Neither delays, wet weather or injuries prevented 1000 Mile Running Club members from recording breaking performances at the 12th Annual San Quentin Prison Marathon.
“It was an extraordinary performance by the club after all the obstacles that we encountered trying to finally run the 12th Annual San Quentin Marathon,” Coach and Sponsor Frank Ruona said.
Two records were broken under a cloudy sky with off and on light rain. Markelle “The Gazelle” Taylor, who hopes to parole in February, broke the Club record he set in 2015 with a marathon completion time of 3:10:42.
The 42-year-old plans to run the April 15 Boston Marathon, which requires that contestants run a marathon in under three hours and 20 minutes within one year of the race. He cleared that goal with sore feet and in muddy prison conditions.
Prior to the race, Taylor complained of tendonitis in his right foot and sore knees. He wasn’t going to run but changed his mind just before race time.
“I didn’t expect to break my record sick and injured; the weather and the people helped me do that,” Taylor said. “I dedicate this race to the volunteers for believing in prison reform and forgiveness.”
Mark Jarosik, 52, was the second of many with a time of 3:31:30.
Newcomer Fidelio Marin, 48, pushed Taylor the first half of the race. He ran in lockstep with Taylor for the first five miles. Marin took third with a time of 3:44:56. It was his first time completing a marathon.
At 8 a.m. the winners lined up with a total of 29 runners at the start line and took off when the coaches count reached one. The club shattered the past record of 13 members to complete a marathon when 23 completed the full distance of 26.2 miles or 105 laps around the prison yard, which included eight new members.
“Twenty three finishers out of 29 starters in the race is excellent!” Ruona said.
The race was originally scheduled for Nov. 16, but had to be postponed until Dec.14, because of poor air quality due to the tragic wildfires in Butte County. Then the December race was canceled due to a lockdown. Rain threatened to again reschedule the Jan. 11 date, but it was light and mostly off more than on.
“All of these delays and the inability of the San Quentin 1000 Mile Running Club to continue with their marathon training routine lowered expectations for the race,” Ruona said. “We were going to run the race, but expectations were low. What a pleasant surprise it was to see record breaking performances.”
Steven Brooks lived up to coach Ruona’s prediction that he would finish in the top five when he took fourth place in 3:45:36, about 15 minutes faster than he ran last year.
Vincente Gomez, running with his typical large smile took fifth place in 3:52:27. Gomez slowed considerably the second half of the race and finished almost 10 minutes slower than he did last year.
Tommy Wickerd looked like he recovered from knee injuries that had been plaguing him in the last year. He took sixth place with a strong 3:55:18.
Steve Reitz took seventh place with a 3:55:19 and was the only runner in the race to run at a faster pace for the second half of the race than he ran in the first half. It was his first time completing a marathon after three previous tries.
Chris Scull finished in eighth place with a time of 3:59:36. Scull twisted his ankle early in the race and struggled the second half.
Alberto Mendez, 63, after several years of health problem and at least two knee replacements, ran strong and was the first 60 plus finisher. He took ninth with a time of 4:03:39.
Bruce Wells, who is waiting for bunion surgery and did not plan on running the marathon on its original Nov. 16 scheduled date, had a good race taking eleventh place in 4:14:19, 18 minutes faster than his previous marathon finishes.
John Levin tied the previous club record by being the thirteenth runner to finish behind Moua in thirteenth place at 4:25:34. Levin was fighting a bad cold and faded considerably the second half of the race, but he toughed it out.
Brett Ownbey, a brand new club member, broke the most finishers record at fourteenth with a time of 4:36:15.
Prior to the race, club member and twenty-third finisher Nicola Bucci handed out to team members his “Bucci Bars” cell-made with oatmeal, peanut butter, jelly, bananas, protein powder, sea salt, frosted flakes, cinnamon and raisins. Bucci finished with a time of 5:33:36 utilizing the Jeff Galloway’s run-walk-run method.
“I made the bars to give back to my team,” said Bucci, whose parents owned a restaurant from 1980-85. “I was inspired by the fish burritos Tommy Wickerd gave out for the New Year’s half-marathon.”
Just after the race, Ruona was honored by the club members.
“Here’s a plaque for the guy who changed my life forever,” Wickerd told Ruona as he handed over the award.
Member Tone Evans added, “He makes us better runners and better people.”
First time volunteer Cindy Goh, an ultra-runner, helped the coaches count laps and give out water. Filmmaker and director Christine Yoo, whose movie about the 1000 Mile Club called 26.2 Miles to Life is due out later this year, attended the race to support the runners.
Several film crews documented the race including ARD GERMAN TV, KTVU Channel 2 and Anna Katherine Clay writing for LONGREADS.
-Frank Ruona contributed to this story
12th Annual San Quentin Marathon, January 11, 2019
Place Name Age Miles Time Pace
1. Markelle Taylor 46 26.2 MI 3:10:42 7:17
2. Mark Jarosik 52 26.2 MI 3:31:30 8:05
3. Fidelio Marin 48 26.2 MI 3:44:56 8:36
4. Steven Brooks 46 26.2 MI 3:45:36 8:37
5. Vincente Gomez 44 26.2 MI 3:52:27 8:53
6. Tommy Wickerd 50 26.2 MI 3:55:18 8:59
7. Steve Reitz 42 26.2 MI 3:55:19 8:59
8. Chris Scull 39 26.2 MI 3:59:36 9:09
9. Alberto Mendez 63 26.2 MI 4:03:39 9:18
10. Jonathan Chiu 36 26.2 MI 4:05:29 9:23
11. Bruce Wells 56 26.2 MI 4:14:19 9:43
12. Moua Vue 39 26.2 MI 4:25:16 10:08
13. John Levin 54 26.2 MI 4:25:34 10:09
14. Brett Ownbey 44 26.2 MI 4:36:15 10:33
15. Darren Settlemeyer 52 26.2 MI 4:36:25 10:34
16. Al Yaseng 49 26.2 MI 4:41:13 10:45
17. Erik Rives 47 26.2 MI 4:44:38 10:52
18. Michael Keeyes 71 26.2 MI 4:50:47 11:06
19. Michael Ybarra 32 26.2 MI 4:58:55 11:25
20. Ramon Ruelas 28 26.2 MI 5:09:34 11:49
21. Lee Goins 61 26.2 MI 5:23:49 12:22
22. Ismael Altamirano 31 26.2 MI 5:26:13 12:28
23. Nicola Bucci 45 26.2 MI 5:33:36 12:44