Reporting from Prison - Marathon Day

David Yon, May 24, 2014

Don’t miss Katherine Ingleright’s piece on Running to Freedom.

Well first of all, I don’t know if we will ever fully understand the impact our group has had on these women, and heck knows, I sure can’t explain the impact they have had on me. I know all who participate feel the same way.  However, I am sure the thought of running a marathon within the confines of Gadsden Correctional Facility seemed just a bit over the top.

A little background, we did not actually start running until 8:41.  You know how it goes, getting into the prison and set up always takes longer than expected.  The runners though had to pay for the late start as the temperatures climbed fast. There was one cloud that gave just a slight bit of shade for maybe 15 minutes.  There is NO shade on the Field of Fire.  

And yet, at least 8 women finished either the marathon or the 30 mile Ultra.  Casey Commander won the marathon in around 4:11 minutes.  I don’t know if in all my life I have ever experienced anything like this morning.  Chris Brown, recreation coordinator at the prison greeted us this morning saying, “this is not the usual 5K for these women” (which is pretty dang special), “this is world cup, super bowl and more all wrap up in one.”  He knew what he was talking about.  

Dana Stetson, who never misses one of these get togethers, was exactly what you would expect – despite running 50+ miles last week in the Keys, he got so many runners “over the hump” that the event had to be a success just based on his effort alone.  (He won the nasty feet contest after the race “hands” down.”  Sheryl has been injured and running on very limited bases, yet “the Cheetah” ran more than a half marathon getting runners around the field and continuing to be the crowd favorite and personal role model.  Paula Kiger moved her special day of training to the prison and ran for an hour and half out there under the bright sunshine.  And Allen Joseph, well, I am pretty sure I heard him say, “I will cheer and pass out water, but I don’t think I can run more than about 30 minutes.”  So he waited to the hottest part of the day and I have to believe he ran/walked and cajoled runners for more than an hour.  I got a little over 18 in and thought:|”this is all I have.  I am done.”  I did find some shade and I drank a bunch of water.  And then I came back to cheer.  Well, how can you not go back to aid your friends when they are facing the devil?  I got another 5 miles in, spread out over a long time and many runners.

Sometime in the mid afternoon under the most intense bombardment of the sun, Katie Ingleright finished up lap number 105, enough laps to finish the 30 mile Ultra division.  Shortly after that she handed me a beautiful piece of writing that I can’t wait to share with you all.  I don’t know if it was the heat, the small loops repeated over and over again, or something else.  But some bonds were made stronger than ever and some joy, suffering and pride were shared in a way that made this morning so special.  

Chris Brown – the prison recreation director was a hero today.  He stood in the sun cheering the women on for almost 6 hours.  He made it clear this was a very special event.  He doesn’t run, but he still understood what was happening.  Yes, it was (to the best of everyone’s knowledge) the first marathon ever run in Gadsden County.  But it also was a big statement about what the human spirit can achieve.