The Running Dead

In case the prospect of setting a personal best wasn't enough to fuel your spring training, now you have a more pressing reason to run like hell: zombies. They've taken over the 5K race scene, and they're on a mission to snack on human brains and light a fire under anyone who claims only to run when being chased.

If a lurching horde of flesh-eaters on your heels won't get you running, it's likely that nothing will. But organizers of races like the Zombie Buffet 5K, the Danger Zombies 5K Run and the Run For Your Lives 5K Obstacle Course Race are betting there's enough overlap on a Venn diagram marked "fitness nuts" and "The Walking Dead viewers" that their race series will be a runaway success (pun intended).

Their first zombie event—apparently the next logical stage in the recent popularity surge of serial obstacle races like Warrior Dashes and Spartan Races—was held just outside of Baltimore last October and attracted more than 10,000 participants. Now the Run For Your Lives 5K will infest 11 cities throughout the U.S. this summer. Organizers say it's not just fun—it's useful training in the event of complete societal collapse.

"What better way for people to practice preparing for a zombie apocalypse than trying to weave through challenging obstacles, all while being chased by zombies," said Ryan Hogan, co-creator of the race.

Supposedly fans of zombie movies like 28 Days Later and the George A. Romero canon have a leg-up—Hogan and fellow organizers recommend watching horror flicks as part of the training process. So consider reviewing "The Rules" from Zombieland in advance (eg. 7. Travel light, 8. Get a kickass partner and 34. Clean socks). That said, these zombies are volunteers (rumor has it you can save loads of money on registration if you have a taste for brain). Standard zombie fighting wisdom—brain or burn them—probably doesn't apply here. Just focus on the running and give a wide berth to anyone with a noticeable lurch wearing blood-wicking performance wear.

Look for Run For Your Lives in a city near you.  And now that warriors, Spartans and zombies have elevated the humble 5K to the status of a post-apocalyptic battle royale, don't be surprised if the future brings races themed on the Hunger Games, Mad Max, Jurassic Park, or with any luck, Ghostbusters. Finally more events that cater to the burgeoning "athletic nerd" demographic!