the ny times reports that jim deupree, a florida prison inmate, was assigned a number for last weekend's nyc marathon. mr. deupree would run "not through New York's five boroughs with 37,000 other entrants, but in the razor-wire isolation of the prison yard of the Jackson Correctional Institute. He would circle a dirt track, one that measures about two and a quarter laps to the mile, until he completed the marathon in about 60 laps. He said he had trained 50 miles a week and hoped to complete the race in four hours."
although florida prison officials were distrustful, i'm heartened by the story. i especially liked reading that new balance tried to send 80 pairs of running shoes to jackson prison. count me in for a half-dozen pairs if it will help prisoners get what i get out of running. in fact, i'll mail off my size 10 nikes right now if inmates can put them to use. on the basis of countless pre-race conversations but no hard data, i'm convinced that many runners are in recovery from something. running seems to scratch some kind of itch for them that they'd heretofore only reached through self-destruction.
at 14, i only ran when chased (which was not infrequent). still, i remember being completely transfixed by the jericho mile, a made-for-tv movie about a running prisoner. the setting was a dusty folsom prison and the recurring theme song was the stones' sympathy for the devil. the bassline is perfect for running -- gathering steam and confidence at an intense pace that is almost out of control. the jagged guitar solo at song's end somehow conveys the funky-good pain one feels at race's end. the protagonist, a murderer named "rain" murphy, was played by peter strauss, who looked and ran like a gnarly thirtysomething miler. well, at least he looked a lot faster than the skinny-legged boys playing runners in most movies. the critics also praise the jericho mile for its use of inmates in many scenes and for dealing squarely with the racial tensions at folsom, despite this gem of dialogue:
"Without me coaching you, without Captain Midnight filling your hoochy soul with funky inspiration, how are you going to be champion?" ~Stiles to Murphy
looking at the movie's stills, i'm starting to think it had a bigger influence on me than i had realized (studying prisons, running, bad 70s hair) . for some of us, running offers both the joy of wild freedom and the satisfaction of self-control. i can't help but think that at least some inmates might be wired in a similar way. run on, jim deupree.