Feature | Athletics

Inspired by sport: Running the marathon... in prison

Olympic long-distance runner Alexi Pappas visits MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility to meet six men ahead of their marathon mission in new episode of Olympic Channel Original Series 'Inspired by Sport'

By Rory Jiwani ·

The benefits of sport and exercise with regard to physical and mental health are huge.

Even more so if you are a young offender serving time behind bars where making the best of the situation can be the difference between reintegrating into society and a life of crime.

As part of the Olympic Channel Original Series 'Inspired by Sport', Rio 2016 Olympian Alexi Pappas went to MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in Woodburn, Oregon to meet inmates taking part in its annual marathon in April 2019.

Pappas - who did her Masters at the University of Oregon - helps the six men prepare for the race, and speaks with them about how they ended up in MacLaren, how they're coping with incarceration, and their hopes for the future.

“The mental stuff that we've been through... there's nothing you could do to me physically that would make me not want to keep going.” - MacLaren marathoner Brett

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The film focuses on two men. One is Johnathan, seven years into a 10-year sentence for manslaughter and about to take part in his third MacLaren Marathon.

The second is Xavier, 20, who has been inside for seven months on a robbery charge. He is making his marathon debut.

MacLaren has a wide range of activities and training opportunities from high school studies to hairdressing, manual work and various sports including running.

Having lacked education and support throughout his childhood, 24-year-old Johnathan says he appreciates the dynamic which enables him to acquire skills he had not previously.

He also talks honestly about the events leading up to his imprisonment and being a mentor to younger inmates.

Drugs and gangs contributed to Xavier's downward spiral, but he has found new purpose in MacLaren and is hoping to become a motor mechanic.

After a motivational breakfast with Pappas and a pep talk from Barcelona 1992 decathlon bronze medallist Dave Johnson, Johnathan, Xavier and four others embark on achieving their goal.

The marathon takes place on the grounds of the facility with the runners having to complete 20 laps of a 1.3-mile (2.1km) circuit for the full marathon distance of 26.2 miles (42.2 km).

Will they be successful? Watch and find out.

Get 'Inspired by Sport'

The MacLaren Marathon men is the third episode in the original series 'Inspired by Sport'.

The first sees Kyra Condie, who will appear at sport climbing's debut at Tokyo 2020, go to Utah to work with the Embark outdoor program which supports female refugees.

Condie goes hiking and camping with four young women from war-torn countries who have never been rock-climbing before, and helps them grow in confidence as they face new challenges and overcome their fears.

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Episode Two follows Rio 2016 team silver medallist Lucy Davis as she visits Pal-O-Mine Equestrian in New York State.

The therapeutic riding centre works with disabled children and adults as well as those who have suffered abuse and neglect.

Davis sees the bond the students have with the horses, and how their equine friends help them with their physical and mental development.

How horses help people overcome challenges and be their best selves

Olympic Equestrian silver medallist Lucy Davis explores the immense healing...