Sunday, March 8, 2009
Seventy-Two Days Until My Release From Taft Federal Prison Camp

My running career at Taft Camp has come to an end.  This saddens me some. Over the past 10-plus months I’ve really come to enjoy running.  It has been a source of therapy for me. Now, an injury has forced me to substitute the stationary bicycle for my laps around our uneven dirt track.

In the beginning, I could hardly power myself through three miles. During the decade prior to my confinement I had not taken care of my fitness needs. That all changed with the start of my imprisonment. For the first several months, exercise was my solace. I enjoyed the rigorous workouts, the sweat generated through four hours of exercise every day. It was a cleansing feeling for me, helping me to relieve the pain of being separated from home.

Although I did a variety of exercises to train for strength, running was what I most looked forward to. My daily mileage picked up to an average of more than 10 miles. And I ran; I didn’t jog. My times were faster than any other runner in the camp. I took pride in clocking laps at more than a minute faster than other experienced runners.

During the past few weeks, however, I’ve felt a pain growing in the area where my stomach meets my leg. I initially responded to it by shortening my running distances, though the pain persisted. It may be a carry over from my younger days as a baseball player. I don’t know how or where the pain originated. I only know that it prohibits me from running comfortably, and that pain has led to a change in my prison adjustment.

Medical care in prison is not really an option for an injury like mine. I know that. Like health care everywhere, there are limitations to what I can expect. The clinic here does not really provide for sports medicine, and I cannot expect an x-ray or medical consultation. I’m serving a short sentence, and I’m close to release. Other prisoners have more urgent medical needs. The nurse would likely tell me to swallow some ibuprofen and stop running. I’ve come to that conclusion on my own.

For these final ten weeks of my imprisonment, I will limit my exercise to riding the stationary bicycle for cardio training. That’s no cakewalk. I peddle hard for longer than an hour and drench myself with sweat.  But it doesn’t compare with running. I love the feeling of wind in my face, and the sound of my feet pounding the track as my legs carry me across the earth. I’m not in prison when I’m running. My senses pick up the elements. I feel free and alive. That’s why I have come to love it so much.

By taking these final weeks off, I hope to heal the injury so I can resume running once I return home. At least I will have access to a sports medicine clinic, and a doctor who can properly diagnose what ails me.  As a prisoner, I simply must get through these last 72 days.

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