The head coach of San Quentin’s 1000 Mile running club received the volunteer of the year award from the Road Runner Club of America.
Frank Rouna, an ex-army veteran, life-long Republican conservative and ex-marathon runner, has been volunteering at San Quentin for over a decade.
RRCA champions the development and success of community-based running organizations that empower all people to participate in the sport. In his work as coach, Rouna empowers society’s most forgotten.
Rouna started running marathons at age 40. Since that time he has run 78 marathons and 38 ultra-marathons. He knows the power of running and its ability to transform people’s lives. He was the President of the Mt. Tamalpais running club. Rouna is also a USA Track and Field certified coach.
He was approached in 2010 by a teacher from San Quentin named Laura Bowman to help find someone to teach the running club.
“I called everybody and nobody was interested, so I decided to come inside and take a look for myself,” said Rouna. He has been the coach of the club ever since.
“I don’t ask anybody what they are in prison for because I’m not here to judge them. They’ve already been judged by a court. I meet them where they’re at,” said Rouna.
For over a decade, Rouna has been bringing professional runners inside the prison to help him teach the club the fundamentals of long distance running. The club trains throughout the year for an annual marathon in November.
Outside volunteer supporters donate new running shoes to all SQ 1000 Mile Club members each year.
During the Covid-19 pandemic, the club shut down and they haven’t run a marathon since 2019. Rouna, who is now nearing 80-years old, uses a standing push cart to get down to the Lower Yard. This could be his last year coaching, but he hopes to get the men ready for a marathon in November of 2023. He still has a passion for coming inside helping the incarcerated transform their lives through running.
“I am my brother’s keeper,” said Rouna. “I’ve been pretty fortunate in my life-growing up in a White middle-class town. I now consider the criminal justice system to be deeply flawed.”