A 5K-run was held at San Quentin in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic to celebrate overcoming hardships due to program modifications and restrictions and commemorate those who were lost during the outbreaks, which have changed the prison and the world.
The five-kilometer (three-mile) run was organized by SQ’s 1000 Mile Club and attracted nearly 400 residents who signed up to participate.
Participants had the option to run, jog, or walk, and it was open to everyone regardless of their level of athletic ability. The event was also held to support the SQ Mental Well-ness Week and the national Suicide Prevention Month by taking life “one step at a time.”
“Covid really messed some of us up, and we’re still trying to regain our previous form. I guess the harder the struggle is, the more it lets us know we accomplished something meaningful,” said incarcerated volunteer and runner Darren Settlemyer.
There were sign-up tables for each housing unit: North Block, Badger Section, and H-Unit, but unfortunately none for West Block because of an unexpected quarantine for yet another outbreak of Covid-19.
Community and incarcerated volunteers from the club arrived at 8 am, eager to help and offer words of encouragement as participants began to assemble and prepare for the run.
“I’m happy to be back, it’s a wonderful opportunity for us to come in and volunteer,” said staff volunteer Charlene Liebes. In May of this year, Liebes says she ran a 50K run (30 miles).
The run started at 9:10 am. There were new runners, veteran runners, and some residents who just wanted to walk the 5K with their friends.
Despite the absence of West Block, the yard was fully occupied by the run along with two other events taking place at the same time. Members of the 2021–2022 NBA Cham-pion Golden State Warriors visited SQ along with their staff and coaches who played the SQ Warriors in a basketball game, and at the same time volunteers were hosting the final day of SQ’s Mental Wellness Week.
“Exercise is great for the mental health,” said Margo Freeman, another 1000 Mile Club community volunteer.
The Lower Yard was so crowded that runners faced challenges of navigating through a multitude of people in order to finish the run. Some seemed not to mind, while others sported looks of displeasure.
Joshua Strange, 47, finished first with a time of 19 minutes and 43 seconds. Throughout the run, he held a brisk pace, despite having to weave around other people.
Finishing second was Oli-vares Francisco, 44. “When I was running I had my family on my mind, to focus on something positive means a lot to me,” he said.
Steve Warren, 34, finished third, followed by Pastor Garcia, 60, in fourth place.
“I use to weigh 220 pounds. I had high blood pressure. I took medication. Now, I weigh 173 pounds, no medication,” said Garcia.
All participants received a certificate of completion acknowledging their accomplishment, along with a wristband commemorating the event.
Coach Frank Ruona and Assistant Coach Kevin Rumon have been helping and encouraging incarcerated people prepare for runs ever since the club started in 2010.
“It feels great to be back,” said Rumom.
Unfortunately, lockdowns due to Covid-19 continue to hamper the club’s efforts to train and hold other events. Due to this, the 26.2-mile marathon that typically takes place in November is unlikely to happen, according to members of the club.