I’ve been injured recently, and off my running. I tell that story (sort of) over at my other, less serious blog* (it’s coauthored with my dog, so yeah, a lot less serious). I’ve been very slack in keeping up with my writing, and am working really hard to stay consistent with both my running and my writing. This was posted originally over there.

I wanted to talk this time, though, about what gets me out the door (even though it’s patently obvious that getting out the door has been difficult recently). There’s the obvious: I know it’s good for me, I know it benefits my health, my brain, my old, old body. It’s helping me keep off the weight I lost when I quit eating ice cream every night (it was a very stressful time, and I had just quit drinking. Don’t judge) and it’s helping me stay sane in difficult Trumpian times. Also, it’s something I enjoy, and something that means a lot to me, and it’s my treat for myself. I’m still working on that whole “caretaking” thing as it pertains to me versus the rest of the world, but more on that later.

A number of years back, I became Runner 5. Yes, yes, so did loads of other people (this was before I became Doctor Disco on Strax’s blog). Runner 5 is the designation given to a runner who comes into Abel Township with a bang. Runner 5 is quiet, and she’s smart, and she’s badass. Runner 5 is the brainchild of a group of people in the app making business: Six to Start.

The zombie apocalypse has finally happened, and the world has gone grey, with the exception of just a very few people – the story is based in the U.K., and that’s another plus for it – I love the accents. But that’s not the point – the point is that I’m Runner 5 (and you can be, too!) and it’s up to me to save/find/run or otherwise do what my radio operator tells me needs doing/saving/finding. As I run, the app keeps up via GPS with my miles, and every so often, plays part of the story interspersed with music I’ve included on my phone.

When I first heard of it, I was reminded of playing Wonder Woman with my younger sister. I told the story we were playing out, and we would run, jump, imagine and play as that story demanded. It’s the same sort of thing with Zombies Run, but instead of it being incumbent upon me to tell the story, I just have to imagine it as it’s told to me, through Sam Yao, Maxine Meyers, Janine, DeLuca, Paula Cohen, and a boatload of other characters. As Sam is the radio operator, he winds up becoming pretty important to Runner 5, or at least he has to me so far.

Another part of the app involves the Sim-like creation of your township. As you run, you pick up supplies, and from the supplies, you build your township. My township goes for a very long time without any attention, because that part of the game/app isn’t as big a deal to me as the actual story, but early on, it really appealed to me. I would sit on the bench in the gym and think hard about how to best assign my resources where they needed to go (the process is a little easier now – it used to be that you had to assign the resources into the right place so as to give the township the most benefit from them). I got such a great deal of pleasure from seeing my township grow, and succeed. I could play the benevolent goddess and upgrade the living quarters, or provide them with a tequila shack. I was a good goddess. I also kept their fences in good nick, and made sure no zombies would stagger through to disturb them.

But obviously the story component of the app is important to me – I love good stories, and then being able to imagine myself as a character in one? Holy crap, sign me up! I was so excited when I initially read about it, I pre-ordered it before it even was available. I downloaded the early adopter’s version, which later was discontinued and we all were a part of the same app. But all it took was watching the initial video that relayed the basic premise, and I was hooked.

Was I running at that time? Nope. But I sure was ready to get started. I lived in Texas, and was in hideous shape. I was in grad school, struggling through probably the worst experiences of my life (and at the grand age of 40ish, that was really saying something). Because of the way that Zombies Run works, I can look back over all those early runs and even see the neighborhoods I ran in, how long I ran, and how slooooowwww I ran (I’m still slow, but hey, I’m still having fun).

I began with the initial episode and a walk – I walked and listened, and imagined the world around me covered in zombies, and suffering along with me. The story gave me the opportunity to imagine myself in control (sort of) in a horrible situation, which was exactly what I couldn’t do in the unimaginably horrible situation I was actually living out in my day to day life. I had a story to live, and a world to save, and even if it wasn’t real, it could be real enough to get me to lace up my shoes and out the door, which is what I needed so desperately.

Sometimes stories are what save us in the end.

*I am in the process of bringing that blog over here, and that blog will go away as of the first of 2020. I have enough trouble keeping up with one blog, much less two. What was I thinking? That Straxi was ACTUALLY going to write for me? Apparently so.