2017 Shawshank Hustle Race Report


Back in June I ran the Shawshank Hustle 7K. How could I say no to a race that was fairly close to home and based on one of my favorite films, The Shawshank Redemption? The Shawshank Hustle looked fun from the first moment I discovered it. The race takes place in Mansfield, an Ohio town I'd never been to, but it wasn't too far from Columbus; in fact, I drove up race-day morning. The race festival was held at the Ohio State Reformatory, the historic prison where The Shawshank Redemption was filmed. It's a beautiful backdrop, and race participants were able to take a self-guided tour of the building either before or after the race. They played up the theme, routing the course past several local sites where film scenes were shot. The t-shirt and medal also reflect the theme. And this year there were guest appearances from a couple of the minor actors in the film (Renee Blaine who played Andy's wife, and Scott Mann who played her lover).

Finish pic with medal, in front of reformatory

The hustle is advertised as a 7K race, which would be 4.35 miles. My Garmin clocked 4.67 miles. I know that GPS watches aren't ever 100% accurate, but this time I think my watch was closer to the actual distance. I believe the race organizers bill this as a 7K distance because it is the closest actual kilometer for the course design. The route is basically an out & back from the prison to the park in downtown Mansfield, Ohio, utilizing one downtown street for the "out" portion and looping over to another street for the "back" portion. Rounding down the distance would not have been possible, and rounding it up would have required adding some weird extra bit of course. Anyway...

I got to Mansfield early to ensure that I had no problems parking and getting my packet. There was plenty of free parking about a 5 minute walk away. I had plenty of time to walk around outside the building, eat my breakfast, check my bag and talk to other runners before the start. It was going to be a hot day, so I decided to take it easy and just enjoy myself.

Pretty sure this is the closest I'll ever get to Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman

In the start corral I saw many runners dressed in costumes like movie characters, or versions of prisoners and security guards. There were a lot of custom t-shirts with movie quotes and the like. Everyone seemed to be into the theme. I wore my black and white striped compression socks, which were my nod to old-school prison uniforms. The announcer mentioned that in two years it will be the 25th anniversary of the film, and they are hoping to get Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman to come out. It will also be the 5th year for the race. I'm not sure how likely it will be to get these A-list actors out there, but I'd love to go back if they do.

Pre-race area on my way to packet pick-up
Start corral
In start corral - I think she was going for the sexy prison guard look

We started out on a long uphill, then we had a long downhill. There was no cloud cover and it was already hot outside. I ran my run/walk intervals, skipping some of the walk breaks on the downhill portion. The first mile and a half weren't terribly scenic and there was no shade.

On the way into town
Runner dressed as a prisoner

Then we made it to the edge of town and started a steep uphill. But this is where we began to pass movie scene sites, which were all marked. And then we came to the carousel. Runners had a ticket on their bibs for a free carousel ride either during or after the race. Since it was hot and I had no time goal for this odd-distance race, I took a break to ride the carousel. It felt good to get out of the sun and feel the breeze as we spun around. Next to the carousel we saw other runners passing by. I guess they didn't think it would be fun to stop.

Running uphill in town
The carousel
Selfie at the carousel before it was my turn
I rode the lion

The carousel ride added about 9 minutes to my official time, but I didn't care. Afterward I jumped back onto the course, which was still going uphill. But shortly afterward we looped past the park and then began the trip back to the prison. At this point we were going downhill again and I was passing a lot of people. We also passed Phoenix Brewing, which held a post-race party. So now I knew exactly where the brewery was located; good info for later. The last mile or so was tough. The sun was higher and hotter, and there was that uphill section before our final downhill. As I ran toward the finish line, the prison was in front of me. That's a pretty cool finish!

Ran past Phoenix Brewing

For a short distance race, these guys really took care of the runners. There were adequate aid stations on the course. At the finish there were water and yogurt smoothies, fruit and lots of snacks. I was happy to see Almond Nut Thins. And...the drinks were all ice cold, which was very nice. I ate my water and crackers and recovered for a few minutes before going inside for my prison tour.

Post-race pose with a real cop
This year's medal honored the famous oak tree that was destroyed by weather last year

As I said, the Ohio Reformatory is a beautiful building, but I was surprised by how run-down it was on the inside. The rooms where The Shawshank Redemption was filmed were in better condition than the others. But even through the layers of dirt and peeling paint, I could see just how amazing this building was. Built in 1886, its style is Victorian and Romanesque. It was an operating prison until 1990 - that's over 100 years! There is so much character, amazing woodwork and high ceilings. Care is being made to restore the building, and part of our race registration went to the effort.

Inside the warden's office you can still see people in the finish chute outside
Not part of the movie set, but this is an indication of how rundown much of the building has become
The boarding house room set was actually located inside the reformatory
Nuff said
There were 5 or 6 tiers of cells in each cell block
Close quarters, especially if you had a cellmate
With the warden...I'll behave

After my tour, I found my car and drove to the brewery. There were no freebies or discounts for the runners, which was a little disappointing. They did have a band on the patio, but it was hot and I chose to sit inside at the bar. I had a flight of beer, along with lots of water and more crackers. And then I drove back to Columbus.

Beer flight in the shape of a coffin

I would definitely do this race again. They did a great job with the theme and everything was well managed. If I'd change anything, it might be to start a little earlier because of the summer heat (start time was 8:30 AM). If you want a fun, themed race in a historic venue, this would be a great Ohio race for you.

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