MANILA, Philippines -- Thousands ran for their lives as twilight approached the Bonifacio Global City in Taguig on Saturday to survive an outbreak of the "undead."
About 7,000 runners had until midnight to race along a five-kilometer survival-themed course based on a popular United States contest, as they tackled a series of natural and man-made obstacles, while dodging zombies lurking in the dark.
Three hundred actors in post-apocalyptic zombie costumes hid behind bushes, dumpsters and abandoned vehicles to surprise the runners and symbolically eat their brains by stealing the health flags attached to their waists.
Runners are considered "dead" when all of their three flags are stolen, but they can get additional flags by accomplishing certain optional obstacles that often include a swarm of zombies guarding the prize.
Each zombie has their own style of stealing these flags, often involving the creative use of obstacles to entrap their prey, with an added bonus of scaring them witless in the process.
Zombie actress Tessa Lim's subtle strategy was to act docile in front of the lazy runners, then quickly grab their flags.
"There's a thrill chasing after the runners, scaring them and seeing their reactions. It's fun," she says.
Other runners brought their own set of "weapons" like teddy bears and papier-mache shields for defence.
College student Christian Ang, who dressed as the popular comic book hero Captain America, took it upon himself to protect the other runners with his shield.
"If people need heroes to look up to during the crisis of zombies, I'm here to save lives and motivate them to keep on running," he says.
To keep both runners and zombies safe from injuries, organizers imposed a no-contact rule that forbids the zombies from any physical contact with the runners aside from taking their flags.
The terrain was designed for both regular and professional runners as contestants can choose two distinct paths that trade difficulty with the length of routes to the finish line.
Those who survive the race were given special prizes for their efforts.
College student Maycee Tan got all of her flags stolen and felt she has to come up with a new plan to survive a real zombie takeover.
"We really need to outwit them because they have their own strategies as well," she says.
Organizers say survival-themed races are becoming more popular in the Philippines as a means of staying fit without the boredom that often kills the runners' routines.
Organizer Judy Malabanan said it could even help train athletes for the Olympics.
"I think this could be part of an Olympic training. As you can see our runners a really running faster, and breaking their all-time records, but to train for the Olympics you need a longer zombie-infested course, I think," she says.
Organizers are planning more races in the coming months with larger varieties of the undead and more surprises hiding in the shadows, hopefully to entertain the runners into staying fit.