There is no doubt that the infected in The Last of Us are abundant, but we also know that there are infection stages that the infected go through the moment the Cordyceps fungus enters their system. Of course, there are scary stages, such as Clickers and Bloaters, that are more than capable of manhandling regular people. But Runners tend to be just as scary due to their sheer numbers and mobility. So, what are the Runners in The Last of Us?
The Runner is the first stage of infection that an infected goes through after getting infected by the Cordyceps fungus. A Runner usually becomes one the moment the infection takes over the person’s mind. Runners are the most humanlike out of all of the infected and are also the most mobile.
While the Runner stage is often seen as the weakest out of all of the different infection stages an infected goes through, the thing is that Runners are abundant due to the fact that everyone that gets infected goes through this stage. That’s why there are a lot of Runners in the world of The Last of Us, and Joel and Ellie have to literally run to make sure they get away from them.
What Are Runners In The Last Of Us?
One of the things that we know is that everyone in the world of The Last of Us wants to avoid the infected, and that’s the reason why they stay in Quarantine Zones (QZs) as these areas are deemed safe from the infection and are protected by FEDRA. But the thing is that those who venture outside the QZs are in danger of getting attacked by those who have been infected by the Cordyceps fungus, which takes over the person’s mind and turns them into a ferocious creature that attacks anyone at will, all while the fungus feeds on the person.
In that regard, whenever a person gets infected, there is no turning around. They will eventually lose their minds and become slaves to the Cordyceps. And the moment they lose their minds, they become Runners.
Runners are basically the infected that are in the first stage of the Cordyceps Brain Infection (CBI). That means that a person that gets infected by the Cordyceps fungus will always go through the Runner stage, as this is the first stage of the infection. The fact that this is the first stage of infection makes the Runner the most humanlike out of all of the different infected in the world of The Last of Us.
In that regard, Runners are ferocious, wild, and extremely aggressive whenever they see humans or animals. They won’t hesitate to attack anything or anyone as it is the fungus that is now in control of the mind of the person. And the fact that the Runner is the first stage of the infection makes it the most common.
Because not all of the infected get to live for a very long time due to the fact that the fungus can end up killing the host in a matter of months, the Runner is the most common out of all of the different infected as the world of The Last of Us is mostly populated by Runners. These infected creatures tend to also group themselves together as they are pack hunters that are controlled by a hivemind in HBO’s version of The Last of Us.
The hivemind is controlled by a network of Cordyceps tendrils that can be found underground. Through these tendrils, the Runners are given orders by the fungus to attack anyone that steps on one of the tendrils within a one-mile radius. As such, Runners can sense prey from afar due to this hivemind mentality.
Runners are also weak in the sense that they are just as easy to kill as regular people. A good shot in a vital area will kill a Runner, and that’s why they aren’t very durable. On top of that, Runners aren’t exactly physically strong, although older Runners tend to be stronger due to how the Cordyceps fungus has already somewhat augmented the host’s strength with its tendrils.
In the games, Runners tend to moan a lot as it is possible that the host body still feels pain while the Cordyceps fungus deforms their body. This implies that the host’s personality and consciousness are still intact but unable to control their body due to the influence of the fungus. As such, the only thing that the Runner could do is moan in pain while the fungus slowly yet steadily eats it away.
How Are Runners Different From The Other Infected?
While the Runner may be the first and weakest stage of infection among the infected in the world of The Last of Us, they do have differences that give them significant advantages over the other stages of infection.
For one, unlike the more advanced stages of infection, Runners still have most of their senses intact. That means that they can see and hear their surroundings. As such, they don’t need to rely on echolocation as they can still see their prey. On top of that, Runners tend to be quite mobile, as they are known to chase after prey whenever they are alerted to their presence.
Runners are also known to be pack hunters that like to migrate from one place to another. This differentiates them from Stalkers and Clickers that tend to stay within one area so that they could restrict themselves within that vicinity.
Unlike other stages of infection, the Runner stage doesn’t have the same kind of durability and strength enhancement that Stalkers and Clickers have. That’s why they are easier to kill, especially in the games, as the players can strangle them to death. Meanwhile, in the live-action series, a Runner can be killed with a good shot in a vital spot. On the other hand, Clickers are so durable that they can survive multiple gunshots and even an axe, as seen in episode 2 of The Last of Us.
Despite the fact that they aren’t strong and durable, Runners are more likely to be faster and more agile than the other stages of infection. That’s because they still retain much of their human qualities and are able to rely on their sense when they are on the move.
Runners are sort of like the foot soldiers of the infected due to how they are so abundant in terms of their numbers. As such, while they are not as strong as the other stages of infection, Runners tend to overwhelm people with their numbers. That’s why Runners were able to destroy human civilization during the start of the pandemic, as they overwhelmed humans with their sheer numbers and aggression.