't really think anything of it at the time (I can only print things at work, because my home printer is covered with wine from when a bottle of Hobo Hooch (it's actual name) exploded in my trunk mid-move). Jeff thought that maybe they had sent it out last minute because it looked like a terrible storm would be coming in, which was fair.

Still classier than Boone's Farm
In any case, even though I had pretty high hopes for this race, I was also pretty nervous and somewhat terrified for the following reasons:

1) I am a terrible runner. I had upped my training recently by going running before work every morning rather than after work on the evenings I happened to be free (which were few and far between), but I think since my legs weren't used to that, they tired out quickly. I noticed my running capacity decreasing steadily over the course of the week before the run. It didn't help that I was usually sore from my Jazzercise classes (seriously... they love doing non-stop squats and lunges in Jazzercise). 

2) I am somewhat accident prone. While I haven't suffered any terrible injuries, I get a lot of really dumb ones. A coat hanger through the ear, a broken finger while playing kickball, you know. I even broke my foot going to the movies once (not at drill team, not in a kicking fight... but going to the movies). As a result, I was a little nervous about doing an obstacle race in the dark. I just had these terrible visions of me falling into chasms, tripping over zombies, and getting touched by unseen creatures (like fish or bugs) when in the stream and/or mud pit obstacles.

3) As I mentioned, the weather forecast did not bode well. We were under a severe storm warning that predicted thunderstorms, high winds, torrential rain, and the possibility of hail. I'm willing to run in rain (as proven at the Great Taco Run), but I draw the line at pretty much everything else. The hail was really what concerned me. If it started before we ran, that'd be fine. We could camp out under a bridge or stay home or whatever. But what if it started hailing mid-race? What would we do, find cover under a tree? The only person that ever has worked for is Homer Simpson. 

"Sheltering myself with a large piece of sheet metal,
I ran for cover under the tallest tree I could find!"
4) There were going to be zombies. I watch a lot of horror movies, and zombies are terrifying. Even though I knew they'd just be regular people, the terror felt somewhat real. Also, I'm pretty sure there was like a 20% chance of there actually being a zombie apocalypse at the same time that we wouldn't notice until it was too late because the real zombies would blend in so well with the fake zombies. 

Rather than chicken out, though, we decided to keep on with the race and headed out to Fort Worth. We made it there in plenty of time (about an hour before our wave was supposed to start), grabbed our stuff, and headed towards the check-in area.

That's where the trouble first started. 

The check-in zone was basically just a small trailer in the middle of the parking lot. We couldn't even see anything else race-themed from it. With no discernible lines and absolutely no organization, we eventually gave them our confirmation sheets and waivers in return for a random bib number (we were supposed to fill out the bottom with our information so that the timing chip could be linked to us, but only half the people knew that) and a belt with three flags (even though the website clearly said that we'd have four). Because they had run out of safety pins, there was one girl there stapling everyone's bibs to their shirts. Supposedly, they had only planned for 3000 runners, but had 5400 show up instead (according to the somewhat apologetic Facebook posts they made after the fact), which would explain a lot of the chaos. However, they had also said that walk-ups weren't allowed, especially since all of the waves were full, so I don't really see how they didn't plan for the right number of runners... but whatever. 

After getting our bibs, we decided that it would be a good idea to grab our swag and put it in my car with our other belongings (they had been very clear about the fact that we couldn't take anything with us on the course... which makes sense considering that it was supposed to involve a mud pit and wading through a stream). Then, we saw the ridiculous layout of the course and tented party area. In walking to get our shirts from the party tents, we walked right by runners from the first wave heading towards the finish line. Maybe it's just me (and every event planner in the world), but having a race course not just intersect but actually align completely with the casual walking area seems like a bad idea. Keep in mind, this is a race where zombies are chasing runners to steal their flags. We had some runners join our little group and pretend to be walking towards the tents until zombies passed. We also saw some zombies taking flags from people who hadn't even started the race yet... because there was absolutely no way to tell the difference! That was just dumb. 

Eventually, after hitting a lot of check-points and having different people yelling different instructions at us, we made it to the tents. Unfortunately, the lines for t-shirts were really long, and we really wanted to catch the next wave (of runners... not surfing), so we decided to put our stuff up in my car and just get our shirts later. In fact, Jeff, Liz, and I had decided to run with Jane Jetson's* wave, which was about half an hour before the one that we signed up for. It's a good thing we did, because we ended up being the last wave to run (but more on that later). 

We got to the starting line, but not until after passing a guy with a giant tub of medals that was handing them out like candy. He offered me one, but I declined, thinking that I would rather wait until after the race when I would have earned it. It was noble... and I regretted it so hard later. 

Finally, our time had come. The air horn went off and so did we! Everything started out like a normal race, but as we approached the first bridge, we ran into a whole hoard of zombies underneath it (because they're just like trolls, apparently). That's when I learned that I'm really bad at evading things (attention potential muggers: please don't pay any attention to this part). After just the first clump of zombies on this 5k, I had already lost two of my three flags and was panting so hard from the interval sprinting I had done. Jeff, Liz, and Jane hadn't lost any. I felt kind of like a loser. Liz gave me one of her flags, though, which was really sweet. Also, it was kind of funny how one of the zombies took a flag from me. We probably circled each other for a good thirty seconds while he kept grabbing for a flag and missing and I kept flailing and trying fruitlessly to get around him. It did not go well. 

That's when it started to rain. 

Worse than that, the rain made everything really slippery. At this point, we hadn't reached any obstacles yet (or as we'd discover later, we wouldn't reach any obstacles ever), but it was still pretty treacherous just running around. Because we were trying to avoid zombies, we were running kind of all over the place and changing directions constantly. Had we just been running on the sidewalk, it wouldn't have been a problem, but sprinting through mud and grass and jerking around was dangerous stuff. At one point, Liz fell directly on her knee, which I'd imagine was less than pleasant (after regrouping at my apartment, she spent a good portion of the evening icing it). I also watched a zombie lunge for Liz and fall over. She yelled "oh, are you alright?" while sprinting away, which was kind of cute and funny (don't worry, he was fine). 

By the time we hit a mile, the rain was pouring down. All the zombies had gone back to the tents, and all of the runners we had passed (all two of them... if that many... because I'm way slow), had walked back the way we came. With no signs, barricades, or volunteers to guide us (with the exception of one fire truck blocking the way), we followed what we thought to be the course. It can't have been the course, though, because we only went roughly 3k rather than 5k. Apparently, we weren't the only ones that were confused by the course, either. Later, when looking at the facebook page (and all the outraged comments), some people talked about the course being a 7k. Others posted about how they had to dangerously cross the river on shaky/slippery rocks because they were led to believe that was part of the course. I'm guessing that that is why the firetruck was there blocking the path. They probably came out to keep people from crossing the river, especially considering that apparently a girl had drowned at that spot not too long ago (according to facebook). The entire course was just such a disorganized mess. Perhaps they had planned on counting the river as their big obstacle for the race but never cleared it with the city? I mean, there weren't any other obstacles (except for a shoddily built wall thing at the very end), so I'm guessing it would have to be? 

Regardless, we took the only route we could find and headed towards the finish line. After the halfway point, we realized that we didn't see any runners from the next wave. In fact, we didn't see anyone else on the course at all. Apparently, shortly after we started, the police officially cancelled the race. I'm not sure if it was because of the storm, because of people getting hurt on the unmarked course, or a mixture of the two. We didn't have far to go to reach the finish line, though, so we figured we might as well see it through. Unfortunately, they had already started deflating the finish line, so we had to run to get there (I realize it was a race, so running shouldn't have been a big deal, but I had given up running completely about halfway through, and the slippery, uneven grass was more dangerous than ever). We actually had to hold it up a little in order to walk under the arch, but we did it!

I couldn't find a picture from this New Girl episode where the guys are holding up the deflated
finish line so that Zooey Deschanel could finish the race, but trust me, it happened.
After finishing victoriously (because we all totally still had flags on our belts - thanks again for the extra flag, Liz!), we went to the tents to claim our prizes... and found that there was absolutely nothing left. Granted, the race had been cancelled due to rain, but we were told that they were completely out of t-shirts, out of medals, and out of beer (which, I didn't want anyway... but it's the principle of the thing). They did have a couple dog tags and rubber bracelets that they dumped into a pile on the ground to let everyone dig for, which Liz was nice enough to grab for us. 

By the time we left, we were furious. With no swag, no organization, no obstacles, and hardly any zombies after the first leg, we had essentially paid to jog (okay, walk) a couple miles in a public park. 

We weren't the only ones who were furious, either. While we were under a bridge changing into some dry clothes before our drive back (again, just like trolls), Liz overhead some policemen complaining about how terribly planned and dangerous this race was. Then, Jeff and Liz spent the ride back reading us the angry comments from the facebook page. According to the comments, we weren't the only ones that left with nothing (even those in the second wave claimed that they had already run out of medals and shirts by the time they had finished). We also weren't the only ones confused by the course (as described above). Luckily, we weren't among the groups that actually got hit or kicked by the zombies. We also were lucky to not be one of the zombies that got hit or kicked by the runners (seriously... people are crazy and get way too competitive). It was so bad that the local news actually got involved to run stories on how awful this race was. Then, after hundreds of angry comments, the company that put on the race posted a public apology and offered refunds and shirts/medals to any dissatisfied runners who e-mailed them... except that the e-mail address they gave didn't work. Then, they claimed to be affiliated with charities that had apparently never heard of them, so they revised their statement to say that they had planned to donate a portion of the profits to the charities. For the next two weeks, things just kept getting uglier. 

Eventually, I started to really feel bad for this company. I honestly couldn't tell if it was a swindler who was trying to get away with a shoddy race and got caught, or a genuine small company that just got in over their heads and didn't know how to make things right. Either way, everyone was so vicious that I wasn't even upset anymore. Now that more time has passed, and they've started making things right, I'm starting to believe that they are the latter. 

About a week after they race, they put out a revised statement and e-mail address that people could contact if they didn't get a shirt or medal (that remember, were supposed to be included in the cost of registration... it wasn't just people being selfish), and it worked. About a week and a half after e-mailing them my address, I actually received my swag in the mail. Seriously, I did not expect that to happen. 

"I Survived The Hoard!"
Also, they decided to give refunds to all of the waves that were cancelled due to the storm (although seriously... the rain cancelling some of the waves really wasn't the problem, in my book - it was the terrible planning, lack of resources, etc.). 

Now that the whole ordeal is over, I'm really glad that the company made good on their promises. I think this has been a valuable learning experience for them, and I hope that they can fix some of their mistakes before their next event. That being said, there is no way I will ever participate in any of their future events. There were just too many inherent issues.  

Have you ever been part of a race or event that just went terribly awry? Do you think this was a scam company trying to save face or a genuine company trying to make right? Aren't medals the best?!

*Some names have been altered to protect the identity of my friends.


  1. Saw you blog. Yes we do keep our word and offered every runner from 03.09 a free ticket to the June 1st run. I'm sure you heard about the 15,000 people at the warrior dash and the 8,000 people @ run for your lives that had issues like us. They offered $10 on a future run if they come back to that city next year.

    We blew it! This was our second race ever and boy did we crash and burn. When the volunteers didn't show we had 26 people to run a race with 3,000 people and 12 were models. Our lack of experience and knowledge appeared when we failed to calculate that if 3,000 people brought a friend. Now you have 6000 people (in our case 5,600)

    How do you fix something like this? First you need to be honest with your customers. Secondly you go and hire a pro. So we brought in Max Mud. He is the President of the National Mud Runners Association and has several years of experience compared to our 7 months. June 1st is a new day and we will save you and your friends a free ticket.


    Your Friends @

  2. Hey there!

    I have a quick question about your blog, could you email me please? Thanks!!

    Melanie : )