For many people, running is an opportunity to escape daily pressures—a chance to get out into nature, clear one’s head, and to forget about everything else for a few minutes.
But for Kellie Ike, running takes on a whole different dimension. And while it not be the “escape” he might have once envisioned, it does offer a road to redemption and freedom.
Ike is a resident of the MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn, Oregon. The facility is home to 120 young men between the ages of 12 and 24, who were convicted of crimes before turning 18. Ike is in the last year of a 75 month sentence for second-degree manslaughter.
It was here in MacLaren that Ike discovered running. He joined the Hawks Running Club as a chance to deal with his anger management issues.
“Inside this fence, this is my world,” Ike says in a story in the Oregonian. “Running takes me out of there. Running saved my life because I’ve got anger issues. I still struggle with them. Situations get escalated and one thing leads to another and next thing I know, I’m sitting in isolation.
“But running gets in the way of that. It gives me something to look forward to.”
Ike and his fellow runners are preparing for what is believed to be the first full marathon held completely inside a juvenile corrections facility. While the the April 30 event won’t have any outside spectators to cheer on the participants, there are plans to have a post-race barbecue and live music to help create a “big race” atmosphere.
“The idea here is not to produce athletes, says Ian Dobson, a former Olympic runner (2008 Olympics, 5000 meters) who volunteers as coach for the Hawks. “If that’s the case, that’s great. But maybe it builds some habits. … There’s no sort of secret or magic bullet. You’ve got to go run a lot.”
For Ike, running has taught him responsibility. “If you’re on a team, you have places to put the blame,” he says. “But running, at the end of the day, it’s you. … It means that much more if you succeed and is that much harder when you fail.”
After his release, Ike plans on working as a firefighter, and then hopes to become a counselor for those struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.
“When I say I’m going to run something, I do it,” Ike says. “I don’t stop ’til it gets done.”
On May 1, The Second Prison Project is sponsoring the Second Chances 5K in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Lino Lakes and Shakopee correctional facilities will be hosting 5K races inside prison walls simultaneous to the race in the community. To learn more about the Second Prison Project, or to register to participate in upcoming events, visit www.secondprison.org.