Prison Run Puts Inmates and Outsiders on the Same Track, is an interesting article appearing this week Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) News.
This is the real deal. No gimmicks. No rock and roll, no zombies, no tomatoes. This is a penitentiary. A maximum-security prison. It is Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem, Oregon. The inmates wear blue, the outsiders wear red or orange. And they race next to one another on the same track.
Eight races are held yearly, 5k and 10k distances – 9 or 18 laps around the prison’s 1/4 mile recreational yard. About 20 outsiders and 100 inmates compete. The bibs say Run For Your Life. According to the NPR article entitled There is no Run Like a Prison Run, there is also half marathon scheduled for September, aptly called the High Wall Half Marathon.
This is a rare chance for inmates and outsiders to connect in a unique and positive environment. The program dates back 40 years – Steve Prefontaine, the famed Olympic runner from Oregon, started the prison running program in the 1970s. He used to give seminars to inmates about how running can help give a sense of mental stability.
As discussed in the OPB article:
It’s not easy for inmates to get into the running program. The first requirement is 18 months clear conduct. Only 150 inmates can participate at a time. The institution houses more than 2,000. Wait time to get in the program is about four years.
Program coordinator Todd Gulley says he wishes there were resources so that every inmate with the motivation and commitment to run could join.
“The people that have earned the right, they covet it. And it’s one of the places in the prison where there’s never problems. You’ll never see fights on this turnout, you’ll never see conflicts beyond, ‘Hey, I’m just not going to talk to you right now.’ ”
Robert Goggin has been in prison for 15 years. He thinks a lot of inmates don’t run because it’s easy to be lazy.
“In here, you have the option of sitting back and doing nothing, or doing something positive. I think that in here, the drive for staying in shape was pretty extreme,” Goggin said.
Goggin used to compete with his friends, running 17-minute 5k’s around this track. But now, it’s more about staying fit, and working through stress.
“Running around this track, chasing whatever you’re chasing, there is a way of putting it behind you.”
Here is the entry form. The form itself gives the history of the program, and encourages you to “come run with us, experience a couple of hours life on the inside and when it’s over you get to leave! We are confident you and your friends will return to run regularly.”
If I lived near Oregon, I would definitely be interested in participating in one or more of these events. Would you?