Running laps – Former Peebles coach, Alex Gold, initiates running program at prison

Running laps – Former Peebles coach, Alex Gold, initiates running program at prison

By Sherry Larson

People’s Defender

Running is a huge part of Alex Gold’s life. Gold is originally from Illinois and is an engineer at GE in Evendale, Ohio. When he graduated from college, he spent a couple of years at GE Peebles and coached track and cross-country at Peebles High School. He is the 2021 winner of the Flying Pig Marathon, held annually in Cincinnati.

While studying at the University of Illinois, Gold volunteered in a program teaching prisoners. He was also on the track team at the university, which drew interest from the prisoners. Gold was considering the possibility of starting a running program within a prison, and he said of the prisoner’s questions, “It reinforced the idea that running could be valuable for incarcerated people.”

When Gold ended up in Peebles after college, he contacted the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility but did not get a response. He and his wife relocated to Cincinnati, where he reached out to the Lebanon Correctional Institution. Lebanon was super interested in the idea of ​​a running program. A gentleman on staff at the institution also ran competitively and was familiar with Gold and volunteered to help. They started the Ohio to Erie Club based on a bike path from the Ohio River in Cincinnati, Ohio, to Lake Erie in Cleveland. The course is 326 miles. When the participants run 815 laps around the prison yard, they will have “gone the distance”. Gold shared, “Our current plan is to donate to the charity of their choice.” He continued, “We’ve been keeping track of their laps – it’s going to take a while.”

Although the process started two years ago, COVID put a wrench in the running program plans. In the fall of 2021, they received approval for the program but had to wait until the prison yard reopened after the winter closure before they began practicing in March. They are currently run once a week. Gold coaches and volunteers assist.

The running program started with a group of 15. Gold thinks they will increase to approximately 30 because there is a load of interest among the prisoners. He stated, “It’s a good group, and 15 seems manageable right now, so we will probably increase.” When asked what the program aspires to achieve, Gold explained, “The goal of the program is to give these men an opportunity. Through trying to achieve their goals in the running, they can show themselves, their families, and maybe even future employers that they’re capable of displaying good attributes that you must show to go after running goals.” He relayed that the men also are attentive to learning healthy practices and direction. Gold stated, “Some ideas they had about running and eating healthy weren’t correct. They don’t have many resources to learn how to get healthier. That’s another goal.”

Gold reveals that one of the “coolest” things about the program is that the prisoners are incredibly grateful. “It’s the most unbelievably grateful people you will ever experience. I think it’s because they don’t get positive feedback while they are there (prison). So, the thought of someone coming in on their own time to help them is unbelievably appreciated. Everything you ask them to do – they give 110% every time. And it’s cool to see how grateful they are.”

The other volunteers are thankful to be participating too. Gold said, “Even for them – it’s surprising. When you go in, even though some of these guys have committed horrible crimes, it’s just like they’re regular guys and super nice. They’re just people, and it’s been a cool thing for me to see how it affects the volunteers and how happy they are that they chose to spend their time doing this.”

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