In 2014, I was minding my own business on Facebook, when all of a sudden, I saw an ad for something called Prison Break Race. A 5K obstacle course, sort of akin to the popular Spartan Race series, except, this one had a unique premise. You and many other “prisoners” manage to escape confinement, and have to run through a 5km (3.1 mile) obstacle course, while avoiding guards that are actively trying to catch you. No, this wasn’t just a for-fun backstory – there were actual people that would be trying to catch you. As soon as I heard that, I was sold. Within minutes, I paid for my own right to be chased by prison guards, a unique life experience. I had never signed up for an obstacle race before, but this one got my attention.
There were roughly 30 obstacles to overcome, and we were warned in advance that if we failed a particular obstacle, we’d have to do 20 burpees before we could move on. Knowing very well what I had gotten myself into, I made sure to run 5km fairly regularly leading up to the race, and practised those burpees. The obstacles were of various types – one involved us diving into a lake to swim under barrels, another had us crawling under barbed wire in the mud, another had us jumping over flaming embers, and another involved us leaping from a second-story structure into a 9-foot deep mud pool. Yep. Mud was going to be a big part of the whole adventure.
Ultimately, the race was challenging, but fun, and the parts I enjoyed the most were the 4-6 instances where we encountered large groups of prison guards. Basically, the prison guard element was a flag football kinda challenge. At the start of the race, each runner received three flags, which would hang behind them, from a belt. And, when a prisoner tried to get past the guards, they would do everything in their power to steal them. If, by the end of the race, you lost all your flags – you’d be considered caught. Put simply, you’d have some mud-based punishment to endure, in consequence – but you were still allowed to finish the race.
We prisoners soon realized that we’d be better off as a large group, to increase the chances of getting through the guards unscathed. So, often, when arriving at a field of guards, we’d wait for more runners to accumulate. And, when we were enough, we’d run forth, battle cries aplenty, dodging as much as we could. We did everything we could to avoid losing our flags. Unfortunately, after the fourth field of guards, I’d personally lost them all (two were actually stolen within the same field of guards). As per the rules, I had been “caught”… but my race wasn’t yet over. In fact, I realized I had an opportunity ahead of me – I could help my fellow prisoners… with deception.
When I reached the fifth field of guards, I waited for runners to accumulate, and told them my plan. I told them that I would act like I still had flags to lose (by desperately trying to dodge them, while keeping my back pointed away) and when I would have enough guards chasing me, I would give the prisoners a sign, allowing them to run through. This, believe it or not, worked exceptionally well. I quickly had two guards trying to grab me, and in my attempt to escape, I had lured them away from the other prisoners. When the time was right, I yelled out, and signalled that it was time to run through. By that point, one guard reached around me, and yelled to his colleagues, frustrated: “He’s got no flag!” But at that point, it was too late. Many of my brothers and sisters escaped.
The prisoners I helped escape thanked me afterwards, and all seemed to have a good laugh at the scenario. And that, honestly, was the key – altogether, Prison Break Race was a downright fun experience. And it promoted the fitness life that I adored, with short but intense challenges. I was officially hooked that day, and have since completed numerous other obstacle courses. However, to this day, no race was as fun as the time I paid to have prison guards chase me. I highly recommend it.