INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — A Columbus, Ohio man is running more than 3,000 miles from Los Angeles to New York to raise awareness about the stigma attached to people with criminal records.
Cam Williams, 29, founder of People Objective, is running an average of 45 miles per day over 93 days. He is stopping in a number of cities along the way to capture stories of people coming home from incarceration, along with the organizations and employers that help them readjust to society.
The result of his journey will be a documentary film on the challenges people face when they return home from jail or prison, including difficulty finding employment or even landing interviews and being rejected for housing.
“People get incarcerated and they do their time, and then when they’re released they have all these barriers attached to them that don’t allow them to find homes or jobs,” said Williams, former director of the nonprofit Center for Employment Opportunities in Columbus.
We caught up with Williams as he made his way through Indiana, where he was joined for two days and close to 100 miles by his cousin, Keep Indianapolis Beautiful, Inc. Director of Marketing Ashley Haynes.
Williams has a support crew traveling with a vehicle and camper in tow. He stops to eat and sleep, of course. He spent 10 stationary days in major cities interacting with locals, with the final stop in his hometown. He is scheduled to reach New York late this month.
The trek has not been without challenges, both mental and physical.
Williams had shin splints early in the journey, so he spent a few days in pain through the eastern California desert.
Mentally, the most difficult part is going to sleep at night knowing he has to wake up at 5 a.m. to run another 45 miles.
“It feels overwhelming thinking, ‘Oh, I’ve got to be out here until 5 p.m. on this road with traffic coming right at my face, hoping they’re not texting and driving,'” he said.
Williams’ strategy to make it through includes focusing on positive things, no matter how small. Something as simple as a good song, a phone call from a friend or an interaction with a stranger can break a slump.
“Now my legs have gotten used to it. My mind feels more and more settled each day,” he said. “And I’m just ready to finish it now.”