'Zombies, Run!': Fitness App Ramps Up Your Running Game By Creating A Zombie Apocalypse
The sun begins to set and a mist clouds up the horizon. You begin running out into unknown, and start to break a sweat. You blame it on the fear, but you're mentally prepared to keep going.
You don't look back because it will just slow you down, and you are on a mission. What starts off as a single mumble then grows into a sea of moaning. You drown out the noise and listen to your radio. But the undead are lurking around every corner, and their cries are getting louder. You have no choice but to speed up as they begin to chase you. You will not become dinner, and race off until you are safe—well, at least for now.
This is the zombie apocalypse.
We all can't get enough of zombie stories, especially with hit shows like The Walking Dead, but what if you could be cast in our own zombie series?
Runners can now see if they have what it takes to escape the lands of the living dead by using Zombies, Run!, an interactive running app that combines gaming with an audio adventure.
Developed by Adrian Hon at his company Six to Start, along with co-creator and lead writer (and award-winning novelist) Naomi Alderman, Zombies, Run! is one of the most unique smartphone fitness apps, which uses the power of storytelling as a means to motivate users to exercise.
"We want to people to have fun while getting fit," Hon says. "Everyone plays games now, and we wanted to make running more exciting."
Whether you are new to running or are a seasoned pro, you know that staying motivated can be tough. There are countless fitness apps available to download that help you track your distance, speed, and time. But what these apps lack is the ability to put the fun back into the activity. And what could be more fun than running for your life?
"I am a person who finds it really hard to motivate myself to exercise," Alderman says in an email. "It often feels really boring and tiring and annoying and sad. I wanted to make the whole experience of exercising more fun and exciting for people. And for me, feeling like you're playing a game or taking part in a story is just more fun."
As a runner for the past 10 years, Hon says he was surprised to find that there were no gaming apps that helped push runners. Starting out, he would rely on GPS and apps to keep motivated, but he admits that starting as a new runner, he found the activity was kind of boring.
Then Alderman joined a running group, and was asked, "Why do you want to run?"
"To outrun the zombie horde," a participant joked, which got her wheels turning.
What started as a funny punchline, turned out to be the perfect storyline for their collaboration.
"When in the real world, you have to run continuously—and not even James Bond or Jason Bourne is running all the time—but in a zombie apocalypse, you don't have power transport, you are going to have this threat all the time, and this was something that really appealed to us," Hon says.
Thus, Zombies, Run! was created—a game that throws the user in the middle of a zombie apocalypse, where you have to run to survive and to save the day.
Here's how it works: Download the app for free in the App Store or Google Play Store, and set you music either through existing playlists or separate apps such as Pandora or Spotify. To "play," simply walk, jog or run out in the real world—whether you choose to run outdoors, indoors or on a treadmill. As you are running, you will listen to a story through your headphones. The app will automatically lower your music whenever the audio is played.
The goal is to reach one of humanity's last remaining outposts while picking up supplies, rescuing survivors and defending their home along the way. As you run, you automatically picks up supplies to help you build your base. Every so often, zombies will be approaching, so you must speed up or risk losing your supplies.
But the game is not just a bunch of zombies growling in your ear; it is also what Hon describes as an audio-drama. As a result, the runner (called Runner 5) becomes more engaged and committed because they want to find out what happens next.
"It's definitely an adventure," Alderman says. "It's more of a thriller than a horror story, with exciting chases and action sequences almost every episode. After all, if you have to keep running through every story, it's got to be fast-paced."
And die-hard zombie fans who think they have heard it all will be pleased to immerse themselves in an unique zombie story.
"I would say we're a left-wing optimistic zombie story," Alderman says. "We have the idea that the zombie apocalypse might encourage people to work together and support each other, rather than the world collapsing into chaos and cannibalism. I think that's one of the things people like about it—Zombies, Run! feels like a very supportive and kind world."
With over one million players, Zombies, Run! first launched three years ago thanks to a Kickstarter campaign which Hon says was vital for development.
The all-new Zombies, Run! rolled out on May 15, 2015, which included 40 new missions in Season 4, Alderman says she's just finishing the scripts for, with two new mission rolling out each week.
While the game is free-to-play, there is also a monthly and annual Pro Membership that costs $2.99 and $19.99 respectively for unlimited access to modes and features.
What is so appealing about this app is that it offers something for everyone—whether you need that extra push to start, keep moving forward in your quest to fitness, or if you are trying to find new ways to get over your fitness plateau.
"We're trying to fight against this idea that we all are going to become athletes—and that's something that Nike really likes—and to us, that's just not true," Hon says, adding that not everyone's goal is to become a professional, and others simply just want a fun way to be active.
Photo: Six to Start