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Nonprofit that helps inmates become runners hosts event at Willamette Park in West Linn

Reason to Run founder Trisha Swanson and West Linn resident Keegan Chastain believe in the power of running. They note that the sport can help relieve depression, anxiety and insomnia and lead to better habits. PMG PHOTO: COREY BUCHANAN - Keegan Chastain and Trisha Swanson are organizing a 5-kilometer race at Willamette Park to promote the Reason to Run nonprofit organization

And they believe this power can be especially valuable for current and former inmates.

"Running is a catalyst for that (personal transformation), and it's a very personal one because it hurts and it's hard to run," Chastain said. "You get through it and it's like 'I really wanted to quit and I didn't quit.'"

Swanson and Chastain will host the inaugural Reason to Run 5K at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, June 1, at Willamette Park in West Linn. The event is free, but attendees are encouraged to donate $10 to the Reason to Run nonprofit organization, which conducts running programs at Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville. Also, SouthLake Church will put on a barbecue and a Reason to Run alumna will give a speech before the race.

"What we're really looking for with this is (to raise) awareness of the program and the ability for the community to feel a part of the program," Swanson said.

Swanson, a volunteer at Coffee Creek, began to host races at the prison and then was asked by the prison administration to start a regular running program there. The program began in 2014 and achieved nonprofit status in 2015.

If you go

WHAT: 5K benefiting Reason

to Run nonprofit organization

WHEN: 9:30 a.m. Saturday,

June 1

WHERE: Willamette Park

in West Linn

COST: Admission is free

INFO: For more information, visit https://runsignup.com/Race/OR/WestLinn/ReasonToRunCommunity5K

Essentially, Swanson hosts four running groups in various sections of the prison and the inmates complete a 5-kilometer race at the culmination of the eight-week course. Swanson said over 1,000 inmates have completed the program.

Also, Reason to Run purchases running attire for women who graduated the program once they are released. And Chastain, who is the director of the 5K event, is starting to regularly run with released inmates outside the prison walls.

"When people are released and we can get them into quality running shoes and a running bra, they can put that stuff on and go right out the door. They're getting exercise, doing something positive for their mind, for their body," Swanson said.

Chastain experienced a few run-ins with the law when she was younger. Once she moved past that tough time in her life, she wanted to help those dealing with similar struggles. COURTESY PHOTO - These Coffee Creek inmates completed the Reason to Run program.

"Once I left that phase of my life, upon reflection (running) was the only thing I ever had and it really built a sense of self, self-encouragement, self-love, self-discipline," Chastain said. "I think that that was imperative to help these women get that while they're in prison. When they get released, then they can fall back on that."

Chastain hopes that people in the West Linn community as well as those who have a connection to Coffee Creek, were previously incarcerated or know someone who has been incarcerated consider attending the event.

"This is a unique way of supporting the community because these women are in our community and they are mothers; they are daughters; they are students; they are everyone," she said.

Ultimately, Swanson hopes to bring the Reason to Run program to more prisons beyond Coffee Creek and says she will continue do her best to diminish the negative stigma that often surrounds prisons and current and former inmates.

"What we hope comes out of this is there's so many negative stereotypes about prison but there's also some good things, people who are really trying to change their lives and how do you highlight that there are people working hard to be a contributing member to society?" she said.

For more information about the run or to sign up, visit https://runsignup.com/Race/OR/WestLinn/ReasonToRunCommunity5K.


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