I haven’t really celebrated my birthday in a long time. Aside from treating my friends to dinner, it was mostly spent at home with the family — or keeping quiet at work so people won’t realize that it’s not an ordinary day for me.
This year was a little different. I did something for the first time: Run a marathon. And it’s not just any marathon. I had to chose Outbreak Manila for my debut run. I figured it would be fun to go be chased after zombies. What was I thinking, right?
On my birthday, I woke up early and headed to my cousin’s house so we could head out to Nuvali together. The closer we got to Sta. Rosa, the more apprehensive I got. Confession: I wasn’t prepared. In the month leeway I had between registration and the actual run I didn’t even try to train myself. Running? Did it only once and I got breathless in less than five minutes. I’ve got an athletic build, but my stamina isn’t the best.
We were in Wave 7 but we arrived an hour early on race day. The air was cold and I was shivering. Maybe it was from excitement, maybe it was from fear. I looked around to check for other unprepared newbies like myself. I felt like I was the only idiot there. Thankfully, I finished the race (even though I was towards the last because I was running with the first few folks of the next wave) with one life. Much thanks to my cousin Miel who gamely stayed by my side even though I knew she could’ve easily ran the entire thing and left me in the dust.
Zombie in the fields
A quick search on the Internet will give you an idea what kind of run Outbreak Manila is. Although it’s the first one held in the country, similar events have been held in other countries. Basically, you run through a 5k course and you come across zombies along the way. The zombies will try to get the three tags around your waist (which signals your life). Lose them, you’re dead (but not a zombie). You can get extra lives along the way by doing certain tasks, but there are a lot of zombies around in that area which puts you at the risk of losing a life as you gain one.
At the start of the race, everyone was huddled in one big mass. The logic there is the middle part is the safest, as the zombies will most likely attack from the sidelines. However, the first zombies will run right down in the middle of the crowd, breaking it up. Then just as you think you’re safe, they come running after you. At this point, no one has made any strategy yet. We all ran around like chickens avoiding the zombies and keeping our flags intact.
It was hard to remember that you weren’t supposed to touch/hurt/maim the zombies, who were mostly kids in costume. Many of them were really in character, and coming across them in random places would make you stop and think. Screams of terror — along with loud laughter — would break the Nuvali’s silence.
Some of the zombies were nice. One let us pass just because we asked. Another group bartered our lives for some water (hey, they get thirsty too). Some of the zombies just stood there, and only a handful actually would run after you. It was like playing a patingtero, with a freaky factor.
One strategy that my fellow runners and did was to run through the zombies together. Sort of our version of the hoarde. Mind you, we didn’t know each other but it was fun to work together to outwit the zombies and come out with at least one flag. This strategy worked against a group of zombies on a wide space, but at the small, tight paths, good luck.
I thought that I lost all my lives, including the bonus one I got, so I sailed past the zombies declaring “I’m dead! I have no life!” (yes, I know it sounds pathetic haha). Some of the other runners used me as a shield so they could get past and keep their lives. Towards the end, I realized that I still had one life and it was tucked in my shirt. Yay for luck.
I’m happy that I survived with no injuries. No medal either, but hey, I got the shirt. Next year, maybe I’ll join but I’m definitely going to build up my stamina first.