Mate Hegyhati

Say goodbye to the boring runs: here come the zombies!

I know, I know, this is already well known among most of the runners, as the app is a couple of years old, but it deserves to be covered by all blogs about running, and mine will not be an exception either. So, if You have no idea what I am talking about, or You do, but for whatever weird reason You are still here, let us get to the apocalypse of running…

… which is called boredom. Yes, admit it, running can be boring sometimes. It can be so because You are not really in the mood, but the training plan demands a 6k for today, or simply there is no company, the weather allows only city tracks, and those streets all look the same.

Something similar caught me in the recent days on my third visit to the very nice city of Oujda. Since I'm used to run in groups in Veszprém, and I have no company here, running can quickly become rather boring. So far I mostly managed to go out during the night, and due to safety reasons, I preferred the few well lit big roads close by. It also does not help, that while in Veszprém I had the opportunity to at least 5 different outdoor activities, here I am limited to only running and skating. Skating is only an option during the nights here (I'll write about this in detail in a later post), so it covers roughly the same roads. Because of this, I'll probably move the runs to the early mornings, and go for the nearby hills and forests, but it was not an option at 11 pm after work with a Pact to be met in order not to lose $5.

So, I decided to be Runner 5 again, and bought an earphone on my way back home.

If we look at the app from far above, it basically tells a story while running. In this sense, running with the app is similar to listening to an audiobook instead of music while running. The success of the application (more than 1 million users) is partially due to the story itself of course, but I believe, that the way of telling the story is even more important.

Without going into many spoilers: the story is set in zombie post-apocalyptic world, and the user is a part of it as a runner of the base called Abel-township. The runners job is to go out and collect resources, as the place is - of course - short on fuel and ammo. The app uses kind of a pseudo-interactive storytelling, as the user experiences the story from the perspective of Runner 5, but – as far as I got on with the story - there is no real interaction, e.g., the user can not make decisions, like in a gamebook for example. So the storyline is straight with no branches, and it is divided into seasons and missions, a total of 200 of them. Each can be completed by a run / walk / whatever exercise. What happens basically is, that while running, the user listens to its own playlist, but (mostly) between the songs, he/she receives radio transmission from Abel, which roll the story forward. The music is also interrupted when Runner 5 picks up stuffs like first aid kit, battery, sport bra, etc.

This is already pretty amazing, but the developers went further, and there are many small things that puts this application to the must have list, and makes it really difficult to talk about it just briefly. Here is a subjectively selected, and definitely not full list of some of those features:

  • The humor. “Ah, yeah, I don't know any other way to describe the situation, a small army of zombies is starting to surround You. Sorry, I'm not doing well under pressure.”
  • You can do running outside with gps, on a treadmill, or just walk. I once went shopping for food while listening to it.
  • Zombie-chase mode. If this optional feature is allowed, You occasionally encounter zombies during the songs, and get the message: “zombies in 100 meters”. Then, You are supposed to increase Your speed for some short amount of time to get rid of them. Based on how well You are doing messages like “Zombies in 35 meters” interrupt the music. There is no serious consequence of getting caught, some of the goodies are dropped to distract the undead, but it is a nice way of including speedy intervals in the runs. The first time I came across a bunch of zombies this way, I was listening to Iron Maiden, and Bruce Dickinson made me especially hopeful by the lines: “Your time will come”.
  • Upgrading the base. The runs are rewarded with some resources that You can use to develop, upgrade extend, etc. Abel township. I am not sure if there will be any real consequences of that, but still a nice Simcity minigame.
  • Radio mode. When the mission is accomplished, the game switches to radio mode, that is basically the same, just the inter-song radio messages do not bring the story forward, they only have an entertainment purpose, and also give a more detailed picture about the story.
  • Zombielink. After registration, the app syncs with an online database, which has a nice webapp to it. Also, runs can be synced to RunKeeper automatically.
  • Airdrop, Supply run, Races, etc. Other features I have not tried yet, but they seem really promising.

Anyhow, I started using the app again here in Oujda, and I'm really satisfied so far. It really made the runs exciting. So I am really thankful for the developers, and really afraid, that I'll ran out of missions. I would be really happy if based on their success, they would make other games with very similar gameplay. One of my friends suggested a Jurrassic Park theme, which is a great idea I believe. Who wouldn't want to run away from a T-Rex, oh wait…

When I leave Oujda, I'll write again about the new experiences with Zombies run. Until then, download the app, and start saving Abel township. And as always, thanks for reading, comments, +1s, tweets, whatever are always appreciated. You can follow the blog on Google+ and Twitter

Mate Hegyhati

About Mate Hegyhati

Amateur fun runner, geek, hiker.