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Runners are the first and weakest stage of infected in The Last of Us, The Last of Us Part II and Left Behind. They are people who recently turned after contact with the Cordyceps brain infection within two days.[1] They are defined by their intense speed, sluggish attacks and tendency to swarm their targets.[2][3]

Characteristics

A closeup of a runner.

People who have been infected will enter this stage within two days, with increased irritability and hostility towards others being key symptoms. Their skin is pale and, as the eyes are first targeted by the fungus, runners have poor eyesight, but maintain some human characteristics. For example, their moans are still human, just like their overall appearance and they are fast and agile.[1]

They stand in a hunched position when motionless or when moving around passively, unlike normal survivors. Their body language is sluggish while they are passive, suggesting they are resisting the fungus's influence, albeit usually in vain.[2][4]

Some survivors believe that the infected person's mind is still intact, but trapped in their own body, as shown by a crying runner that was upset at attacking her friends.[5] Sometimes they do not attack at all, even when non-infected individuals are right in front of them. These non-aggressive runners will only attack if attacked first or when an object is thrown at or near them, thus losing control. They will also become aggressive if a non-infected individual is extremely close in front of them. Much like sneezing, the urge to attack after such interactions happens involuntarily and unwillingly by the host.[3]

Runners migrate and attack in packs, flailing their arms in attempts to trample survivors.[6] When migrating, runners tend to leave a few fellow infected behind, who nest in the area and await prey to appear to hunt, human and animal alike.[7]

Combat

Joel strangles a runner.

Still retaining their eyesight, runners can see the player from a distance. However, players can sneak up behind them and, like with survivors, strangle them.[2] Moving runners can even hear and spot players that crouch-walk, indicating heightened awareness. The runners can also grab the player and will try to bite and infect them while doing so, but they are less likely to be successful due to the fact that they can be shaken off, unlike the physically advanced clickers.[8] 

Anything works against runners, and generally, the main concern when fighting them is the possibility of being swarmed by them in large numbers, in which case one may consider attempting to escape their detection by sprinting a distance away and diving behind cover.[9] Stealth is a good option while dealing with them, although not entirely necessary. As with any other choke-able enemies, the player needs to be careful about being spotted by other nearby enemies while choking them out one by one. Attempting to strangle runners from the front will cause them to become aggressive and alert nearby infected, so it is advised to avoid such.[2] Individual runners are also easy to melee even with bare fists, so using up any ammunition when fighting them can be wasteful when there are only a few of them.[8] There is little gained, but plenty lost if Joel uses a shiv on them, as shivs are best saved for clickers, shiv doors, and stalkers to obtain the The Hunter Becomes the Hunted trophy.

Ellie saves Joel from a runner's bite.

The runners are at such a weak stage that most survivors can defeat them with little trouble, such as the cannibals at the Colorado Mountain Plaza; they could easily out-brawl them in melee combat and could flip them over their heads and stomp them.[10] Others however, like the average smugglers, seem to struggle, being overwhelmed by them in seconds.[2] However, the well-equipped Washington Liberation Front soldiers fared well against the runners in the subway station in Seattle[11]

Also, runners are extremely dangerous around clickers and bloaters as the former are still able to see survivors, alerting the latter to their presence. It is best to strangle any runners in the vicinity first, as this will maintain the quiet ambiance needed to bypass clickers and bloaters.[12]

Trivia

  • Runners do not moan as much nor in the same way as in previous beta demos as if in horrific pain but remain silent for the most part. However, they will screech when startled.
  • Some of the concept art in The Art of The Last of Us shows runners wielding tools such as shovels, knives, and rakes as weapons.

References

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