Despite obstacles, like several alarms requiring all inmates to sit on the ground for momentum-zapping spats, 10 men completed 105 laps around San Quentin’s Lower Yard to finish the ninth annual 1000 Mile Club marathon.
The 10 finishers, on Nov. 19, represent a club record. Since 2008, no more than nine men have completed the 105 laps.
“This was harder than any other day,” said Markelle Taylor, 44, who came in first with a time of 3:21:19. “I was just glad to finish.”
Taylor cramped up after one of the alarms, which signaled there was a disturbance somewhere inside the prison. The alarm lasted 25 minutes. The others were of various lengths. After each alarm, he got up and continued to run with a look of determination and anguish on his face.
“The whole club, everybody motivated me to keep going — without you guys supporting me, I wouldn’t have finished,” Taylor said. “Believe me. I wanted to stop several times.”
Every race, he runs for a cause. For the 2016 marathon he ran “for people who struggle to forgive and for those who also need to be forgiven — remember to forgive yourself,” Taylor said.
Taylor holds the club’s top two best finishing times with the record he set in 2015 of 3:16:07.
Chris Skull, 38, came in second with a time of 3:37. That feat made his second completed marathon and his personal best time.
For Skull, it’s competing with fellow club member Eddie Herena and training with Taylor that motivated him to finish the 26.2 miles.
“I’m the hardest-working lazy guy that I know — they (Herena and Taylor) won’t let me be lazy,” Skull said. “Then my competitiveness with Eddie comes in. I wish Eddie were here. Tell Eddie to bring it next time.”
Herena did not run in the marathon, but he did stop by to support his teammate with competitive motivation.
“In the running world, there is a mutual understanding, and it revolves around time,” Herena said. “He (Skull) did not break my record.”
Skull missed Herena’s personal best marathon of 3:35:27 by about two minutes.
Jonathan Chiu, 34, came in third. It was his best finish. It was also his personal best at 4:01:20.
“My knees started hurting with six miles left,” Chiu said. “No matter how hard it is, afterward you won’t be in as much pain.”
Chiu said he fought off cramps during the long alarms by stretching out his legs and massaging them. Focusing on breathing, pushing away the pain and listening to a country/rock play list on his music player helped him complete the course.
Tommy Wickerd, 49, conquered one of his two goals — getting a GED and completing a marathon, which he did with a time of 4:06. He took fourth place.
“It’s an accomplishment,” Wickerd said. “I ran a marathon, not just any marathon, a San Quentin marathon.”
Running has helped Wickerd lose 45 pounds.
“This was the hardest physical thing I have ever done,” said Wickerd, who said he played football and wrestled.
Troy Dunmore, 53, came in fifth at 4:11:20 despite health issues.
“I have a heart ailment,” Dunmore said. “It only beats at 40 percent. I asked my doctor if I could run, and he said, ‘Running slow is good; it’s not like you’re gonna run a marathon.’”
Dunmore has been training all year. He ran the race side-by-side with his Christian brother, Jesus Vasquez, who isn’t in the 1000 Mile Club.
“He told me he needed somebody to push, so I pushed him as far as I could,” Vasquez said. “Twenty-three miles is enough for me.”
Mike Keyes, 69, came in sixth with a time of 4:12:24.
“This was probably the hardest marathon for me,” Keyes said. “I had a cold and didn’t know if I would run until this morning.”
Diabetic Chris Schuhmacher, 49, finished seventh at 4:16:21.
“Today is my mom’s birthday,” Schuhmacher said. “I did this for her.”
Larry Ford, 60, came in eighth at 4:30. Bruce Wells came in ninth, completing his first marathon with a time of 4:32:53. Lee Goins, 59, took 10th at 4:46:14.
Lorino Hopson, 62, started out strong. He paced right behind Taylor and just in front of Skull in the first lap of the race. But he injured his hip after running 20.25 miles firmly in second place and stopped running, missing a chance to take first place.
“After he (Taylor) lapped me four times, he slowed down, and I lapped him two times,” Hopson said.
Freelance writer Liz Gill covered the marathon for Competitor Magazine.
Gill said a story about why incarcerated men would run a marathon would be a good one.
“Their answers are pretty similar to what you’d hear from anyone who is hooked on running,” Gill said.