Utah Department of Corrections



On October 27, 26 inmates participated in a marathon/half marathon/10K at the Utah State Prison. Most attended six running clinics offered over the summer by volunteer Isaac Wood, an assistant track coach at Weber State University.

Wood stepped up to help the inmates fine-tune their running techniques after receiving a letter from inmate Jason Penney earlier this year. Penney, with help from his family, sent the letter to about 2 dozen club and college running coaches.

Recreation Lt. Malan White and Officer Joe Curcio were fully supportive of Penney’s effort. “We hope to encourage a lifestyle change ideally” through exercise, White said.

In the letter, Penney described how the “life-elevating power of running” had helped him shed 85 lbs and transformed his life. Penney wrote that he had become the “loudest advocate” of running within the prison walls, encouraging others to embrace the “calming, stabilizing influence” the sport could have as an “avenue to recovery.

“Running has inspired each of us to elevate our lives through the endeavor of moving forward,” Penney wrote.

Mentoring from someone like Wood would be invaluable, he added, “in our growth as runners, and in our pursuit of healthy, productive lives.”

Wood has said the letter came as a complete surprise and offered a touching, intriguing challenge. What could he do with a bunch of runners limited by time, resources, diet and running space? Here is the answer, by the numbers:

110: Laps required to finish the Marathon, which was staged on the dirt track in the Oquirrh Facility’s main recreation yard

76: Age of Ron Warren, the oldest participant. He completed the Half Marathon in 2:47:48. Warren ran the St. George Marathon several times with family members but this was his first race in prison. Said Warren: “I did okay. It’s just hard running in a circle. That makes it a lot harder to do.”

55: Laps required for the Half Marathon, which was won by inmate Michael Callahan in a time of 1:49:05. Said Callahan: “I just wanted to give it my all, or try to.”

30: Pounds lost by inmate Danny Pitcher, 62, since he began training for the race. He completed the Half Marathon in 2:40. Said Pitcher: “Coach [Wood] inspired me to go the extra. I was going to do the 10K. I’d never run a race. I feel really good.”

26: Laps required for the10K

23: Minutes organizer Jason Penney cut from his previous marathon time, finishing in 4:05:58. Penney said that setting a goal and then working together really helped the inmates come together as a group. “There’s a whole mix of people here — different units, age ranges. It’s great that the prison supports this.”

22: Pounds lost by runner Chris Asay as he trained for the race

14: Minutes marathon-winner Bryan Taylor shaved off his previous best time, completing the race in 3:30:50 despite experiencing severe leg cramps. Taylor said Officer Larry Nordell inspired him to take up running while he was housed at the Central Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison. Taylor also credited Coach Wood, saying he “helped me a lot. He’s very motivational.”

13: Inmates volunteered to keep time, count laps and provide support

10: Winner of the 10K was Guadelupe Cuevas, who finished in 47:49. He had never run a race before and did not participate in the training clinics. Wood called Cuevas a natural runner. Cuevas said running helped him “feel better about myself.”

6: Number of clinics Coach Wood held for the runners over the summer. As the racers finished, Wood said he was “really proud of the guys. “I think for the most part they’re pleased with the results. It’s good to have that sense of accomplishment. If they can apply some of that when they get out, it will be great.”

4:49:36: Time of Jason Pearson, the last runner to complete the Marathon. Pearson was originally going to run the 10K, but just kept going — matching laps to the player for the Indiana Colts football team with the same jersey number.

2:12: Time it took inmate Ron Noorda to finish the Half Marathon. Said Noorda: The event gave “the guys something good to do plus it keeps them in shape. The camaraderie is good.”

1: This was the first marathon for inmate David Potter, who finished in 4:40:11. Said Potter: “That was so fun. There was a point it was hard to walk [in fact, Potter collapsed on the track and was helped back up by other runners] but then it changed. My dad is going to be real proud.”