Annual event to benefit prison running program

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Participants in the annual '5 on the 4th' 5k run in Wilsonville leave the starting line at the Mentor Graphics campus on Boeckman Road. This year, the event will benefit the nonprofit Reason to Run, which hosts running groups and events inside Coffee Creek Correctional Facility.Every year, a dogged group of runners celebrates Independence Day in Wilsonville with a 5 kilometer run.

The “5 on the 4th,” which for more than a decade has taken place on and around the Mentor Graphics campus on Boeckman Road, is organized by the nonprofit Oregon Road Runners Club (ORRC). It’s an event that promises fun for runners of all ages and experience levels.

This year, however, the run will also benefit a less visible segment of the population: inmates at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility. Participants in the 5 on the 4th will have the opportunity to donate to Reason to Run when they pay their $26 entry fee (the quarter-mile kids run is free run is free).

Trisha Swanson leads Reason to Run, a nonprofit that hosts regular running groups in the facility. A longtime runner, Swanson started a business in 2009 organizing regional 5K and 10K races. She also began to volunteer once a week with a ministry program inside Coffee Creek Correctional Facility. Some of the women at the facility were excited to learn that Swanson was a runner, and wanted to do some running themselves.

“I asked the administration if we could put on a little race in there, because that’s what I did in my life anyway,” Swanson says. She organized a Race for the Cure — which fundraises for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure Foundation — inside the prison in 2011.

After several successful events there, the prison asked Swanson if she would be interested in starting a regular running group inside the facility.

“It was really organic,” Swanson says. “We’ve just continued to add more run groups and women. It’s been super fun.”

There are now three running groups that take place inside the minimum security facility: one weekly general population group, and two bi-weekly groups that focus on addiction recovery. The groups meet for seven-week sessions, and range in size from 25-40 women. Skill levels vary.

“We have a third that are brand new runners, a third that don’t feel confident calling themselves runners — they can probably run a mile — and we probably have a third that are dedicated runners,” Swanson says.

Swanson assigns different exercises for members of each group, ensuring a fitting challenge for all involved. At the end of seven-week sessions, runners are invited to participate in a 5K. Trainings will pause for one to two weeks, and then the groups start again with new runners. Many of the runners sign up again after completing their first group.

There are two formal running events inside the prison every year. The Race for the Cure Inside 5K involves running 28 laps around a paced track inside the minimum security facility. More than $1,500 has been raised for breast cancer research, with each participant asked for a $5 donation.

“We don’t look at it as competitive. We look it as a group process,” Swanson says.

The Stomp Out Abuse 5K/10K isn’t a fundraiser, but is intended to raise awareness of domestic violence prevention efforts. Despite pouring rain, some 90 women participated in the run in May, Swanson says.

“A lot of the women say they’ve never completed anything in their lives, and then they do this,” Swanson says. “It’s really a sense of completion.”

When women who have participated in Running for a Reason leave the prison, they can reach out to the nonprofit and receive a free pair of running shoes and other running gear — a “running care package,” Swanson says. So far, more than 30 care packages have been provided.

The care package program is dependent on donations, however. Some running stores make in-kind donations, and other individuals or organizations donate money that make buying the supplies possible. Funds raised by donations from participants in the ORCC 5K will be used to ship those supplies and to pay for other program materials, like timing clocks and racing bibs.

ORRC and the broader running community have helped Reason to Run to further its mission, Swanson says.

“We’ve had some great support,” she says.

Contact Jake Bartman at 503-636-1281 ext. 113 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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