Surviving the Zombie Apocalypse: 2.8 Hours Later….

When a friend came to me and suggested we take part in 2.8 hours later, I thought it was a brilliant idea. Why not spend a few hours running away from zombies around Manchester?

2.8 Hours Later is a mad dash across the city it is being held in, where the participants have to get through the city from checkpoint to checkpoint with out succumbing to infection. Simple idea, how hard can it be? With the abundance of zombie films out there, I think most people now have some idea of what they would do in the (unlikely, I hope) event of a zombie apocalypse and I thought it would be good fun to experience something like it and to test some of the theories.

So off we went in our team to the starting point to get our instructions and begin the game. The location of the start point is kept a secret until just before the game is due to begin, along with details of the route to add to the fun and suspense. After being briefed by various medical staff and a representative from the government (all actors in the game) off we went with the first set of coordinates and our maps clutched close – we had been warned zombies may try and steal them from us – to the first location. Along the way you meet other teams and the odd survivor who has been separated from their team and will pass on helpful bits of information, such as “whatever you do, for goodness sake, turn left at the end of this section. I went right…. Just go left!” The basis of the game is the need to get across the city to reach safety. In order to do so we would need a medical certificate to state we are not infected to allow us to pass through the sections of the city.

We were nervous but excited and coming to the realisation we were probably going to be terrified at some point. At each checkpoint the story that took you through the game was carried on by the (brilliant) actors. We got to the medical centre only to find a distressed young lady who couldn’t get in to see her boyfriend, only to be hustled out the door by a frantic doctor who could not help us, but sent us off to find a Salvation Army General worker who could help. As we left the medical centre the poor young lady discovered the fate of her boyfriend, and so did we as we sprinted out of the building having had a curtain moved aside to reveal the boyfriend who had recently become a zombie. This was scary enough, and this zombie was strapped down.

We find our second location only to be questioned by a rather sinister police officer. He takes us to the Salvation Army General who is being closely watched by another sinister police officer who demands I don’t move as they will be questioning me. As soon as she steps away, the General quickly sends us on our way. All he has to offer is soup, but we might find a refugee centre where we might get a certificate at the next set of coordinates. As we move away from his soup table two zombies who look as though they were homeless in life, rise up and chase us away from the General.

The refugee centre is where we have our first encounter with a whole hoard of zombies and it was like something out of a film. We turned the corner and there they were bumbling around a courtyard we somehow had to get across. They weren’t moving too quickly, so we were fairly confident we could get by as we crept forward waiting for them to notice us. Once they did, sprinting was the only appropriate action; these guys were more 28 Days Later zombies than Shaun of the Dead zombies. They move at a slow pace only when there is no fresh meat on offer. After legging it to the door of the health centre we find a woman and her daughter who does not look well; she was showing an interest in us that did not suggest she wanted us to survive. We were hustled out through another door with coordinates for where her car was parked, and told we should take it. So we were back out into the courtyard of zombies, and had to get past them again. By the end of this stage we were all made aware of how unfit we were for the apocalypse.

On to an underground car park (yup, nice and dark with lots of even darker corners for things to hide in) where a somewhat crazed woman would not give up the car keys, and tol dus in no uncertain terms to get lost. Armed with the next set of coordinates we legged it through the dark tunnels, and taking no risks, just bombed it the entire way. This paid off as the zombies waiting for us at the underpass were not quite ready for us to come out of the tunnels at quite that speed. Or so I like to think.

We then reach a Scottish guy who looked to be hanging on only by a very frayed thread. He had three zombies in “quarantine” but we could get past them as they were in cages. He knew of our final location and promising we had nearly reached it, sent us through a narrow passage, with savage zombies on both sides, and one right in front of the door we had to use to get out. We were pretty scared and certain we would not get through this stage without being infected. Somehow, we did make it (thanks to the first in our team using the door to shove the zombie out of the way) only to have two more come running out of a side street.

On to roads around Strangeways where we came face-to-face with some zombies in orange jumpsuits, and a very unstable Scot with a hammer. He took us into a room where he was “helping” a guy who had hurt his leg. By helping him he meant tied him up and gagged, forcing him to tell people where they could find a scout from the Asylum by threatening to do some damage to his knees with said hammer. Nice. As we shuffled out of the door (it was a shuffle as by this point we had bunched up with a couple of other groups) to get past three more zombie prisoners. Now in the longer sections of the game, we discovered it definitely helps to be in a larger group as there are more people to distract the zombies, giving you more of getting through unhurt.

We had now covered most of the game, and were heading for the Green Quarter. Here we found a few doctor zombies, and that we had to get down to a narrow path and out to the other side. Easier in a small group, but when there are 20 or so people heading for a 5 foot gap…. miraculously we did make it through. Getting half way through this section we met up with a rather eccentric scout from the Asylum who advised that they had been raided the night before, and lost a large amount of their drug store. He asked if any of us could get back to a section in the middle of the zombies where some of the drugs they had lost in the raid were being held. One young man took up the challenge, much to the relief of the rest of us who by this point were getting a bit tired, and managed to secure a bag of pills which was enough for the scout to give us the final location.

Knowing we were nearly at the final point, we realised that as the number of zombies had grown as we went along, we were in all likelihood facing something quite epic to finish off with. We find ourselves facing only two or three zombies, but down some very, very narrow alleys around Ancoats. We cautiously start down the alley and wait to see the reaction of the zombie at the end. As she becomes aware of us, we change direction only to come face-to-face with another zombie (both in outfits that would suggest they were once medical workers). We were stuck. Blocked in by two ravenous zombies. But, we had a hero amongst us as one guy sacrificed himself by shoving himself into the zombie ahead of us, allowing the rest of us to get past. It was at this point we heard the sound of a siren and search lights announcing we had made it to the Asylum, and we were now safe. It was a relief as we could finally stop running and were rewarded with a zombie disco (survivors and the infected welcome) where those who had been infected could get made up, and everyone could get a well earned drink and some food.

I am pleased to say I somehow managed to survive! However, two days later my body is still reminding me of how much running was involved, but it was totally worth it. As soon as we had finished we all agreed we would do it again, either as a zombie or a runner. You can tell yourself over and over again it is just a game, and the zombie aren’t real, but once the adrenalin kicks in and you see the zombies (the make-up and acting are excellent) it is very difficult not to get swept up in it and find yourself taking it a bit seriously.

We did get asked by some confused/concerned members of the public along the way what was going on, and we were happy to explain; even if we did get some funny looks.

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