Long distance running, jogging, or even walking has never been an exercise activity that greatly excites me… until recently. Traditionally, I’d rather play a team sport, or go bike riding with my friends rather than pound the pavement in solitude for 30 minutes. Yet, in an effort to maintain a certain level of fitness, my goal has been to exercise at least three times a week. Besides a bike ride, and mid-week dance class, going for a 30-minute jog is a quick, cheap and convenient way to ensure I’m ticking this ‘healthy lifestyle’ box weekly. The problem is that running can be quite boring. Below I share with you my journey to becoming a motivated runner who can’t wait for the next run!

    You’ve Got To Start Somewhere

    Approximately two to three years ago my colleague introduced me to Park Run. It took well over a year before I checked it out. The only reason I did was because I’d started dating a Park Run enthusiast, and so I attended one day for moral support. I mostly walked my first Park Run in Maribynong. As an unregistered “runner” (I use that term very loosely) I had no barcode to record my time, but from memory I believe it took me just under an hour to complete the 5km circuit. I jogged as much as I could, and walked the rest, nursing a strained groin muscle as I crossed the finished line. My body was not used to running as a form of exercise.

      Motivation For Improvement

      In the weeks that followed, I officially registered for Park Run. This meant that I could measure my run time run by scanning my personalised barcode in conjunction with the token barcode I received when crossing the 5km finish line. For my second attempt, my run time was 43-minutes and seven seconds. That same day Park Run sent me an email with my run statistics, which inspired me to make improvements the next week.

      Torquay was the back drop for my third Park Run, and to my surprise I managed to slash a handful of minutes off my previous PB (personal best), finishing the 5km in 36-minutes and 20 seconds. My new goal was to complete the 5km circuit in under 30 minutes.

      Run Faster With Goals And Fit Buddies

      Over the next twelve months I completed Park Run sporadically, with my best overall time being 29-minutes and 10-seconds at the Lillydale circuit. That particular day I was running with people who were in training for a Spartan race, so I consequently pushed myself harder than normal and went beyond my comfort zone.

      By winter this year (2019), I realised that three months had passed without me attending a Park Run. It’s as though, by accomplishing my goal (5km under 30 minutes), and not setting a new one, I’d lost interest in running again. That was until my FIFO friend mentioned she’d taken up running in Nauru, so while she was back in town I suggested we check out Park Run in Torquay together. We walked the whole circuit that day, but it planted the seed for future runs together. The following week we both jogged Park Run in Eastern Gardens, coming in at around 36 minutes. Thereafter I was on my own again as my friend flew back to Nauru, however we agreed to keep up the routine of regular running.

      Inspired By A Threatening Herd Of Seniors

      Meanwhile, around the same time, I caught up with friends for a nature walk at the Brisbane Ranges, and one couple were particularly entertaining. A large group of senior citizens were enjoying the same trail as us, and whenever they came in sight, our friends – the couple – would run away whilst calling them a zombie hoard. Apparently, the couple had been using an app called “Zombies, Run” to liven up their jogging routine, and the “swarm” of senior citizens reminded them of the flesh eating creatures they’d been “virtually” running away from recently.

      Intrigued, I consequently downloaded the Zombies, Run app and gave it a spin. My first run (18th August 2019) was a bit clumsy. I didn’t have a playlist ready to go, so fumbled around with a couple of restarts until selecting some great beats to jog to. The story line (“Venus Rising”) did not include zombies, however, I was very motivated to run away from the yellow mustard gas cloud that was closing in on me as I completed the fifth kilometre. Surprisingly, I found this run to be quite entertaining! The 5km journey took 35-minutes and 39-seconds, which was slower than the past results I’d received in Park Run; most likely because I didn’t have other people to pace myself with. 

      Pick Up The Pace With Imaginary Dangers

      Going for a run is not something I’m motivated to do very often. As mentioned above, I’ve barely completed one Park Run on average for each month since registering (approximately 18 months ago). After my first run, using the Zombies, Run app for motivation, things have been different. Two days after the ‘Venus Rising’ run mission, I felt ready to flee from danger again. In fact, I really wanted to run from zombies! Did I mention I’m a “The Walking Dead” (TWD) fan?

      Like a pro, I opened Spotify first, chose the perfect playlist (Esoteric 2019) and hit “Shuffle Play”. With headphones on, I opened Zombies, Run, selected a new mission (Jolly Alpha Five Niner), tucked my phone into my bum-bag, and headed off into the park. 

      The run was so fun! My imagination ran wild as I pictured myself in a TWD episode. I took an extra wide berth as I ran past outdoor enthusiasts walking in the park because, to me, they were the undead! My 5km run time (20th August 2019) however was not much different compared to two days before, coming home – unharmed by zombies – at 35-minutes and 25-seconds.

      A Winning Trio: Park Run, Zombies and Spotify

      On 31st August 2019 I ran Park Run whilst listening to the Zombies, Run mission “Distraction: Dead Herring”. I collected two packs of bandages, then an axe, a sports bra, a box of lightbulbs, some tinned food, underwear, power cable, some ammo, bottled water and some more bandages (in the app’s story; not in the real world). While snippets of the story occasionally interrupted my upbeat Spotify feed (Esoteric 2019 playlist), I was managing to keep a fair pace amongst the other runners. I completed the circuit in 32-minutes and 10-seconds! The combination of Park Run and Zombies, Run shaved minutes off my latest run times.

      If you’re like me, and struggle to feel motivated to run, then try both Park Run (Saturdays, 8am, worldwide locations, free) and Zombies, Run (phone application, free). For an extra fun run, combine the two like I did. You can thank me later (and share your experiences in the comments section *wink wink*). Below I have outlined key steps for making your run at Park Run more fun by avoiding zombies.

      How To Make Park Run More Fun By Avoiding Zombies

      You’ll require:

      • A digital device eg computer, tablet, phone
      • Internet connection
      • Printing facilities
      • Headphones 
      • A mobile phone with data enabled**
      • Running gear

      Step One: 

      Visit the Park Run website and register. Print your personalised barcode. Take this with you to Park Run. (Don’t have a printer at home? No problem. Pop into your public library or Officeworks.)

      Step Two: 

      Using a mobile device with internet connection, download the following apps and create an account for each.

      Step Three: 

      Choose a Park Run location and prepare to get there. Dress in your running gear. Take with you headphones, your mobile phone (with the two apps installed, ensuring it has data enabled for both apps), your barcode (see step one) and a drink bottle.

      Step Four: 

      Arrive at Park Run 10-15 minutes before the run to hear the brief, warm up, do some stretches, and get your gear ready. 

      Step Five:

      Open the Spotify app. Select my favourite jogging playlist “Esoteric 2019” or one of your choice. Press “Shuffle Play”. Return to main screen on phone. (I put my headphones on just as the run is about to begin so you don’t miss the important Park Run brief.) 

      Step Six:

      Open the Zombies, Run app. Select Missions (menu, running man icon). Click on the red helicopter image to access the story missions. Select Season 1, “Jolly Alpha Five Niner”.

      Step Seven:

      Follow the crowd of Park Runners as they line up. If you’re a beginner runner, position yourself towards the back of the line. If you’re generally active, place yourself in the middle. If you’re a fast runner eg 14km/hour then position yourself in the leaders group. When everyone starts running (usually 8am), press the blue “Start Mission” button on your screen. Secure your phone in a bum-bag, pocket, arm strap or whatever you use. Don’t forget to put your headphones on! Begin your run…

      Step Eight:

      You’ll hear the mission introduction, before it fades away so that you can just hear the Spotify music. After every 1-5 minutes you’ll hear parts of the story, or receive a notification that you’ve found something to collect, depending on your speed. The story is designed to last the 5km distance.

      Step Nine:

      When you cross the 5km finish line, you’ll receive a token. I usually rehydrate, then take the token and my barcode to the scanning table for my result to be recorded. Check your email later in the day to discover your Park Run time, although, the Zombies, Run app will also indicate your run time, and show you a map of the journey if you have GPS enabled.

      ** I use a pre-paid AldiSim L Value Pack, in an iPhone that I own outright. The pack includes:

      • Unlimited standard calls, SMS & MMS
      • 18GB data
      • Unlimited calls and SMS to 15 countries
      • Rollover all unused data
      • 30 days expiry

      ——

      Written by Sarah.

      Sarah is the founder of Mojo Mingle. You can learn more about her by attending events that she hosts or by following the Mojo Mingle Facebook page, where she keeps in touch with community members.