Tommy Wickerd recently accomplished his goal of running 10,000 miles with the San Quentin 1000 Mile Running Club.
He is the club’s president and has been a member since 2015. “When I run, that is when I feel free,” said Wickerd. “I am no longer in prison.”
To achieve his goal, Wickerd ran 40,000 laps in a “circle” distorted by the various features of San Quentin’s Lower Yard, past high walls, gun towers, and barbed wire fencing. The grade of the circuit the runners traverse is not always level — it varies at points.
It took Wickerd seven years to run what he described as 40,000 laps in 90,000 minutes. He did it on grueling terrain, and despite a pandemic that entailed two years of continuous outbreaks and quarantines at San Quentin.
“Running is my foundation. When I’m struggling, I run. When I want to give up I run. I just want to finish. It has taught me not to give up. My goal now is 20,000.”
Wickerd lost 45 pounds running an average of 25-30 miles a week. He spends an hour or two on the track with each outing. He went from being husky to chiseled, muscular and healthy.
“I used to be a quitter,” said Wickerd. “I wanted to challenge myself and make my family proud.”
Most who join the 1000 Mile Running Club set its sights on the thousand miles. But chasing more extended goals and marathon completions pushes many past this initial target.
The mental and spiritual benefits of running transcend the physical advantages, runners say.
“I really admire Tommy for how when he puts his mind to something, he accomplishes it,” said fellow runner John Levin. “I think that’s amazing.”
Wickerd said his running community keeps him motivated. “People help me wherever I go. My role as team president helps drive me. No matter what, we support each other.” He encourages his fellow running club members as they circle the track.
Mark Jarosik is the club’s fastest marathon runner. “Is that all?” he asked sarcastically in reference to Wickerd’s 10,000-mile accomplishment. “That dude is a slacker.”
When Wickerd is not running he helps guide tourists through the prison. He also participates in self-help groups like GRIP, TRUST, Kid CAT, First Step and narcotics anonymous.
But his most important booster and biggest supporter is his wife Marion, with whom Wickerd maintains close phone contact.
“She keeps me grounded,” he said. “When I feel like giving up she pushes me.”
Members refer to Ms. Wickerd as the first lady of the running club. She helps motivate, sponsor and support the group.
For this year’s annual half-marathon run, Marion donated $130 worth of chocolate candy bars and M&Ms for the 40 runners to enjoy and re-energize after the run.
“The club’s first lady has a big heart,” said Wickerd.
SQNews writer and running club member Jay Strange spoke to Ms. Wickerd by phone about her husband’s accomplishment.
“Oh my God, it’s so cool,” she said, and added that everyone was commenting on Facebook and congratulating her on his behalf.
“If we could, we would throw a party for him.”
Wickerd also credits the club’s coaches for keeping him inspired. He speaks of head coach Frank Rouna as his prison Dad. The two work closely to keep the club moving forward.
“Being incarcerated, sometimes you want to feel like you accomplished something unimaginable,” said Wickerd. “I feel like I did that and I can’t wait to share the accomplishment with my kids and grandkids.”