Music can play a huge role in the Zombies, Run! experience. We’ve all had times when a song has perfectly matched up with a bit of the story – and had shuffle throw up that rogue Monty Python track in the middle of a serious moment! Music can heighten emotions, especially when you’re exercising, and with so many emotionally charged missions in Zombies, Run!, it makes the choice of music pretty important!
Here, we talk to some of the people behind Zombies, Run! to find out what’s on their playlist!
Ciaran Roberts – QA and Support
My music taste is pretty eclectic (and I am always several years behind the curve when it comes to picking up new stuff). I have one big playlist with about a hundred songs on it that I just keep adding to as I find things I like. I’m a bit of a magpie! This includes everything from Fall Out Boy to Shakespeare’s Sister, a couple of anime intros and that one track I got for free from iTunes and really liked. I’ve currently been introduced to a band called Battle Tapes because of their song Belgrade, so I’m working my way through their back catalogue.
One of my favourite tracks to run to is Laura Palmer by Bastille. It really makes me feel like I’m having an epic moment when it comes on during a mission, especially if a zombie chase is involved. On the other hand, there are a couple of my favourite songs I’ve had to kick off the running rotation because the beat leads to me tripping over my own feet!
I’ve had a couple of moments of real serendipity when it comes to music, although they weren’t necessarily good for my pace. One of them was during the mission ‘Actual Cannibal Rescue Mission’ when Actual Cannibal Shia LeBeouf started playing. It did throw me a bit off my stride though. Hard as it is to run while crying, running while giggling is equally difficult!
The other was a real tear jerking experience, when Everybody Hurts by REM came up during that mission in Season 4. Sometimes my playlist just doesn’t want me to be able to keep running!
You’d think that the people who designed Zombies, Run! would be life-long runners, but nothing could be further from the truth. I used to hate running! The worst part of school for me was the weekly cross-country run, where I’d never fail to get a stitch. The entire reason I wanted to make a running game was to make it more fun and less painful.
These days, I run a lot more, and even better, I enjoy it! But I know what it was like to drag myself outside for a run, and so here are my tips for making running more fun. This isn’t a guide about how to get fast – it’s about how to make running a habit!
Make it as easy for yourself to go for a run as you can. Lay out your clothes and trainers the night before, or in the morning, so you can get ready at a moment’s notice. This is particularly important for places that have changeable weather!
You should be prepared to run every day but you should also ensure you build in time to rest. How does that work? Well, if you plan to run, say, 3-5 times a week, then it’s easy to come up with an excuse for why you aren’t going to run today (it’s cold, you’re a bit tired) and why you’ll run tomorrow instead. But the more you do this, the more likely you don’t hit five runs in a week (or even three runs). So if you can get into the mentality that you can run every day, you’re more likely to hit your goals.
At the same time, don’t obsess about distance and steps and calories. Running isn’t an exact science and something is always better than nothing. You might think that a 15 minute run isn’t as ‘good’ as a 30 minute run, but it’s a heck of a lot better than a zero minute run.
If it hurts, stop running. Especially your joints.
The great thing about running is that it’s one of the cheapest forms of exercise. You don’t need fancy T-shirts or socks. The one thing I’d suggest you spend money on is getting good shoes. Try to find a dedicated running shoe store to get some advice; many of them have treadmills and cameras to analyse your gait.
Don’t overdo it. Pushing yourself too far is counterproductive. The only times I’ve really hurt myself while running with sprained ankles or falls was when I was tired or on the brink of illness and went for a run anyway because I “had” to.
When it’s cold, it’s tempting to put on too many clothes, which can make you overheat. The right amount of clothes is different for each person, but I find that wearing gloves can make a huge difference on a chilly day, and can save me from having to put on a hoodie top that’d otherwise slow me down.
Move at a pace you feel comfortable with. Sometimes a slow jog or walk is the best. As they say, anything faster than a slow shamble will get you ahead of the zombies. But at the same time, if you feel like you have the energy, don’t be afraid to run or sprint!
I always start my mission and playlist before I open the door. It means I can get out of the gates fast!
It might sound odd to say that it was fanworks that got me into using a fitness app. Fan fiction and fan art are not the first thing that spring to mind when you think about fitness, even if plenty of fitness apps have dedicated communities. But fanworks are what got me into Zombies, Run!, and what kept me engaged during the long dark waits for the next season.
Zombies, Run! stands out because of its ability to serve both the fitness and fandom communities, allowing a level of crossover that is hard to find elsewhere. A thrilling narrative combined with a solid running app means it’s easy to find stories of people who were drawn in by the story finding themselves signing up for marathons, or hardcore runners suddenly feeling the need to share artwork of their own Runner 5.
You see this crossover in the Unoffical Zombies, Run! Facebook group. This fan-run community skews towards the fitness side of things; runners will find plenty of posts containing advice, people’s personal bests, and information about upcoming races. But it’s impossible to scroll through more than a few posts without stumbling across another side of fandom. Rubbing shoulders with a post about a runner’s first 5K will be someone asking whether a character from Zombies, Run! would approve of their running route. Underneath a happy photo of new running shoes, you’ll find someone’s post of ‘Notes Found on Abel Township’s Corkboard’. Artwork of characters, custom Zombies, Run! Playlists, themed medal holders – there’s a strong streak of creativity and engagement on display.
The fanworks-to-fitness ratio skews the other way when it comes to the other bastion of Zombies, Run! fandom: Tumblr. It’s hard to say exactly how much fanwork there is on Tumblr. The Unofficial Fanwork Archive which recorded everything from 2012 to 2016 has over 2500 links, so there could easily be over 4000 individual fanworks by now.
While most fanwork posts on the Facebook group tend to focus on a personal experience of being Runner 5, the Tumblr fandom delves into the world of Zombies, Run! in a different way. Runner 5 is still the most featured character in fanworks (inevitable with their status as the main ‘character’) but there is far more content starring the rest of the cast. For example, the characters who host Radio Abel – Jack and Eugene – each have nearly as many appearances in fanwork as Runner 5. There are plenty of fanworks which don’t include Runner 5 at all!
The fanworks cover a huge range of topics. You can see art that illustrates a scene from the app, or read about a world where Maxine and Sam are college students… or jaeger pilots in Pacific Rim. And far from being a solitary undertaking, the fandom has organised special events that have built a strong community and enduring friendships. For example, the Iron Zombies challenge, hosted on chat rooms, gave participants 90 minutes to create something based on a series of prompts, or to sit back and cheer on other people as they raced against the timer. Exchanges, such as the Secret Santa, are meticulously organised, with hours of work going into making sure participants are matched up.
Fandom’s creativity has not gone unnoticed! In the past, Six to Start have drawn from this talented pool – artist Kascha Sweeney drew fan art before becoming the company’s official artist, and a writer on Seasons 2-4, Andrea Klassen, wrote some exceptional Zombies, Run! Fan fiction.
And it isn’t restricted to fiction and art. The fantastic fan podcast, ‘Podcast Detected’, which I was involved with early on, has been running since 2014. It’s an eclectic mix of in-depth discussions, mission reviews, and the app’s place in a wider fandom community. Some episodes include interviews with fans, and with the cast and crew of the app itself. They’ve even recorded at a few special live events.
The NineWorlds Geekfest convention played host to Zombies, Run! panels for several years and featured writers, actors, and production staff. I have a special fondness for these since I was involved in organising them, just from love of the app. Attendees had the chance to hear stories from the soundbooth, the writers’ thoughts about what they’d like to do in future, and ask questions about the creation of the app. These and other meetups, such as the Zombies, Run! Live event in 2015, have provided a great opportunity for fans and creators to come together to celebrate the app and the fandom that they’ve created.
With so much on offer in the Zombies, Run! fan community, it’s easy to see why people keep coming back season after season. The winter blues can make it hard to even consider running at times, but the strong and creative community built up around Zombies, Run! is what keeps me waiting for the next time the gates of Abel Township are raised.
Here’s a list of places you can check out Zombies, Run! Fanworks: