The loneliness of the long-distance runner — a prisoner competes in the second annual marathon

Challenge completed

by Mike Isle

Many New Year resolutions might include the completion of a half or full marathon as a goal, though perhaps not if you are a prisoner. However prisoners at the Christchurch Men’s Prison Youth Unit have already achieved this.

It’s the second year the marathon has been run by prisoners completing their Duke of Edinburgh’s award, with principal corrections officer Gary Smallridge setting them goals.

Seventeen youth prisoners took part in the run, with 16 completing a half marathon. One prisoner finished the full marathon with a time of just over five hours. One of the half marathoners had only removed a moon boot a week before after recovering from a broken toe.

Prison director, Joanne Harrex, said the event was a resounding success.

“Running together is a leveller, and these young men have learnt from their fellow runners that if you train for something, support each other and stick at it even when it’s tough, you can achieve a good result.

“There were lots of sore legs, lots of blisters and happy and surprisingly high-spirited young men at the finish line.

“The marathon has given the boys a sense of achievement and pride in their own abilities.

“The boys, along with the PCO and some other keen staff run most mornings throughout the year, but additional effort is put in over the last couple of months to improve fitness.”

“All the runners were cheered on by other prisoners in the yards inside the prison and staff at various locations along their route,” Joanne Harrex said.

Two staff and two guests, including a visually impaired runner who flew down from Wellington to compete on the day, also completed the full marathon. The overall winner was one of the prison’s psychologists who finished in a time of four hours 31 minutes.

The marathon course is set out inside the  prison fence and includes 19 laps, and a final 200-metre sprint to the finish line to complete the full marathon distance of 42 kilometres.