Where long walks are concerned, necessity has always been the mother of any kind of motivation; Betty’s natural mode is one of inertia, adroitly held in tension with an irresistible homing instinct; the only way to ensure she gets a nice long walk is to abandon herself at some remote location and let her baser brain guide the way back to the nest, as it were. This has worked really well at certain times – for example, when she used to work at the home for the bewildered in the mornings and have to be at university in the afternoons (one hour’s walk) and then, of course, home (another hour). Or when she was a muscularly dystrophian caregiver in a relatively distant suburb during the day and had to be at the studio in the evening (one hour and a half). Or, and this still rankles, when she used to finish supervising meds for the gloriously unwell at ten in the PM and the bus wouldn’t come (also one and a half, but extra points for the pitch darkness and the homicidal rage). It hasn’t been working so well since she has been working ten minutes’ walk from home, which is five on a bike, barely.
Her saviour, walking-wise, has come in the form of an app – it’s called Zombies, Run!, and its premise is simple. You are Runner 5, a stranger choppered into a small township that has been holding off zombie hordes for a wee while, and it has unceremoniously become your job to prove your worth and identity by running around the base to perform various tasks – retrieving supplies, distracting packs of undead scavengers, rescuing children, that kind of thing – at a nice, steady pace, through an unfolding series of missions. You are directed by radio contact from the base through your headphones, and you can set a playlist of music for running (or walking, which is what Betty does, or even something related like cycling or rowing, in a pinch). In between your usual Django Reinhardt and Babylon Circus and the Klezmer Conservatory Band, you get harried updates from the survivors of the zombie apocalypse, saying motivating things like “Oh, dear,” and “Just put on a burst of speed, now!“.
Of course, things are not all as they seem, et cetera, and it becomes quite exciting to learn dribs and drabs of the full story as the missions progress. There are about thirty missions in the season, but a few are supply runs which are quite replayable, and there’s a Radio Mode that kicks in at the end of each mission to continue the ambience, and you can do an entire run in Radio Mode, if you wish. If you’re feeling up to it, you can even enable zombie chases, and they will appear all groaning and heaving and make you go faster.
The only drawback is that Betty doesn’t have a smartphone, so the rather clunky iPad has to come along on these long walks. This precludes its use on proper slogs, but it has still been perfectly fine for those walks on which Betty would have taken a bag anyway – coffee runs via the beach, for example, or inter-suburb commutes.
All in all, it’s a tremendous app, and it has certainly increased Betty’s walking habits by a considerable margin. Zombies for the win. We might have known.