Living Well

The Zombies, Run! App

The running app that mixes fitness with fiction.

By Hannah Wallace May 19, 2015

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 Who among you technologically inclined fitness buffs has heard of Zombies, Run!?

The jogging app has been out for a while now, and to be honest, I’m sort of amazed that I haven’t come across anything else like it. The basic idea is that it provides you with a storyline to accompany your workout, and it’s presented in the second person, so rather than just listening to the story, “you” are a participant. You’re not just jogging; you’re saving humanity.

Here’s how it works: The story is broken down to a list of “missions” (basically, episodes). “You” are “Runner 5,” new member of a post-apocalyptic community in England that uses a team of runners to gather information and supplies, and, more often than not, divert packs of zombies from whatever needs protecting.

It comes through your headphones as though you’re wearing a headset; people in the communications tower at the base are talking "to you," feeding you information that helps paint a picture of what’s happening in the story, something like, “Head west, through the thicket, and you’ll see an old farmhouse--whoa, watch out for that pack of zoms trailing you…” etc. (The team’s copious post-apocalyptic surveillance cameras help them keep an eye on you.)

Each mission, lasting around 30 or 35 minutes, comprises five or six audio exchanges of about a minute or two apiece. The app syncs with whatever playlist you like, and you’ll hear the storyline progress in between songs. (As the songs play, you’ll occasionally hear an automated voice describing various items you’ve “collected” along your way; those items act as a sort of currency for building your base in a secondary, interactive part of the app that isn’t tied directly to the story.) And like any good running app, it keeps track of pace and distance and stores your runs in a log. It doesn’t make you run at any pace, unless you enable the “chase” feature, which occasionally tells you to sprint away from approaching zombies; in that case, if you don’t maintain an increased speed for long enough, you’ll lose supplies.

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My zombie hunting grounds--North Water Tower Park.

The voice acting is usually pretty strong, especially the goofily charming Sam Yao, who’s your primary contact over the "headset." And in addition to your general “run here, grab this” plot, there's plenty of backstory and drama (like when a character listens to a recording from her presumed-dead lover—oy, that was a little gut-wrenching). It's prone to delve into the over-the-top world of sci-fi/fantasy/horror, but, y'know, I hear people like that sort of thing.

Something about it really works for me; it’s equal parts distracting and encouraging. I can jog through North Water Tower Park and pretend all the disc golfers are zombies.


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