Former San Quentin 1000 Mile Club runner Markelle “The Gazelle” Taylor took center stage in the first wave of runners at the Boston Marathon in April.
Stepping off the plane with his running gear at Boston’s Logan International Airport, the lean, muscular marathoner with skinny ankles celebrated completing his three years on parole. He is now truly free.
“Man, that was a beautiful feeling,” Taylor told The New York Times.
During the race he wore orange shorts, matching Nike Alphafly shoes and a tank top representing Mt. Tam Running Club.
Taylor set a 6:33 pace for the 26 miles and ran an impressive 2:52 to finish the race. He made it look easy, according to the Times story printed April 25 in the Marin Independent Journal.
Taylor was released on parole in 2019 from SQ after serving 18 years in prison. Since that time he has run multiple races and at least three marathons in under three hours. He ended up setting the pace for many professional runners in Boston and came in fifth place in his age group.
Taylor ran his first marathon in California at the Avenue of the Giants in September, where he crossed the finish line in a time of 2:56:12. He was first in his age group and fifth overall.
Taylor was the fastest runner ever to grace the track at SQ. But he was unable to break the three-hour mark while inside. His fastest SQ time was a prison record 3:10 minutes.
Taylor said that his life sentence led him to become a long-distance runner. The sport helped him choose a life of sobriety.
“Running was a form of freedom. It was my therapy, a way of escaping,” he said in 2019. “It kept me grounded.
“Running is humbling,” he said. “Sometimes you have to start from the back, just like I’m doing now with minimum wage. It’s like trying to go up that hill after 18-plus miles; sometimes you can get cramps and stuff like that. That’s like being rejected from a job you want because they ask for your fingerprints.”
Taylor constantly has to practice the coping skills he learned while in prison. “Anger is a secondary emotion to hurt, stress and fear,” he told the Times.
He went from transitional housing in the Tenderloin of San Francisco, to his own one-bedroom apartment in Tiburon. “Man, you can’t beat that,” he said.
Taylor now works at a grocery store for minimum wage.
“Being Black and living with a criminal background, no matter how successful you are today, you are always haunted by the past. Just like some of those hills, society in general is very un-forgiving — unless it reaches their own backyard,” he said.