I have spent the last week being chased by zombies.
I got this app on my Iphone, which kind of an audiobook and kind of a game and kind of a personal trainer. Those of you who are actual runners, bless your hearts, and go read something useful and inspiring as you run up mountains and do ultra marathons. This game is for those of us with busted knees who are not athletes and competitors by nature. Those of us who find running in general to be Not That Much Fun, although we are not averse to exercise and can occasionally enjoy, say, running along the river on the Sycamore Trail in Umstead Park.
There was a time when I loved to run, back before I tore up my knee. Twice. I had “run a 10K” as my New Year’s Resolution one year. I gradually worked up to running six miles, usually around Shelly Lake. I registered for a 10 K. A couple of weeks before that, I ran a 5K just to see how a race felt. I hated Every. Single. Step. The worst part was running down Hillsborough Street. For this particular race, they hadn’t blocked the street entirely; they were holding up cars at crossroads and letting them through between spurts of runners. Every angry person in a car in a five-mile radius glared at me as I slogged through every intersection. I have never felt slower or less interested in competing. “I hate racing,” I told my friends afterwards over beer. “No big deal,” they said. “Lots of people hate running.” “No, I love running. I hate RACING.” “What’s the difference?” they asked me. And I just blinked at them. Because running placidly along the Sycamore Trail on a crisp autumn afternoon has nothing whatsoever to do with chugging down Hillsborough Street in a crowd of a thousand. I was talking to racers, though. They just didn’t get it. They love competition.
I am not interested in competition. I am interested in collaboration. Which is why I love my Zombies, Run! app. I am on a team. I am helping to put the world back together after a zombie apocalypse. There are people on my iphone cheering me on from the radio control tower, and sometimes I get to do something important like pick up medical supplies for the hospital or commandeer a stray rifle before a zombie can get to it. I get to see later how far I ran, and how fast I ran to my favorite song, and how many missions I completed. I AM RUNNER FIVE. Occasionally there are zombies. They don’t move very fast. They’re not that hard to outrun, at least not this early in the game. They sound scary though, particularly if you’re running around Oakwood Cemetery and it’s a gloomy day to start with.
Yesterday I think I ran past Pat McCrory over by the legislature. Want to guess whether it’s scarier to run from zombies, or to run past a real live crazy governor? (Psst. Governor.)
Now that I’ve been cleared to run again, I’m starting pretty much at square one. I’m slow, and I’d be self-conscious about it, but I’m too busy surviving the apocalypse to mind. Hills, even itty bitty ones, wear me out fast. It’s the worst if you get a zombie alert on a hill. Kind of makes you want to surrender just to get a breather.
My zombie running has coincided with a smattering of problems, large and small, which guess what? I have managed to squelch but not outrun. An impending home repair here, some unresolved conflicts there; persistent phone calls from the job which will not die, after it has long since ceased to pay me, coupled with existential doubt over the degree to which an architecture career was a Bad Idea; on and on and on. These aren’t even particularly agile zombies, so to speak. They’re “shufflers.” They’re aggressive enough to be dangerous, but predictable enough to be more aggravating than anything else.
Shouldn’t we all get to raise a white flag from time to time, keep one foot on home base, and say, “please withhold all problems, both new and undead, until such time as I am fully capable of addressing them?” We should, but we don’t get that. Even during stretches when we’re running uphill, we keep getting presented the same problems, over and over and at various intervals, until we learn how to resolve them for good.
Until then? I’m going to keep running like hell from the zombies.