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01 November 2011

The Walking Dead: Why can these freaking zombies run?

I cannot believe I am starting November 1st by looking into information about zombies.  How appropriate! And how uncharacteristic of me.

Zombies are the least of my favorite creatures ever. But watching the last few episodes of The Walking Dead left me with no choice but to look into something online.

Because... I just had to know the answer to why the zombies on this show can run after the humans.

Before the second season started, I read about how one person was able to get through an episode watching the show without freaking out, by putting this thought in her head --- Zombies are freaky. But they can't kill you if you can outrun them. Because zombies are slow. And you only die from their attack if you're trapped and there's nowhere to run.

I thought that was cool. I thought that, with that way of thinking, zombies suddenly seemed less scary.

And then TWD Season 2 started. And I saw how zombies were running fast!

That wasn't supposed to happen!!!  Seriously, why can these freaking zombies run?

What I found out only proved I know so little about these creatures.  I schooled myself in Zombie 101 within minutes of Googling.

Apparently, there are three types of zombies:

  1.  The zombies that basically just feeds and feeds  on the brain. They're the most basic, dull zombies we know.
  2. The zombies that are possessed. They look like normal people but have lost the ability to control themselves. Someone else is controlling them either because of a curse, hypnotism or a microchip.
  3. The evolved zombies. They have become zombies because their genetic make-up has been altered. These are the ones that can run or jump (or roll over and play dead?).
George Romero, the creator of zombie film cults like Night of the Living Dead and Dawn of the Dead (films I wouldn't watch even if you pay me!),  stuck with the first type of zombies in that his zombies were slow and stupid.

Over the years, movies about zombies have portrayed them in a lot of the variations of these three types. Romero's films, for instance, when remade, featured evolved zombies. Running zombies aren't new, apparently. The movies have been doing these for years and have shown teleporting zombies even.

So going back to The Walking Dead, Robert Kirkman, the writer of the book series, is a huge fan of Romero's zombies and follows the same rule book to zombie-storytelling. But the producers of the TV show did a lot of changes (in every sense, like firing the original showrunner), and translated the book's stories into a television series with a slightly different take, to fit the medium.

So, now you see not just creepy-looking, vomit-inducing zombies. They can open doors, pray inside a church and pretty much? Outrun your grandmother.

And it's all for the purpose of entertainment, which make sense because an audience is so much harder to please these days.


  1. I hate anything zombies din lalo na yung P.I na Dawn of the Dead! Thinking of that movie just makes me want to hurl stuff on our TV. I loathed that movie. Kahit yung Shawn of the Dead, di ko din kinayang panoorin

    But Walking Dead and Zombieland lang yung nasikmura kong panoorin. :D

    Walkers can also climb stairs or ladders, di ba?

  2. They shouldn't be able to run - full stop, end of, period!

  3. there is only one type of zombie and that is a human which as been changed due to a virus, they do not evolve and they are not possessed nor can it be controlled via microchip and the only thing that varies in zombies movement is if a zombie happened to be crawling due to the lack of legs it has (ZOMBIES CANT RUN FULL STOP!)

  4. Too Long Did Not Read Version: pre and para mortum damages could prevent a reanimated corpse from running. We also know that zombies do not have the same higher brain functions as us and are not capable of finer motor skills, so that would make the likely pool of zombies in just the right condition to allow for running quite small. Finally, as the zombie decomposes over time the muscles and tendons required for running would be emaciated. That said, odds are that the zombie would be incapable of running within a few days after its death due to inflammation, bloating, and dehydration which would deprive the joints of their essential natural lubricants that make running possible.


    In theory, the newer/fresher a zombie (i.e. the fresher and less decomposed the corpse) the better it will work. Zombies run into real problems and become less effective as they decompose and degrade and fall apart. While zombies seem to deteriorate and decompose at a far slower rate than that of a regular corpse, we can still see evidence of changes after death.

    Basically, the longer a zombie is, well, a zombie, the more it will dry out (dehydrate) and the more various muscles and ligaments will decompose. The majority of zombies we see are not all that fresh, and while they have not completely degraded into near nothingness they have certainly lost enough muscle tone to make running problematic. Also, you may notice that zombies which are slow tend to stagger. That staggering makes sense when you think about how our joints work. In addition to dehydration doing all sorts of bad things to the muscles and ligaments, our joints rely on a self-produced lubricant to work effectively, especially in the joints of the knees. Many seniors actually take a supplemental medication for this because just the process of getting old starts to diminish the amount of this lubricant that is present thereby making walking more difficult. If the joints in the knees are not well lubricated then running is going to be out of the question, and the worse the lubrication the more likely you are to have difficulty walking which would result in a motion more akin to staggering (just like the zombies tend to do).

    I'd also point out that people who turn due to being attacked by a zombie may have been trying to flee or fight the attacker, and the end result of the attack would likely have been a take down of some measurable level of violence. It's easy to conceive of a number of situations where legs would be injured during an attack. This is especially true if you think about how easy it would be for zombies to bite someone's leg. We aren't always aware of what's near our feet while we're moving around or stopping because we're looking further out around us (for threats... like zombies). How many do you think were bit in the leg and/or Achilles tendon? This almost happened to Rick in the latest episode (S4 E5), and it happened to Herschel at the beginning of season 3 (hence the amputation of the leg). When you're up against something that will continue to thrash on the ground and try to bite you then it's conceivable there'd be more leg injuries/wounds than expected, which would affect the ability of the undead corpse to run when it reanimates due to the damage.

  5. Obviously this doesn't cover all people who are turned. I'm just saying we would likely expect a great number of people who reanimate to have damage, to the legs or otherwise, that would impede their ability to run. Additionally, it's likely that poor sods that are being caught by zombies may not be in the best of health when TWD starts and so might be dehydrated already. Finally, any corpse that reanimates and STILL has the ability to run would certainly lose that ability in short order as muscles and tendons inflame, bloat, dehydrate, decompose, and generally lose their prime functionality. This would only be made worse by the dehydration that would begin to erode the body's natural joint lubricants and make joint movement necessary for running (especially in the knees and the complicated series of joints in the feet that are necessary for achieving the smooth kind of bipedal motion needed for a run. Oh, and don't forget the hip joints. The movement of the hips and gluts are key for stabilizing the body and allowing you to keep your balance as you walk and run. The faster you go the more important this process is).

    I think the staggering that we generally see in zombies is the best evidence for the notion that their bodies are breaking down and running into problems. While they may not feel pain and so don't mind grinding muscles, tendons, and bones, it will impede their motions (which we can already see lack much of the fine motor control that we take for granted thanks to our higher brain functions. If you recall in the Season 1 finale, the scientist shows an MRI scan of the brain of an infected individual reviving, and much of the higher brain and its functions remain completely dark and diminished, while others are operating at less than optimal efficiency).

    In other words the number of zombies that would actually be capable of running would be only those few zombies that are "freshest," and their numbers grow fewer and fewer as the number of living humans dwindles, thereby greatly lowering the number of "fresh" zombies being created. So it's not that zombies CAN'T ever run, it's just that by the time we start TWD we are unlikely to see too many of them, and they are a type of zombie that would only be getting less and less frequent.

    In theory, anyway.