I arrived in Three Bridges (West Sussex) on Saturday 10 November in preparation for taking part in the Zombie Evacuation Race at Pippingford park the next day.
Ok, so this may have been a long way to come for what is essentially a 5k obstacle course but I was intrigued about the zombie aspect and it was also a good excuse to catch up with my cousin Donna who was also taking part.
Tonight’s hotel of choice was the Holiday Inn Express Crawley/Gatwick. I must say that the stay didn’t get off to a great start when I was told that if I was paying cash for my hotel then I would have to pay a deposit on top of that of £50. Having brought only enough cash to pay for the hotel I was slightly bemused as this had never happened before as usually I just paid up and that was the end of it. In the end the guy charged it to the card I’d booked the hotel with even though I didn’t have the card with me, truly bizarre.
The room itself was nice with the exception of the lack of a window. Well, I assumed there was no window in my room because it was bloody freezing and I could hear everything going on outside.
After some grub and a familial catch up it was an early night for me as the slog of travelling down (and only just making my connections thanks to various issues en-route making my train late) had taken it out of me a little.
I woke up at 7 on the Sunday slightly the worse for wear. Don’t worry, I hadn’t been drinking or anything (I’m still a teetotaller) but I had been woken up at various times during the night by some sounds outside: Rowdy kids, fireworks, revving cars and a mooing cow being the most prevalent. The question was hanging in the air: Was I ready to take on Zombies? Too bloody right I was.
Breakfast was a sombre affair, the food that was meant to be hot was cold and lacking in the bacon department and a guy nearly knocked me out of the way to get some bread in the toaster. The couple opposite me were talking about genetic mutations and a Turkish couple arrived and had a major barney that resulted in the female sticking some fingers up the males nostrils.
After breakfast, while packing I was acutely aware that I’d brought too much stuff for an overnight stay. I always end up packing back up shorts and trainers, but then I pack back-ups to the back up, it truly is an OCD thing. My cousin picked me up from the hotel foyer around 9:30 and we piled into a car with her friends Brian and Sue who completed the zombie evacuation race team and it was on our way to Pippingford Park.
The journey itself was non eventful and we arrived at the park around 30 minutes later. It was a massive expanse of land and very scenic to say the least. We had about an hour and a bit to kill before our start time of 11:30. Most of this time was spent back and forth to the toilet as is usual thanks to my massively weak bladder. At 11am a two minutes silence was held for Remembrance Day which was very poignant and nice of them to do. Then 15 minutes later we were moved to the start area where we were given a brief talk on what to expect. We had a belt which had three flags attached and it was the zombie’s task to try and remove these flags. If we finished with the flags we were classed as survivors and received a survivor medal, if the flags were removed we finished as infected and received an infected medal. However, there were health packs on the course (syringes) which, if collected, granted immunity to the holder who could finish the course as a survivor regardless of whether they had all their flags or not.
11:30 on the dot and we were off. This first part of the course was downhill and then it was a quick hop, skip and jump over some burning logs/coal while someone let off some explosives. My ears were ringing at this point as I appeared to be pretty close to where these took place. Not long after this we encountered our first zombies, my tactic was to run right down the middle as they appeared to be trying to pick people off who were running down the sides. Having got past them and still having my three flags all was going well so far. I can’t entirely remember what order the obstacles came in after this but I’m pretty sure that I crawled under a cargo net, I carried a wheel, I ran up a pretty steep hill, I carried ammunition cases, I walked along a very slippy balance beam, jumped in a swamp and crawled under some barbed wire. Following all this I arrived at a set of walls that needed to be climbed over, the first two were pretty easy but the last one was pretty high. I took a run and a jump at it and was doing pretty well but the guy behind me obviously didn’t think so and ended up sticking his hands on my bum and hoisting me over, I wasn’t overly chuffed about this but what can you do?
On jumping over I was surprised to find that a zombie broke my fall and then I saw that there were loads of them. It was basically about 100 metre dash to get past them all and I had survived another zombie attack and retained my three flags. The next lot of obstacles mostly involved water and then we arrived at the barracks. At the entrance one of the evacuation team told us that there were syringes to pick up (this was basically immunity in case you lost all your flags, if you got a syringe but lost all your flags then you still finished the race as a survivor).
I entered the barracks and there were some munitions cases lying on the floor. Thinking that these would probably be where syringes were kept I made my way over to them. At this point I got the shock of my life when a small kid jumped out of them, I nearly clean kicked him in the face but then I realised that a) he was a kid and b) he was a zombie. I started to make my escape from the barracks but ended up being cornered and a zombie took all my flags in one foul swoop.
On the exit from the barracks I made my way to the next obstacle which was a climb over a cargo net then a short run to a plastic sheeting which was soaped up for a nice glide down to the bottom of the hill. It was the home stretch now as the last obstacle was a bunch of zombies on the approach to the finish line. As I had no flags and no syringes I was already classed as an infected runner so there seemed little point to try and dodge them. On passing them I was covered in red goo which was nice of them and I made my way to the infected finish line for my medal and T-Shirt.
I was pitted, covered in goo and soaking but it was all good fun. I’d estimated I’d done the course in about 40 minutes so I was more than a little peeved when I checked the results the next day and it said that it had taken me over 2 and ½ hours. One quick email to the organiser though and I was told that I’d actually completed it in 42 minutes 42 seconds, not bad considering the obstacles.
Brian had finished in about 30 minutes and Donna and Sue arrived at 50 minutes, we were all infected.
After a little mooch around afterwards it was all back to Donna’s for a lovely meal which included pizzas and veg and meat lasagnes and then back to Three Bridges to catch my train to Victoria to catch my connection to Euston then home.
It was a great weekend all in all. It was nice to catch up with family and nice to fit in a run (of sorts) as well even if I did become a zombie at the end of it…