For motivational tools, there are few things better than games, and for an activity like running, sometimes you need a bit of motivation to get out the door. Pairing the two seems a natural fit, and the geniuses at Six to Start have created a winner: Zombies, Run! It is a mash-up of a run logging application, a horror role playing game, and a Civilization-style base-building game.
Playing the game is relatively simple, you simply chose an unlocked mission, your music playlist, and any other settings, then hit "Start Mission." Audio clips are interspersed with your chosen music list , immersing you in the story of "Runner 5" and placing you in the middle of a post-apocalyptic setting full of zombie swarms, intrigue, and suspense.
As you run, you automatically pick up items that can later be used to upgrade the buildings in Able Township, your base of operations. You don't need to interact with your phone in any way during your work-out, which makes it relatively safe to use. There is one option you need to be aware of: Zombie Chases. To really tune into the horror and suspense of the game, enable this option, but only do it when you can run and sprint in a safe location. The sidewalks and roads in Minnesota are very slick in February, so this one remains disabled for me at the the moment. Having to out-sprint a swarm when you're in the middle of a 50 yard sidewalk ice-slick is a recipe for disaster!
Tracking is done via GPS or Accelerometer. Your running-style and location will affect your choice, and it will also affect how Zombie Chases work. When they start getting closer, you'll hear their moaning and a warning announcement of, "Zombies, 100 meters." If you slow down and walk or stand still, the swarm will start to catch up. The key is keeping a good pace, relative to your own running speed, then turning it up when the swarm gets closer. If you're not successful in running away from the zombies and you've picked up items, you'll drop one and get away. I have yet to let the zombies catch me to find out what happens, but I'm assuming you're turned into a zombie and game is over. Who knows!? I'm not sure I want to find out!
One tip if you do have Zombie Chases enabled and you're running in the city. When you hear the zombie alerts, speed-up to escape pursuit. When you reach a corner and would have to cross a busy street, simply turn and run around the block. The zombies are not GPS location aware, just "pace-aware"; the game will not force you into a dangerous in-real-life situation. Be smart about it.
I've participated in building up Able Township, but I'm not really sure what end-result it has in game affects. At the moment, it appears to be an interesting side-play without any real impact on the running or the game itself. That may change with the release of Zombies, Run! 2, slated to be released on April 16, 2013. The updates look exciting!
There are a few things I would really appreciate: a workout log (which is currently available at their website), the ability to "Share" the GPX track (so I can use Tracks2Miles to post to DailyMile.com), and maybe a way to listen to podcasts instead of music playlists.
I have to say that this game is a significant contributor to my recent, renewed commitment to running. With the Chippewa 50K race fast approaching, this is a welcome addition to my training. Thanks, Six to Start, for adding the "game" element to running!