Inmates Lace Up Running Shoes, Give Back to Community

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TOPEKA, Kan. - About 30 inmates at the Topeka Correctional Facility are part of the women's running club, which trains for 5K events that raise money for the community.

Suzanne MacDonald and Carol Hill are volunteers at the facility and came up with the idea of a running club. MacDonald said when they proposed the idea, the facility was very supportive. "We talked with the women and they were real excited," said MacDonald. "We decided we'd start off by training for a couple months to get ready for the 5K race."

The first 5K they prepared for was the 2007 Race Against Breast Cancer. About 35 women signed up and paid the registration fee to run the facility's version of the community race within facility fences. The race was held simultaneously with the community 5K.

Inmate and running club member, Pam Simmons, said the women were enthusiastic about the race and donation opportunities. "After we did that, we decided we enjoyed getting in shape," said Simmons. "We enjoyed getting together and doing this."

The club began running Saturday and Sunday mornings for one hour. In April they participated in a race for the Topeka Battered Women's Shelter, and in July they ran for the Helping Hands Humane Society.

Simmons said the running club decided to do at least three races a year, one of which will be the Race Against Breast Cancer.

As the running club has grown, women have donated running shoes to MacDonald and other volunteers to be used by the women at the facility during the weekend runs. Anyone interested in donating an old pair of running shoes should not send them to the facility. You can e-mail to find out how you can make a donation.

Women at the facility are now preparing for the 2008 Race Against Breast Cancer. More than 90 women have registered to run, raising $2,100. Inmates who cannot or do not want to run are able to volunteer to help with the race day events.

The Race Against Breast Cancer in Topeka is held Saturday, October 4.

Also as part of the running club, a guest speaker visits the women once a month to talk about health matters. They've heard from a nutritionist and former Olympic runner, Jim Ryun.

The women say this gives them a chance to feel a part of the community again, and they're happy to do their part and learn to live a healthier lifestyle at the same time.

"We're really trying to fit back into the community," said Simmons. "It's the volunteers who make all the difference because they bring the community to us and they take us back out there as our representatives."