“I’m going for a run by myself today,” Steve Prefontaine would often tell his teammates. But that wasn’t quite true. He was actually taking the 66-mile drive north from Eugene to the Oregon State Penitentiary in Salem to spend time running and talking with the inmates there.

The OSP is one of the oldest prisons in America, housing convicts since 1869. Inside the 26-foot-high walls of the prison is a quarter-mile asphalt track and one of the oldest prison run clubs in the country, founded in the early 1970s by none other than Prefontaine himself.

What began as a visit to the prison for a sociology project became a higher purpose for Pre. “After he met the inmates, he started a training program there and he really enjoyed it,” classmate Mary Marckx told the Department of Nike Archives (DNA). “He believed running can change your life, and he liked the interaction.”
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