2020 Oregon State Penitentiary race dates are released and open for registration!

Matt and his

Matt in 2014

The 2020 Oregon State Penitentiary runs (10k & 5k) are back again on some Fridays starting next month,

  • 3/6/20
  • 4/24/20
  • 5/1/20
  • 6/12/20
  • 7/17/20
  • 8/21/20
  • 9/4/20 (Half)

If you have yet to experience one of these events, it’s not hyperbolic to say it changed my life:

The support of the inmates was unlike any I have ever experienced…With each lap, and each time I lapped a fellow runner, I was met with a hearty congratulations and encouragement to keep it up. A constant barrage of being cheered for by name for 40 minutes was pretty incredible stuff.

I noted that, at times, the two women participants ran alone and sometimes side-by-side with inmates. As I passed them, I could hear them just chatting – about life inside and outside the walls – without incident and with care and compassion for each other. It was a two-way street. As we were walking out, the women expressed their glowing experience to me and stated how glad they were to run within the walls.  They never felt threatened or made to feel awkward in the least – quite the contrary in fact. They vowed to return.

The one constant question that people have been asking me since the run is, “do you know what they were in for?” The funny thing about it is that I initially thought this would be the only thing on my mind. But in the end, I ended up never really thinking about it. I mean, it’s a prison – there is a reason why people are there. But, for at least an hour or so, it didn’t really matter. It was just like any other race; an opportunity to meet people, interact, and have a silent bond of “being a runner” and accomplishing a common goal with complete strangers. We were just people – just runners – and that’s exactly what these guys are hoping for an hour each month.

There are two distances each month and a longer half in September. It’s ahard to preview the course as it’s essentially just short loops around the yard – but it’s as unique a running experience as you will ever experience. Do yourself a favor this year and get to one of these events. You will be better for it and will NOT forget it.

  • All events are free of charge
  • Per the supervisor of the program: The supervision level is direct and vigilant but accommodating.
  • Both males and females are able to attend, but must be over 18 years of age
  • No headphones or cell phones allowed
  • No blue, camouflage, or muscle clothing allowed. Modest dress only. Consider bringing an extra set to be sure.
  • No physical embrace with the inmates, but handshakes are OK.

The Oregon State Penitentiary Running Program (Salem)
When: 1130a on the above listed Fridays
Where: Oregon State Penitentiary
Register: FREE; Participation is by application only (See Below for FAQ’s and Registration Info) Please note that deadline for registration is 10 days prior to each race and will require a background check. Email bill.f.marion (the @ symbol) with Full name, Date of Birth, Driver’s License#, Phone, and ask them to let you know if you made the list.

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About Author

Matt Rasmussen lives in Keizer, Ore. with his wife and three daughters. He enjoys watching hockey, going to as many breweries (618) and wineries (152) as he can, and all things Canada (he was born there). Matt was raised as a baseball player and officially transitioned over to running in 2010.

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