Running for your life

How to prepare for the Zombie 5K, which is bringing its singular brand of frightening fitness to New England for the first time this year:

• Run. Do the Couch-to-5K program, designed to ease non-runners into running shape in three months. The race will take place at the Amesbury Sports Park in Massachusetts, about an hour and 15 minutes from Portland; be ready to run on grassy, hilly terrain.

• Do a boot camp or something else that prepares you for the 12 man-made and natural obstacles you'll encounter during the Zombie 5K — "there will be mud, water, and maybe some blood," the website warns. Practice ducking and climbing, preferably with blood-thirsty beasts on your tail. During the race, the undead will be trying to steal "health flags" from the belt you'll be given at the start. You must make it to the finish line with at least one flag intact in order to be eligible for prizes.

• Check out the Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead, by Max Brooks (Three Rivers Press, 2003). Perhaps the seminal tome on this subject, the book offers some advice that's relevant to the race: first, that ideal protection is tight clothing and short hair (don't give them anything to grab onto); second, "keep moving, keep low, keep quiet, and keep alert!" The "zombies" (who will "undergo full zombie transformation" at the Zombie Transformation Center) will comprise both Stumblers — who must drag and shuffle their way toward stealing runners' flags — and Chasers — who will, as their name suggests, pursue runners at full speed.

The IDEA guy

Last year, as the executive director of TEDxDirigo, Adam Burk spearheaded the thought-provoking "Latitudes" event that brought more than a dozen inspirational speakers before a roomful of optimistic, engaged listeners to discuss — plain and simple — good ideas. (See "Big Ideas for Maine," by Mike Miliard, September 16, 2011). Ideas about energy, about bees, about risk-taking, about discerning what's real from what's fake. By all accounts, the event was a success, although the quandary of what to do with all those schemes and concepts still remains.

This spring, in partnership with the Institute for Civic Leadership, TEDxDirigo will host more of a "now what?" event, something that gets people to engage with the ideas and act on them. There'll also be a workshop with speaker curator and event co-host Janice O'Rourke to hone in on "what's the magic of the TED talk, what makes it sticky, what makes it work," Burk says. And on Leap Day, February 29, the organization will host the first-ever TEDxDirigo try-outs at the Frontier Café in Brunswick, for people who want the chance to offer their own ideas at the annual fall event. Visit tedxdirigo.com for more about these events.

It seems that Burk can't get enough of ideas. In 2012, he'll continue his "hyper part-time" work as a digital organizer for the Institute for Democratic Education in America (IDEA) — promoting and facilitating education reform at the classroom, school, and district levels through social media and networking as well as offline action. For instance, he's supporting the efforts of a teacher in RSU 3 (which includes the towns of Unity, Montville, and Thorndike) who wants to explore the concept of semester-long independent projects, in lieu of a normal school day, for certain students. Through his position at IDEA, which he describes as "a cooperative catalyst," he is able to network among educators near and far, and connect people who are working toward similar goals. He's also seeking to bring an IDEA "innovation tour" to Maine, during which 30 participants would visit four local schools to witness and discuss inventive approaches to education.

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