The closer we got to the Missouri State Penitentiary, the more imposing the building looked. I’d never been in jail before and had never really anticipated that changing. An unsmiling matron sent us to the courtyard, where we were booked, photographed, and directed to a holding cell.
|Clearly we’re dangerous|
There, we got our first glimpse of the characters we’d be sharing space with.
Eventually, a guard with a bullhorn ordered us to walk in a double line to our new quarters in Housing
|Obviously a rule-breaker, Christina plays lone wolf.|
|Lindsay is waaaaay to happy to be in jail.|
|Home, sweet home.|
Hardened cases that we are, we weren’t allowed in the regular cells; instead, the guards led us downstairs, past the showers, down a seriously creepy hallway…
|Our room was through that doorway to the left.|
… and into the dungeon.
Our cell was designed for solitary confinement, but it was crammed with several of us due to major overcrowding. The only light came from the doorway, and nobody wanted to get too close to the walls…or the shady characters bunking with us. Standing there in a dark room full of strangers, Lindsay and Sara looked increasingly uncomfortable, and I felt terrible. After all, it was my fault they were there.
As our imprisonment dragged on, a male voice began to sing: “Swing low, sweet chariot….” A few other voices chimed in but were quickly silenced by dangerous glances from nearby inmates and talk of shanking. I started at the walls around me and tried to imagine spending the rest of my life in a room like this. It was a pretty terrible thought.
Suddenly we saw prisoners moving freely in the hallway outside our room. Not seeing any guards, we joined the exodus.
|The path to freedom|
We climbed a steep flight of stairs, moved quickly through the main cellblock, made it out into the courtyard, and crashed through the doors at a run. The Jefferson City Prison Break was on!
Jefferson City is over 2 hours from where I live, but one of the cool problems with having out of town teammates is hearing about can’t miss events that make me drive. When my friend Bob told me about the Prison Break, an obstacle race that started inside of the old Missouri State Penitentiary, I knew I had to be there. And you know you have good friends when they agree to go to jail with you. 😉
|Wearing her Cookie Monster shirt (“because I’m pretty sure no one has EVER broken out of jail in a Cookie Monster shirt”) and gloves (to help with scaling any potential fences).|
|This is Lindsay’s “How did I get talked into this??” face|
In the time between securing my friends’ cooperation and race day, the Prison Break website posted several ominous updates warning of the difficulties before us. I fielded more than one email on the lines of “I’m freaking out about….” You know how I’m pretty much nervous about everything, but I didn’t have time to worry for myself because I was so busy assuring my friends they’d have a great time: “It’s going to be sooo fun!! We’re just going to go out there and have fun!” And the kicker… “It’s not a race, it’s a party!”
My party started with a 3:15 alarm and questioning why the heck I do this to myself, especially because instead of going to bed early I’d been up late digging through my dresser for running clothes that didn’t make me look like a fat little sausage. It’s sooo important to look good before you crawl through mud! I picked up Lindsay right on time, and we met Sara and Dave at Sara’s house. The plan had initially been to ride all together, but Dave was dealing with a cold/allergies and opted to follow us rather than possibly get us sick. I’m sure he was terribly disappointed to miss out on nearly 2 hours of girl talk.
In addition to our traveling group, I had several local friends also running the race. Luke and Bob from Team Virtus were there, as were Stoney, Christina, and Jim. Because Sara, Lindsay, and I opted for one last bathroom stop on our way out of the prison, we were the absolute last escapees on the road. This wasn’t a worry at all, though, because our one goal for the day was to have fun.
We ran around the side of the prison, where the course led into the yard…now used for parking. It was a little weird getting in…we were approaching for the left and had to run around the yard/parking lot in a counterclockwise direction; this mean that runners who were entering and leaving the circuit had a high potential to crash. Maybe next year they could have racers run this section in a clockwise direction so that entering/exiting traffic won’t conflict.
|Luke, Bob, Christina, and Dave all ahead of us. And that’s ok.|
|Guard tower, taken from inside the yard.|
|Nobody wanted to stop for a quick workout.|
We caught up with Luke and Bob at the water stop in the yard and ran near them for the rest of the race. The race moved onto the streets of Jefferson City, and while I didn’t feel great, I didn’t feel terrible either. Knowing mud was in my future I had worn my old Nikes and was definitely missing the Brooks shoes I replaced them with. Coming into a park, a volunteer directed us to another water stop in a handball court, and then we arrived at the first obstacle: pipes we had to crawl through.
|Bigger pipe, not bad.|
|Narrower pipe, a little more difficult.|
Back on our feet, we had another stretch of mostly sidewalk running to get to the first slip ‘n’ slide.
|Slip ‘n’ Slide PLUS dish detergent = a fast ride!|
Though I’d anticipated having to scale a chain link fence and crawl through mud, this was actually the one part of the race I’d been nervous about. I know, I know…I can rappel at night, but I’m scared of a little slip ‘n’ slide. Go figure. It was a blast, though, and thanks to my waterproof camera I was able to videotape the whole thing. Lindsay went first, then me (rolling at the end), then Sarah, Luke, and Bob.
Prison Break slip ‘n’ slide from Kate Lavelle Geisen on Vimeo.
We paused for pictures at the bottom of the hill then ran until we reached the next obstacle: the mud pit. One of the volunteers was nice enough to hold my camera and take pictures while we crawled though.
You had to crawl through, staying underneath the “wires” (string) criss-crossing the mud pit, and find a map to the remainder of the course.
|Bob just buried my face in his armpit.|
|Clearly we were in a big hurry.|
Once we had our map and were through, we had to run up a big flight of stairs/concrete bleachers to get to the next slip ‘n’ slide. I kept trying to beat the guys to the top of the hills we ran, but either Luke and/or Bob would always sprint past me before we reached the top, and this was no exception.
We had a fun trip down another slip ‘n’ slide, then it was back onto the streets of Jefferson City, a town not known for its flatness. We ran a lot of hills. Ofcourse, we also had to stop for a couple pictures (remember…it’s not a race, it’s a party!). Thanks to the nice couple who stopped to be our photographers.
|We thought the sign went well with our freedom from prison theme.|
|God did not set us free from cheesy Charlie’s Angels imitations.|
|These cute little kids were cheering for all the racers, but I freaked them out when I came up for a high 5. 😦|
Luke and Lindsay were killing it on the hills, and the rest of us trailed behind them. Between following in our friends’ steps when we could see where they turned and actually reading the directions (yes, I was navigating! Scary.), we made our way back to the finish.
|Winners! (not really)|
I had a great time and was overall pretty happy with how I felt. This was my first running race since February’s Castlewood Cup, so running it for fun was definitely a good plan. I ended up feeling good at the finish despite all the hills, and you just can’t beat the company I had for my race.
For an inaugural event, the Prison Break seemed to go really well. Everybody at the finish line party seemed to have had a blast. Starting in the Missouri State Penitentiary (which, I may have neglected to mention, is the old jail. It’s been out of service since 2004 and is now just open for tours.) was super cool (and creepy). The obstacles were fun, except for the pipes which sucked because they were challenging…not a bad thing. The race shirt was awesome, and I love the tagline “5 miles to freedom”…way to pull together the prison theme and the race distance. Very cool.
Suggestions for improvement:
1) Better course markings (or include course markings!). I saw several people cutting the course, and there were spots where we were confused about where to go.
2) Mile markers are always a nice touch.
3) More water stops. The two stops were in the first third or so of the race. It was ok today bc it was cool and overcast, but it would have been a problem on a hot day.
4) Spread out the obstacles more. Again, these were early in the race, leaving the remainder a basic (hilly) run through town. I can see where there wasn’t really a place to put obstacles during the residential streets section, so it might be a good idea to modify the route. Maybe a loop course utilizing the park more than once? That prison yard/parking area would be a great place to have a final obstacle before running back to the finish.
5) More food/water available at end of a race.
6) Better communication about drop bags/lock box, etc. (loop course could make this better…a lot of people had their clean clothes and money back at their cars, which probably kept them from spending at the restaruant at the finish line.)
6)Some way to clean off at end of race…even just a hose would have been nice.
7) More obstacles
Big thanks to the organizers and volunteers for a really fun day. I’ll definitely be back next year for the 2nd annual Prison Break!