The spirit of Halloween seems to summon the city’s otherwise reclusive zombies out of hiding. These unholy creatures, having grown in number and wretchedness, returned for the second annual Zombie Obstacle Course on Saturday, October 27, to blight the Barton Creek Greenbelt and much of Zilker Park. Presented by Dane’s Body Shop, the race was a festive salute and celebration of fitness, theatrics, and community in an appropriately, obtusely Austin way.
Crudely estimating, about thirty teams of two were to race from a hill slightly north of Barton Springs (rechristened “Bloody Springs”) and finish at the moon tower in Zilker Park. Given a colored map with instructions for survival, the brave or foolish competitors had to locate three areas, and then perform a physical challenge at those coordinates in order to earn an item that would help society repair the damage done by the undead scourge.
Before the mayhem at 5 p.m., I watched about 25 of the soon to be undead (or non-living as one participant preferred) transforming each other into the wretched zombie army. The makeup and costumes impressive, hanging chunks of viscera, fake blood, and other horrors too grotesque to mention adorned formerly kind faces.
I was enjoying the pre-race atmosphere until I spied two formerly good-looking zombie girls rolling in dirt, caking their hair with twigs and leaves, like twin Medusas. The monstrosities were seriously committed to their cannibalistic responsibilities. With the cost of being tagged by a zombie an irritating 20 burpees, I decided to mentally prepare as though I were running an entirely formal race. Plus, my partner being the “Fittest Man in Austin,” I knew that if we didn’t win this strange thing it would be entirely my fault.
The 60-or-so runners marched to the edge of “Bloody Springs” with our sealed envelopes containing the precious map and instructions. Waiting for the racemaster to commence the madness, a curious delay ensued. When the racemaster finally appeared, crawling down the hill bloody and injured, a trail of his organs probably running from where the zombies left him to the starting line, the cause of the delay became obvious, and I took this to mean, “Run for your lives!” or “Go!” Either way, Austin’s Fittest and I were off, dashing down the trail in a furious blaze.
At station one, the first task was to locate Cletus, a farmer residing near Auditorium Shores. Approaching the farm, we were the unfortunate witnesses to the worst injury of the race as a poor zombie, wildly chasing a runner, brutally fell on the rocky trail. We rushed over, and still in a daze favoring her right arm, she could not be convinced to move from the hard ground to something more comfortable. Later, I heard she was taken to the hospital.
Now of course, Ole’ Cletus wasn’t just going to hand over this item, a heavy bag of food. We had to plow his field, which involved dragging one’s partner by the underarms across an expanse long enough to make my thighs burn. Why Cletus thought it was necessary to cultivate his fields with flesh-eating zombies running amok was beyond comprehension, but we had no time for questions. After receiving the heaviest bag of food available, we soldiered on, now burdened by a 25-pound albatross.
In search of Professor Sven at station two, we crossed the pedestrian bridge near Luke’s Locker, where an undead twain tagged us. Although the leaders were in sight, we lost some ground because of the 20 burpees. We crossed a field of zombies stumbling, moaning, and terrifying the poor civilians, who probably thought R.P. McMurphy had taken his friends to the park. Professor Sven’s medical experiment consisted of rifling wiffleballs at slow moving zombies at the cost of 10 thrusters per ball. Our aim was true; Professor Sven handed us item two, an orange-colored zombie antidote.
At this point, the rotting zombie arms of fatigue held us tightly, and mistakenly we took an indirect route, which may have cost us first place, to Sergeant Johnson and Lieutenant Smith, who were waiting in Zilker Park near the baseball fields with item three, “building materials.” The building materials consisted of four splintered 2-by-4s and four sharp bricks, another cumbersome albatross. Equally awkward and leaden, carrying the materials diminished our previously breakneck pace considerably as we marched up the hill from the park towards the safe zone underneath the old moon tower.
More wretched zombies, still thoroughly enjoying themselves, were waiting at the finish to bestow sets of burpees upon the exhausted runners. But finally, after 45 minutes Austin’s Fittest and I pulled in for a fifth-place finish.
Pictures were taken; awards were given; smiles were shared. And two days later, my trapezius is still sore from carrying that damn bag of food. The second annual Zombie Obstacle Course brought a diverse group of Austinites together to revel in the myriad of things that make our city so enchanting and fun. The dreadful zombies vowed to return next Halloween, although how the cannibalistic nature of this event affects the number of returning racers, I cannot say.