Watching Xavier D. run lap after lap around MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility, one might be surprised to learn he wasn’t an avid runner.
Fast and steady, the 19-year-old didn’t even seem to tire as he racked up the miles. Soccer is Xavier’s first love, although he also ran track before giving up both in favor of less positive activities — which ultimately landed him in custody.
It’s a common story among the youth incarcerated at OYA’s facilities, one of turning aside from hobbies they once loved to engage in less desirable pursuits. But what is uncommon about Xavier — and the other five young men who ran along with him on April 27 — is that he re-embraced his athletic side by setting one of the most difficult goals possible: running a marathon.
Xavier crossed the finish line first at MacLaren’s fourth annual marathon inside the fence, setting a new course record in the process.
“I always felt I was a natural athlete. Now I’ve found a new hobby I’m in love with,” he said after the race. “The hardest part was starting. I thought I’d be last. I kept putting myself down. … And then I was first — I didn’t expect that!”
Congratulations to these six young men all successfully crossed the finish line at the event:
Brett and Johnathan ran the entire race side-by-side, joking around as they went and interacting with the other youth who cheered from the living units they passed.
“The goal was to be the happiest people out there and enjoy it!” Johnathan said.
Brett was ill earlier this year and thought he might only run a half-marathon. But getting out there with his good friend inspired him to do the whole thing. “Everything else we do, we’re accountability partners, so why not this?” he said.
Marco said the hardest point for him came after mile 13, when he started cramping up. He got through it with a roller, lots of water, pickle juice, and music (Nipsey Hussle).
As for what kept him going, Marco said, “My mother, my family, and my friends like me who are incarcerated and never getting out. I kinda ran it for them. They’re forgotten souls.”
Andres said the mental part of the race was tough for him, but when asked about the best part, he replied, “The whole thing!”
“I just wanted to run,” he said. “When you’re incarcerated, it’s one of the things you can do to make the best of it. It helps me cope. … I get to focus on things I’ve done, and things I want to do.”
(Note: After the event was completed, OYA discovered an error in the course measurement, meaning the course was slightly shorter than a marathon. We’re still very proud of the runners’ enormous accomplishment!)