Running with zombies

I ran in the first ever zombie run—Run For Your Lives—on Saturday, October 22, 2011 outside of Baltimore, Maryland. It was a 5k obstacle run (much like Warrior Dash) with the added difficulty of “live” zombies on the field.

Here’s my head-cam video of the run:

My race time was 35:34.5 which they say was a 12:26/mile pace. It was a much better time than I had expected, especially since I had to pause so many times to dodge zombies and the hills were so steep on the second half of the course. I finished at #669 for the runners who survived and #1012 overall.

Event runners tips for next year:

The major issues all centered around the size of the crowd. I didn’t experience problems like these at Warrior Dash, so I’m chalking it up to inexperience and hoping that as they run more of these events they’ll go smoother.

Parking, Busing, & Lines

I was there early so getting into the parking area wasn’t a problem for me. I heard there was a very long line of cars waiting to get in a little later in the day. On my way out I got stuck in the mud. They’ve already addressed the parking situation for next year by moving the location.

Because the wait for the buses was so long I’d recommend placing more porta-potties near the bus pick-up and before check-in.

I had arrived and parked my car an hour before my run time, as they recommended on the site, but due to the long lines (and bus delays) I didn’t run until an hour after my allotted time. Luckily the event was flexible enough to allow for it. Next year I plan on arriving 3 hours before my run time.


The shirt that I received was a nice shirt for running, but I was really expecting a commemorative t-shirt printed with the race logo, location, and date—the race medallion was very nice though. I guess I was a little spoiled by Warrior Dash, where they gave you a printed race shirt, a warrior hat, and a medal.


For a first year event I think it ran fairly smoothly. The three different channels for the runners at the start of the race (appetizer, entree, and dessert) was an awesome idea. It allowed faster runners to choose a path in the beginning where they wouldn’t immediately get trapped behind very slow runners. The zombie makeup was phenomenal (watch the video to see for yourself).

I didn’t stay for the Apocalypse party, but I plan on doing so when I run again in 2012. I also hope to start a petition to get a race scheduled in Pennsylvania. I definitely recommend giving this run a go. Visit the Run For Your Lives website to see if they’ve scheduled a race near you.


Jocks + geeks = zombies?

I’ve been getting myself fit for a little over a year now. During this time I discovered obstacle races, like the Warrior Dash and the Spartan Sprint. However, I always thought it’d be cool if someone could combine fitness adventures with geekdom. Well, someone has.

I’ve just signed up for the first zombie obstacle run: Run for your Lives in Baltimore, MD on October 22nd. I’m hoping that some of my ZTOP (Zombie Troopers of Pennsylvania) friends will be joining me.

From the website:

Protect your brain and run for your life. This is one race where your legs giving out are the least of your problems. Run For Your Lives is a first-of-its-kind event, one part 5K, one part obstacle course, one part escaping the clutches of zombies — and all parts awesome.

Runners will navigate a series of 12 obstacles throughout a 5K course in an attempt to reach the finish line — all while avoiding zombies. At the end of this adventure race, you get to celebrate survival (or zombie transformation) with live entertainment and music, local celebrities, vendors, food, and of course, beer!

There are still a few spaces left in the morning and evening heats. If you see me there, say “Hi!”


Containment convention open pimp thread

I’ve repaired some of the twitter scripts, so, this is an invitation for all geek (science fiction, fantasy, horror, anime,steampunk, etc.) conventions to pimp themselves in this thread (and submit their info on Containment).

Leave a comment here that tells me why your con is special. Feel free to make it as long as you like, but if your comment contains multiple links then it’s likely to go into moderation (so please be patient while it’s in the queue).

Conventions who post a comment under 140 characters in length will have their pimps tweeted to the @confinder timeline for all 733+ followers to see (don’t forget to include your twitter account and the #pimpage hashtag in the comment). For example:

@Yourcon is the largest steampunk con in Eastern Gwandanaland, with extra special guest: Willie Wonka #pimpage

All right, now have at it!


Looking for conventions

Some of you know that one of the websites that I run is Containment ( At the moment I need people to submit conventions to the site. If you know of a convention intimately enough, or can prod the organizers into doing it, please add your favorite conventions to the site on the consubmit page.


Warrior Dash PA, 2011

This weekend I ran the Warrior Dash in Albrightsville, Pennsylvania, on the Skirmish paintball fields. Warrior Dash is a 3½-mile run with a dozen obstacles (from mud pits to rope walls) placed along the route.

It was a dark, cloudy day, made even more so by the fact that a cloud bank covered the field by the time that my wave began at 3:30. Here’s a video of my run, though I imagine it’s only of interest of people who want to run the Warrior Dash.

[music for the video by Emperor Norton’s Stationary Marching Band]

I was bib #33968, I came in 802nd place (out of 8,281 runners for the day), and took 105th place for my age group (out of 743 runners in the 35-39 male age group). My final race time was 40:33.80, which was an 11:35/mile pace, a little less than 4 minutes slower than the first place finish which paced 7:38/mile.

It was a great run, and a great time. I’ll likely do it again next year, but for now: I must get my head back into web development.


An Evening with Marian Call in Philadelphia

I’m hosting an evening with Marian Call in Philadelphia (more information on Space Westerns Magazine).


PhauxCon 2010

I’m going to PhauxCon 2010 this Saturday, and you should too. It’s a small, cozy, (almost secret) one-track con in Philadelphia that is entirely worth going to. It’s only $20 at the door and you can’t beat it for interaction time with the guests. I was there last year where I met Kelly Rowles, L.A. Banks, David Hill, and Filamena Young. I’m not sure who’s going to be there this year—but I don’t care—it was seriously just that much fun.


A mummy unwrapped

Here’s the final video from the mummy unwrapping event that I hosted at the Steampunk World’s Fair in Piscataway, New Jersey this past May. Everyone had a great time:

It’s my hope that I’ll be able to do similar events at the upcoming Steampunk Exposition (date TBD).


Coming to the Chestnut Hill Book Festival

The Chestnut Hill Book Festival (July 9th-11th) has a full track of science fiction panels this year. I will be giving an “Introduction to Space Westerns” on Friday night at 7PM. Afterwards, at 8PM, Tom Purdom will be reading. On subsequent days look for Lawrence M. Schoen, Gardner Dozois, Gregory Frost, and many others.

For the full schedule and details visit the Chestnut Hill Book Festival website.

I hope to see you there!


The making of a mummy

I hosted the mummy unwrapping event at Jeff Mach’s The Steampunk World’s Fair in Piscataway, New Jersey this past May. Hoping that it will start a trend at other Steampunk Conventions, I’m posting the step-by-step process for building the mummy, as well as my experience in running the show.


The Victorians went through a wave of Egypt-mania. That’s why in many Victorian-era designs we see shades of Egypt (hieroglyphs, the lotus, the winged-orb, etc.). This Egyptian influence found it’s way into literature, art, architecture, design, and the study of the occult. At the height of this mania Egyptian mummies were imported to England by rich Victorians to unwrap at parties.

You can find an actual Victorian-era account of unwrapping a mummy at “The Unwrapping of a Mummy” by Theophile Gautier.

Making the mummy

Since the importation of an Egytian corpse is illegal and immoral (and icky) I had to make my own. Here’s complete list of supplies that I used:

  1. 2 8-foot lengths of ¾-inch PVC
  2. 4 elbow connectors (for shoulders and hips)
  3. 1 small bolt and nut
  4. 3 T-connectors (for the hip and feet)
  5. 1 newspaper (Sunday edition)
  6. Masking-tape
  7. 1 200-foot roll Natural-colored or white paper-towels (I used about ⅓ of the roll)
  8. 1 8-inch styrofoam ball
  9. Papier-maché
  10. 200 feet of white crepe paper

Rather than use a ruler, I used my own body to get the basic dimensions of the mummy. I used a hacksaw to cut the PVC, and a standard cordless drill for the one hole that I needed. The hacksaw and the drill comprised the complete list of tools that I needed.

I held the PVC up to my own limbs to get a measurement, and cut two to the same length. The arms, legs, hip-width, shoulder-width, and overall height of the mummy matches my own. For the elbows, I marked the location of my own elbow on the PVC and cut a notch, so that the arms could bend.

I drilled a hole in the center of the shoulder piece and another hole in the spine piece and used the bolt (and some masking-tape) to attach them—roughly at the level where the shoulders meet the arms, rather than where the shoulders meet the neck (which is a mistake I’ve seen made too often, as it seems to give the figure a permanent shrug). I attached the remaining pieces using the elbow and T joints. I used T joints for the feet to be better able to simulate a heel. This made the basic frame.

I used my knowledge of anatomy picked-up while studying Art in college to place the major muscle groups and bones using newspaper (you’ll notice the properly placed calves, thighs, patellas, gluteus, pectorals, scapula, etc.). The skull was then shoved onto the top, and newspaper fashioned the jaw. Masking-tape held the newspaper to the frame, until I could apply the papier-maché.

Papier-maché paste

  1. 1-part flour
  2. 5-parts water
  3. 1 Tbsp cinnamon
  4. 1 Tbsp salt (optional)

Begin by boiling 4-parts water. While the water is boils take the remaining 1-part water and mix it with the 1-part flour. Whisk it to remove lumps. Add the cinnamon and salt (the cinnamon does nothing but make the mixture smell nice; the salt prevents mold in high humidity areas). When the 4-parts water is boiling, begin to add the water/flour mixture slowly. Heat the mixture until it thickens—about 2 to 3 minutes. It should have a gluey consistency; feel free to add more water if you think it’s too thick. Let it cool before you stick your hands in it (I cannot stress this enough: let it cool before you stick your hands in it). Plan on at least 24-48 hours of drying time for each layer.

I used: 2 cups flour; 10 cups water; and 2 Tbsp cinnamon (no salt); but it was way too much for my needs by about two-thirds. It lasted, covered, for three days without any noticeable unpleasant odors or mold (this was in May weather in Pennsylvania, your mileage may vary). This formula and the use of paper-towels rather than newspaper made the mummy more flexible that I thought it would have been, which was actually useful when the time came to wrap the prizes into the mummy.

At the Fair

Jeff Mach had already received some of the items for the event delivered to him, after receiving those—about 4 hours prior to the mummy unwrapping—I went to each dealer individually to ask if they had anything to donate. All but a few did. I was actually astonished at the generosity of some of the dealers (notably Big Bear Trading Company who donated a pocket-watch). About 1 hour prior to the event I began wrapping the prizes into the mummy with the crepe paper.

At the event

The event was well-attended, very well-received, and everyone had a good time. I’ll be posting the video of the event (after I’ve finished editing it down to 15 minutes).

Had I to start over again

I plan to do it again next year, and reuse the same mummy, but since you may be starting from scratch… I would have begun building the mummy sooner. I would have liked to put on another layer of papier-maché and add some fine details (nose, mouth, and eyes), but I didn’t have time. It took about 24 hours per layer to dry (in dreary, rainy conditions, using a fan).

Also, I think I should have either wrapped the prizes into the mummy an hour earlier, or I should have wrapped it before-hand using numbered tickets, rather than trying to wrap the prizes into the mummy (to prevent the last minute rush that I had).