The top finisher called it a remedy. Another runner said it was about connection.
The motivation varied but not the determination for the 54 inmates who participated in the second Addict to Athlete 5K race on Tuesday at the Utah State Prison's Promontory Facility.
The inmates are all in the prison's Con-Quest residential substance abuse program and participate in Addict II Athlete support groups, which focus on replacing bad habits with physical exercise.
Sidney Allman finished first with a time of 19:47. Allman said it was his first 5K race.
"It felt good to get out and run," Allman said. "It's been my remedy in here."
Allman said he is counting on running being a remedy for him in the future, too, when he returns home.
"It's going to be something that keeps me out of trouble," he said.
The youngest participant: first-place finisher Allman, who will celebrate his birthday on Wednesday. The oldest runner is 60.
Blu Robinson, founder of Addict II Athlete, gave the runners a pep talk before the 5K began. He told them about how the program started and shared the Champions Creed with them. You can be a victim of addiction or an agent of sobriety, he told the inmates.
Robinson ran the 5K, too, circulating between different participants; after finishing, he went back out on the dirt track to bring in the final runners.
"Amazing," Robinson said. "What an honor." Robinson said he listened to inmates' stories of adversity and challenge as he ran laps with them Tuesday.
"It's interesting to see how they are turning the mess into a message," Robinson said. "They don't shy away from a challenge. Some of the stories they had blew my mind."
UDC therapist Desmond Lomax launched the Addict II Athlete program at Con-Quest last year. When Lomax moved to another position within the Department, inmate Kurtis Hunsaker stepped in to keep the program running. Hunsaker finished first last year; this year, he was hobbled after aggravating an old ACL injury — but still came in 9th at 24:38.
"It is something you've got to push through," he said of running with a bad knee. "It's not something I'm going to use for an excuse."
Hunsaker said there are three different Addict II Athlete groups within Promontory. Each meets once a week to engage in support and physical activity.
Hunsaker said he hopes the program helps participants realize that no matter where they are in their recovery, there are other guys who've been there, too. If they find "one dude" they can really relate to, maybe it will help them through their recovery, he said.
Inmate Thomas Leverette said his family has urged him to make the best use of his time while in prison, to "accomplish something." He crossed the finish line at 47:05.
"So I thought I would give it my all," said Leverette, adding that many family members like to hike and participate in outdoor activities. "It's a great way to get back into the community with my family."
Robinson said "quite a few" offenders have join the community-based Addict II Athlete groups since paroling. They come with a "unique attitude and deep appreciation" for the support system and "environment of healing" the program provides.
"They feel it right away," he said.
For news coverage of the 5K, see our Facebook page (Utah Department of Corrections).