Last summer, a friend sent me a link about the Oregon State Penitentiary Athletic Running Club that hosts several 5k & 10ks a year, and one half marathon. Obviously, running at the prison seemed like my jam so I immediately signed up – only to have my knee start acting up and I had to cancel. However, my very brave friend, Courtney still went and ran without me and her stories were so fascinating that this goal rolled over into 2016.
I’ve had so many people ask me so many questions about it, that I think a FAQ might be the best form for this post.
Question: Is this race actually at the prison? Answer: Yes, literally at the prison where you must be checked in through multiple gates, and then you run laps in the prison yard.
Question: Do you run with actual inmates? Answer: Yes, there were about 20 “outsiders” and over 100 inmates.
Question: How much contact do you have with the inmates? Answer: A lot, more than I really anticipated. Once we were out of the main building, we were just walking through crowds of inmates in different sections of the yard. Many of them were the ones volunteering at water stations, the check in station, the finish line, etc. During the run, you are running alongside inmates the entire time and at the end you get to mingle with them for awhile over gatorade and a banana.
Question: Is it scary? Answer: NO. It was fun (at least my kind of fun). The inmates were nothing but super polite and congratulatory. They didn’t ask personal questions, just “How was your run?” or “Did you like coming here?” Sure, you were surrounded by gun towers and barbed wire and heavily tattooed inmates, but everyone was smiling and having a good time. They even had a dog.
Question: What can you wear? Answer: Nothing form fitting or in blue. I had to wear running shorts over my regular running tights, and an orange pinny. The inmates, however, wore whatever they had. Many ran in jean shorts and no shirt. I liked the guy who ran in a black t-shirt and bedazzled cross necklace.
Question: How many laps is a 5k? Answer: Nine laps, and 18 for a 10k. They went by super fast in my opinion. I ran 3.1 miles in 26:00 flat.
Obviously phones aren’t allowed, but they did have a photographer and promised to send me pictures (hel-lo Facebook profile pic!). The inmates were obviously excited to socialize with people outside their normal sphere, and while I was ogling their workout space, I have no delusions that prison sucks for those guys.
It was fascinating and fun, and I fully intend to go again soon.
SIDE NOTE: I’m also counting Salem, Oregon as my #7 city of the year.