DRAPER — Sidney Allman felt a little silly when Blu Robinson asked the men sitting in the classroom to shout that they were champions.
Just before he joined 53 other inmates at the Utah State Prison in running a 5K Tuesday morning, he listened to the founder of Addict II Athlete, a group that meets weekly to discuss addiction issues and train for running and cycling events, tell the men how a little faith in themselves can change their lives.
“Belief will change your world,” Robinson said. “Don’t worry about what other people think because they’re not on the field of battle with you.”
Then he yelled, “Athletes, who am I?” And the runners responded, “I am a champion.”
Allman, a soft-spoken 22-year-old from Vernal, said he had to close his eyes to say those words.
“It felt tacky at first,” he said, looking down at the cement slab where the runners gathered after they finished 16 laps around the facility’s dirt recreation yard. “I closed my eyes, and after I said it a few times, I started to believe it. Then it came true.”
It wasn’t Allman’s fastest 5K time (19 minutes, 47 seconds), but it was good enough for first place in Tuesday’s second annual Con-Quest 5K race at the Promontory facility in Draper.
“I came out to set a personal record,” Allman said. “The win was just a bonus. I wanted to try and get 17 minutes, but I got excited off the line.”
He wasn’t the only runner to let the adrenaline of race day push them to a pace that couldn’t be maintained. But whether the men set a personal record or just managed to finish, they said the accomplishment was something they don’t often enjoy behind bars.
Nathan Shupe was second with a time of 20:13, while Michael Ulibarri was third with a time of 20:32.
Paul Peerson was the oldest participant at 57 years old. He said he just joined Addict II Athlete about seven weeks ago, so he didn’t get to train like he should for the race. Still, he said, it reminded him of the sports he played as a kid.
“I loved it,” he said after exchanging handshakes and high-fives with other inmates in the finish area. “It feels good to do something for myself. I’m bettering my life by doing this.”
Robinson is a former addict turned athlete who works as a clinical mental health and substance abuse counselor for Utah County. He realized the benefits of athletics in his own life long before he started Addict II Athlete four years ago.
Department of Corrections clinical therapist Desmond Lomax worked to get Robinson’s program incorporated into the Con-Quest program, which is the department’s substance abuse program for men inside the prison.
Now inmates can start the Addict II Athlete program before they’re released, including completing a 5K.
Allman, who was sent to prison for an aggravated assault conviction, said the program helped him lose 40 pounds, make healthier life choices, and taught him that discipline that he believes will help him in every area of his life once he’s released.
“When I used drugs, I didn’t eat at all,” he said. “Then I’d be clean and eat everything. It’s made me think and kept me really motivated.”
He said he runs about 4 miles a day and the exercise helps him deal with stress.
“It helps me do the time,” he said. “The toughest thing is being away from my family. This has helped me feel really good about myself. On the outside, I’d like to try different 5Ks and 10Ks they have in the Salt Lake area.”
He said that while he doesn’t get any kind of trophy for the win, it felt like a reward just to cross the finish line first.
“It’s nice to have all the work pay off,” he said. “It’s a personal thing for me. When I first got here, I couldn’t even run a mile. Now I can run eight miles in a an hour.”
For some, Tuesday’s race was the culmination of months of training. For others, it was an introduction into a program that seeks to replace addiction with physical activity.
Timothy Barnes, of Ogden, finished the 5K with a time of 28:58, but he kept running until a friend from his dorm crossed the finish line a few minutes later.
The 32-year-old ran with a picture of his daughter Jorie, 6, around his neck.
“Everything I’m doing in recovery right now is for her,” he said. In prison for parole violations after being convicted of forgery, Barnes said being in and out of prison for six years has worn him down.
“I’ve never done a program here until this time,” he said. “Now I’m doing a program. I want to change my life. This is my fourth time here.” In the past, he thought he could stay away from drugs and trouble by getting a job and working hard. Now he realizes, in part because of his time in the Addict II Athlete program, that he needs to replace his addiction with something productive.
“I feel so good,” he said of being involved in the program. “It’s helped me achieve a goal. And I’m trying to bring others up with me.”
Robinson was so moved by meeting the inmates that he decided to run the race with them. He spent time with different runners, talking and encouraging them, and he ended up running much farther than 3.2 miles.
“I was so stoked to get to run with them,” Robinson said afterward. “It’s the most exclusive 5K. What blew me away was how much adversity these guys have overcome.”
Robinson said the personal stories were heart-rending, but their gratitude to him and the Addict II Athlete program left him speechless.
“It’s very humbling,” he said. “I never thought it would be appreciated so deeply. It’s awe-inspiring. I feel it’s an absolute privilege to be here.”
Barnes said it was energizing just to participate in the race.
“I’m proud of all of these guys out here,” Barnes said. “It shows they’re willing to do something different. And willingness is where it all starts.”
The results of the 5K race:
1. Sindey Allman, 19:47; 2. Nathan Shupe, 20:13; 3. Michael Ulibarri, 20:32; 4. Tyler Croft, 20:32; 5. Brandon Caldwell, 21:48; 6. James Casto, 23:14; 7. Anthony Archuletta, 23:41; 8. Clint Weeks, 24:08; 9. Kurtis Hunsaker, 24:28; 10. Jacob Vanderwoude, 24:25; 11. Jon Lee, 25:00; 12. Adam Green, 25:11; 13. Craig Eatchel, 25:13; 14. Donald Duncan, 25:13; 15. Ronnie Sauvageau, 25:33; 18. Tony Baker, 25:45; 19. Philip Scales, 25:54; 20. Kip Stivers, 26:42; 21. Tyler Eastabrook, 26:42; 22. Lance Chapman, 26:45; 23. Jacob Seaman, 26:59; 24. Ryan Dart, 27:51; 25. Anthony Isbell, 27:57; 26. Gilbert Randall, 28:08; 27. Ernestor Ortiz, 28:29; 28. Erik Fite, 28: 31; 29. James Galvan, 28:52; 30. Timothy Barnes, 28:58; 31. Brian Spears, 29:01; 32. William Johnson, 29:14; 33. Joby Romano, 31:28; 34. Matthew Quayle, 31:45; 35. Derek Hillman, 32:00; 36. Jared Sorensen, 32:00; 37. Bryan Smith, 32:16; 38. Dennis Hobot, 33:53; 39. Doug Wamsley, 33:53; 40. Paul Peerson, 34:00; 41. Atapani Maile, 34:08; 42. Larry Davis, 36:10; 43. Daniel Hardin, 36:12; 44. Ronnie Wakefield, 37:36; 45. Juan Enriquez, 37:56; 46. Michael Wardle, 38:09; 47. Matthew Nuttall, 38:57; 48. William Anderton, 41:38; 49. Jarrod Baty, 41:48; 50. Thomas Leverette, 47:05; 51. Neil Hall, 47:05; 52. Tyler Massey, 47:59; 53. William Hill, 51:54; 54. Mark Byrge, 51:54.
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