On September 29, 2013 I ran in the Zombie Race 5K in Holland Ohio. The race came to my attention when a friend of mine, who wanted to try an OCR, sent me a Groupon deal for this race. I had never done Groupon before, but I thought I’d give it a try. I am very glad I did. This turned out to be a great beginners race, with just enough challenge to make it fun for someone who is claiming to be a OCR veteran.
Parking: I can’t believe I continue to pay $10 to park in a muddy field, but we did. That being said, there was plenty of parking and it was well controlled.
Registration: Registration was quick and easy. For some reason, they didn’t have me and the little girl I was running with on the registration list. I simply pulled out my phone and showed them the registration e-mails and they checked me in with no problems. We got a cute little drawstring bag and T-shirt. You also got free gear check and one free beer!
Atmosphere: I can’t emphasize enough that they had the atmosphere down to a T! It was fun was from the very moment you pulled up into the parking area. You started seeing zombies immediately (including smoking zombies and banana eating zombies, which cracked us up). The volunteers were super friendly and everything seemed very well organized. The DJ was fun, the announcer was hilarious, and everyone was openly having a great time. As we started to walk into the holding pen, you could tell everyone was getting excited and a little race jittery, but still looking to have a ton of fun.
Overall Race: There was an almost perfect mix of open track for running and obstacles. They were spaced very well and with one exception, the rope bridge, there were zero backups on the obstacles. The run took place through a small wooded area, so it was all trail based running. There were sand hills, short walls (very short), low crawls, and most of the typical obstacles that we are getting used to see an obstacle course races. My personal favorite was a tall slanted wall where you could either climb with a rope or with rock climbing brackets. The obstacles were top notch! Whoever built them knew what they were doing. Even on my largest nemesis, things that go high, I never felt unsafe. The cargo nets were sturdy, the tall wall was un-movable and everything just seemed very well put together.
The zombies were exquisite. The makeup was great, their attitude was fun, and they offered a challenge without being overly aggressive. My personal favorite part was that they let the little girl that I ran with finish the race with one flag. I know it may sound silly, but to a 12-year-old who is running her first race, finishing with one flag was the highlight of her day. It was also just plain smart….make the kid happy and you make the grown ups happy.
Cardio: Cardio fitness required was minimal. We had to sprint between the zombies but you could complete the course with a decent jog the whole way. There was also room to sprint it out whenever the mood caught you.
Strength: Strength requirements were average. There was a sandbag carry which required upper body strength and you had to go up-and-down some sand hills, pulling in some lower body strength.
Technical: Technical skills required was minimal. Any first timer could complete at least 90% of the obstacles. Hell, I still can’t complete a rope climb *Insert shame here.
This was not a timed race, so there really wasn’t much pressure. ***Side note, There was a 15 K option as well. I didn’t look too much into it so I’m not sure if they just lapped the course three times or if they had a separate section.
Mud: You got mildly dirty for the first 99% of the race. Then came the final obstacle, the mud pit. Darn straight you got muddy. It was awesome.
Photos: There were at least three photographers on the course and at least 4 to 5 meandering around the crowds before and after. The photos were handled by http://www.teamphotonetwork.com. They turned out great but, as typical in “pay for your photos” races, ridiculously expensive.
Spectators: One additional highlight, which I thought the race did particularly well, was how they handled spectators. They were free (come on races who charge for Spectators – stupid move). They also provided some very motivating spectator areas. At each spectator area there were at least 10 spectators, carrying on in a way that every racer had their own personal cheer squad. I heard at least a handful of spectators discussing how fun it looked and how they were going to try the next race. It was also fun for the runners.
At the end of the race you were greeted with the banana, a cup of water, a zombie race wristband and your medal. If I were to complain about anything, it would be the medal. It was dog tag style but it had survival race on it. There was nothing to do with the zombie concept. This focus on survival race seemed to permeate the whole race. Even in the merchandise tent 99% of the gear said survival race on it. There were no T-shirts or anything besides a towel for sale that said zombie race. It was a shame, because I would’ve totally bought a tank top with zombie logos on it.
Clean Up: The showers were your typical hoses, which actually had pretty decent water pressure. They had a very nice changing tent for both men and women so you could have a little bit of privacy why you were shaking the mud out of your clothes.
Refreshments: They had a local brewery on site that handled the beer. You got to pick from three of their microbrews. That was kind of nice, as usually races have the watered-down swill for free beer. They also had food for sale; Hamburgers, hot dogs, pulled pork. It wasn’t too expensive and it was really good!
I used this race to introduce two new women to the sport of OCR. They had a blast and so did I. I’m beginning to truly believe that that is the sign of a good 5K obstacle course race; it should be challenging and fun for a veteran but should still entice a newbie to want to try more. Zombie Race nailed that idea.
This race impressed me. It makes me want to try one of their other branded races. Top-notch for newbies, still fun for a veteran, and very well organized.