Marathon Runners Finish the Way They Began: Together

Six youth completed the third annual marathon inside the fence at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility.

“Those people are out of their minds!” That’s what Robert M. thought last year, when he saw other youth at MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility training to run a marathon on the facility’s grounds.

But he also noticed something else. “Some of the people who finished last year were more out of shape than I was.” So he decided he’d run in this year’s marathon. “Now it’s seven months later,” he said after he’d finished the race, “and here we are!”

On April 28, six youth started and finished all 26.2 miles of the Mac-athon: Johnathan B., David G., Trei H., Kyle J., Robert M., and Chris W.

Organizers believe that this is the only marathon run inside a secure youth facility anywhere in the U.S. And this year marked the third annual event at MacLaren. (Johnathan, Trei, and Chris all ran in last year’s marathon. For Robert, David, and Kyle, this marathon was their first.)

What made this year’s race stand out was that the six young men decided ahead of time that they would run the race as a group.

“When I ran last year, I was my own success, in a sense,” Trei said. “If I had to stop, then I stopped. I didn’t depend on anybody else. This year, it about the team, and we were only as strong as our weakest link. So if one of our teammates was hurting, then we were all hurting, you know?”

They stayed together as a pack throughout most of the race, though they spread out towards the end. But when it came time to cross the finish line, those in the lead waited by the administration building for the rest to catch up. Then they all finished as a group.

“We set a goal to start as a family and finish as a family,” Johnathan said afterward. “That was so amazing. It’s always going to be in my mind.”

As for Robert, once he set the goal of attempting the marathon, determination kept him going until the end. “I knew I was going to finish,” he said. “I knew I couldn’t run the whole thing — I’d have to walk some of it. But I was willing to crawl on my hands and knees — whatever it took to get across the finish line.”

MacLaren Marathon

Pounding out the miles. On the left is Kyle J., who said after the race that there were too many high points to count. “The best part was all the support — my family being there, having my little nephew running right next to me for part of it. Being able to finish. I know that’s not just one high point — it’s a lot!”

MacLaren Marathon

David G. celebrates as he nears the end of over five hours of running and walking. “I don’t know why I started training,” he said afterwards. “But I knew I wanted to accomplish something while I was incarcerated. This was something I could do while I was here.”

MacLaren Marathon

Matt Walsh (in the blue hat) cheers on the youth. Walsh is a physical therapist who trains world-class athletes. He volunteered his time to train OYA youth for this year’s marathon.

MacLaren Marathon

Youth Robert M., David G. (face obscured), Chris W., Kyle J., Johnathan B., and Trei H. cross the finish line the same way they started the race — together.

MacLaren Marathon

Youth with the OYA staff who make the marathon happen every year: Scott Palmer (GLC 2, kneeling), Jorge Pelinski (QMHP, center, in hat), and Jeff Mekkers (living unit manager, right).

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