Zombie Evacuation Race is a 5k obstacle run with a difference. A brain-eating, biohazard infested difference. As well as various obstacles to get over, under and through, you have to contend with real-to-life zombie hordes too.
Go ahead and read the review, but nothing beats trying it for yourself. Book your spot at one of the remaining two Zombie Evacuation Races today and use the discount code USFITTIES to get a discount off the ticket price. We receive a commission from your purchase, which all goes to charity.
I arrived in the sleepy town of Saffron Walden ready for a race that would promise to be like no other. Carver Barracks was the location of choice for this event and having seen Derren Brown convince an unsuspecting member of the public that he was being faced with the zombie apocalypse in a very similar location back in 2012, I was already getting embroiled in the undead atmosphere.
After the usual check-in and re-lacing of shoes to accommodate a timing chip, it was time to warm up and collect my ‘life belt’. I had heard that I was going to receive a much higher number of ‘lives’ than I, and everyone else, actually received. When I was handed a belt with three fluorescent strips dangling from the back, held on by nothing more than a piece of velcro, I knew that the challenge ahead was going to be tougher than expected.
The atmosphere was superb from the beginning. Ahead I could see armoured personnel carriers, one of which had a soldier standing on top, rifle in hand. I warmed up for a few moments and, all too soon, a man in camouflage was barking orders at us with a megaphone, the music from 28 Days Later in the background acting as an emotional trigger for what was to come.
You could already tell from walking up to the start line that the terrain was going to be challenging. Underfoot, we had to negotiate extremely uneven ground with matted and trampled grass over the top; you were never quite sure if you were about to land on a hard patch or sink into the floor. This didn’t increase my confidence as the army guy barked out the orders.
“Do not touch the infected. The disease is highly contagious and we will shoot you on sight”
“Make sure you come back with all of your (three) lives, or we will assume you’re infected and shoot you on sight”
“If you lose all your lives, come back with one of the hidden antidote syringes or we will assume you’re infected and…”
We got the gist.
Before we could think about the task ahead any further, the gates opened and we were told to move. Faster. Faster still.
It was after the first 200 meters that I realised something was wrong. People ahead of me were screaming. They weren’t jogging along in a straight line any more, trying to understand the terrain beneath them. They were sprinting. They were zig-zagging. There were zombies!
Sure, it’s called the Zombie Evacuation Race. But somehow I thought they’d ease us into the whole zombie thing – I really didn’t expect I’d be dodging the undead in the first few steps.
I zigged. I zagged. I made it through with all three lives intact. With my final ‘zag’ I felt something nasty; and I don’t mean a zombie. Despite the extensive pre-race warm-up, I was faced with a lightning bolt of pain shooting down my leg. I knew instantly what had happened – I had picked up a groin strain within the first 300 meters of the race. “Run it off”, I said to myself. “I’ll just run it off”…
After the first batch of zombies, we were led by army personnel through to a barracks. A pitch-black barracks. And guess what was inside. There they were – we couldn’t see them because it was just too dark, and our eyes hadn’t adjusted. But I promise; you could feel them. One ran it’s finger down my back, which made my skin crawl. Another screamed in my ear. A third gave me a shoulder barge. We all got through and out of there as quickly as possible.
Sufficiently scared to death, I latched on to a small group of fellow evacuees. “Safety in numbers”, I thought. And then I was honest with myself and thought “if I stay in the middle of a group, they’ll pick off the weakest and slowest behind me”. It was a decent strategy, especially when carrying an injury. I made it through to the first set of non-zombie obstacles with all of my lives.
Ahead I could see two sets of walls with holes in them. The holes were about five feet off the ground, so a quick leap and it was easy to get through. Then, I was faced with a seven-foot wall, completely devoid of any holes. The leap caused me a bit of an issue, thanks to the groin strain, and it was only made worse by having to swing my legs over the top to drop down on the other side. After that, we all faced a crawl under some camo netting, but we weren’t alone.
It is worth pointing out that I had made a big tactical error when leaving home to travel two hours to the barracks. I forgot to wear my contact lenses, which meant that I had to run an adventure race with my glasses on. Not perfect, but I didn’t think it would cause me any problems.
The netting had other plans.
I made it out from under the netting losing just one life thanks to a fairly lazy zombie that was taking joy in picking off a life from everyone crawling through. And as I ran forward to the next obstacle, I realised that everything was looking much blurrier than before. My glasses were somewhere other than on my face, and I had to turn back and find them. Thanks to some of my compatriots – those very people I’d been using as an impromptu human shield only moments earlier – they were retrieved. An even lazier zombie pulled a second life from me as I stood there asking if anyone had seen the glasses. “Zombies aren’t particularly compassionate, are they?”, I said to myself.
Thankfully, the glasses stayed on throughout the rest of the race. Wave after wave of the undead peppered the Zombie Evacuation Race course. Some would act more like The Living Dead style of wraith, with silted walking and low-pitched moans. These were to become known as the ones to really watch out for, since often they’d turn around and run, at full sprint, to catch you up and take your lives. Sprinting, I might add, doesn’t help when you’ve already picked up a strain, and after the fourth or fifth sequence of sprints my left quad started to smart a bit too.
The terrain was devilish at times. As well as the uneven, grass-laden ground we also had to battle woods (with tree roots that seemed to have a vendetta all of their own), brambles (that cut my legs to shreds), nettles and gravel. Obstacles started to appear that had barbed wire attached. We had a ‘farmer’s walk’ challenge involving 50 cal ammunition containers and the promise of an extra life if you ran rather than walked. There were blood-soaked sheets dangling from trees to disorientate you. There was an abandoned medical camp that held the promise of the aforementioned syringes but bore no antibiotic fruit.
Towards the 4k mark, a bramble pulled at my right leg causing the strain to really ‘ping’, and I had to take a walk. Some helpful army types helped me do some stretches, and the zombies in the surrounding area were good enough to call of their assault while I received a little assistance. “Maybe zombies do have some compassion after all”, I mused.
Of course, the compassion didn’t last long. I did my best to run off the hordes in the final kilometer, but the last batch of zombies had no idea of the pain I was in (I was largely grinning and bearing it, which must have just made me look like a crazy person) and my last lives were plucked from the belt with ease. On reaching the finish, I had to do the ‘crawl of shame’ under the tunnel that led to the ‘decontamination zone’ (just a posh word for “you have no lives left, so we’re gonna soak you”) and I received my INFECTED medal, rather than the SURVIVOR medal I was really aiming for.
Zombie Evacuation Race might well be an obstacle race for beginners in comparison to the likes of some of the more hardcore 10k and full-weekend events available, but it was easily the toughest 5k I’ve ever run. The atmosphere is spot-on and you couldn’t really ask for a better event to do around the Halloween month. If you want an extra shot of adrenaline with your run, I highly recommend it.
Book your spot at one of the remaining two Zombie Evacuation Races today and use the discount code USFITTIES to get a discount off the ticket price. We receive a commission from your purchase, which all goes to charity.
Extra bonus – check out these frankly amazing photos from the Saffron Walden event over at Leon Neal’s website.