You're out for a morning jog while listening to your Journey playlist. Everything seems normal enough - the sun is just coming up, the birds are singing, and "Don't Stop Believing" has got you pumped up. Then a frantic voice shouts over your headphones - "There are zombies behind you! Run!"
You can hear them; their atonal moans coming from behind you. You don't know how many there are. You don't want to turn and count. You just want to run. You have to run. If you don't, you're dead.
The faster you move, the more faint their voices get. So you stop a second to catch your breath. Their groans grow in volume as they come closer, pushing you to start running again.
Faster. Further. Don't stop or they'll eat you.
And then you see your neighbor standing on his porch with the daily newspaper in his hands. He's wearing that robe his kids bought him for Christmas - the ones with the yellow duckies on it. Wave to him. Don't be rude. Just because you're trying to survive the zombie apocalypse is no reason to throw manners out the window.
Sound cool? That's just the beginning
Six to Start is a story-telling company that specializes in writing and producing stories for games or other electronic media. They are based in London with associates in New York and Toronto. They've worked with the BBC and the rock band Muse.
But what I've showcased above is their app, "Zombies 5K." You are Runner 5 of Abel Township. It is your mission to run out into the unsecured lands surrounding the compound to gather vital supplies such as medicine, ammunition, and fuel for your fellow survivors. All the while your bosses are in touch with you over the radio. Not only do they coach you in pace and technique, but they also add an extra sense of accomplishment to your runs. You're not just burning calories while avoiding the undead - you're being a hero in the post apocalyptic world.
And all of this is happening to you while you jog around the real world with your phone. That neighbor with the ducky robe has no idea what a big deal you are. But you do, and that's all that matters.
Essentially what the evil geniuses at Six to Start have done is they've found a way to take something as intimidating and boring as a running regimen and turn it into an immersive video game. Never mind all of the motion-control gimmicks of the Wii or the Xbox 360 for getting into shape, these apps, retailing for less than $5 apiece, give you a sense of purpose, entertainment, and even fear while running. The app uses the GPS on your phone to track your speed as you run through the neighborhood or park, so it knows if you're speeding up or slowing down. Don't want to run outside? The app also has a feature to use the accelerometer in your phone so you can use it on the treadmill. This loses a little of the magic, I suspect, but hey, if it's raining outside, I'll be thankful for that treadmill option.
"Zombies, 5K" and its parent "Zombies, Run!" are both available for iOS and Android. Personally, I've been using Zombies, 5K because it gives you a guided 8-week training schedule to follow to go from the couch to being able to run almost three consecutive miles. Afterwards I will definitely invest in "Zombies, Run!" which offers more missions and a grander storyline.