Running Against… Zombies?

This morning I clocked my seventh run with the Zombies, Run 5K app. My ultimate goal is a marathon, something that’s been on my goals list for a couple years, but I can’t even run a 5K the whole way through yet. I wanted to write about it for some time, because it’s a major part of my life at the moment – it’s on my schedule four days a week – but I didn’t have enough to say to merit a blog post. Until now.

The app that started me down my zombie path is called Zombies, Run!. Developed by a company called Six to Start in collaboration with Naomi Alderman, Zombies, Run! was something my husband had mentioned to me in passing several years back. I didn’t look it up then, but I happened to stumble upon it in March of this year.

I was trying to restart my run training using an app called Couch to 5K, but I was bored senseless. I’m not a runner by nature, and despite my bucket list goal of running a marathon, I found it difficult to get motivated and stay that way. The app itself is good and it was working physically, but I wasn’t stimulated mentally – something I didn’t realize I needed.

I was looking for a “map my run” type app when I found Zombies, Run! on the list in the app store. Intrigued, I opened it and discovered what I had been missing. Running is great cardio, but not enjoyable to me. Each step felt heavy and more difficult than the last, my improvement slow and grueling. This app made running into a game.

Image Courtesy of Zombies, Run! © 2011 – Six to Start & Naomi Alderman

I’m not a gamer type, although I do enjoy a few video games, but I am competitive. I enjoy collecting badges or achievements in apple fitness, like closing the rings on my apple watch or earning badges for completing fitness challenges. Zombies, Run! made running more interactive by creating a fictional world to run within.

Centering around the story missions, users must run to unlock new content. It includes game play, as well, allowing users to collect items and resources to build and support the settlement this zombie apocalypse storyline is based on. I also have the option to play my own music, listen to their music, or use other audio like audible or podcasts. The app automatically pauses or lowers the volume on the external audio when story audio comes on.

Image Courtesy of Zombies, Run! © 2011 – Six to Start & Naomi Alderman

Suddenly, running is fun again. I’m still not a strong runner though, and improving on my own is something I struggle with. I scrolled through the app after my first run and found a membership – Abel Runner’s Club – which includes additional features and apps. Their 5K app is free, and I haven’t tried The Walk yet. I did hear it has to be purchased to continue past a certain point, but it’s included with the membership.

Zombies, Run! 5K takes place right after the first “mission” run in the main app. Although if you start out with the 5K version, there’s an optional introduction to get you up to speed on the storyline. Since I started running with the 5K app, my one mile run time has improved by two whole minutes – going down by one minute each week. I haven’t run my free run yet this week, so I don’t know yet if my time improved again.

I really enjoy the training stories, learning more about Abel Township and its characters. The story surrounding “Runner 5” (the moniker given to the person using the app) is catchy, and unfolds at a good pace. It’s a very complex game built around run training, and I’m so glad I found it.

This app is the reason I’ve been able to stick with running for more than a couple weeks, and the reason I’m actually growing to enjoy it. I don’t have to drag myself out of bed each morning, I get up willingly to hear how the next episode plays out.

Image Courtesy of Zombies, Run! © 2011 – Six to Start & Naomi Alderman

More than just improving my running, though, I’ve been able to improve asthma-related symptoms. I’ve had asthma (exercise and allergy induced) since the ripe age of three, and it can be a real struggle sometimes. My lung capacity is improved, and I no longer wheeze or become out of breath on stairs, or chasing after my children. That’s huge for me, because I have struggled with my asthma and its related symptoms since I left the Navy.

Although I didn’t set out to write a review for the running app, this post reads like one. I often recommend the app to other runners, someone looking to restart running, or for a new way to mix up audio options during a run. I think it’s fantastic.

I did purchase the paid membership to Abel Runner’s Club to unlock additional training exercises, and there are definitely a myriad of options; from improving 5K time (with a different 5K program than the Zombies, Run! 5K app), to 10K and marathon training, to interval training. There are several seasons worth of missions, virtual races that can be run, and alternate stories within the same world construct.

Running has been good for me, and so have the Zombies, Run! and 5K apps. Today I ran approximately 2.6 miles, and walked another 1.6 or so, for a total of 4.28 miles. I’m proud of how far I’ve come, I look forward to where I go, and I’m happy I made the time for running. Until next time, on Zombies, Run! 5K

Image provided by Lizzie Lane through the “share” feature of the Zombies, Run! 5K app.

“If it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.” – Fred DeVito

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