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Former San Quentin lifer runs his fastest marathon yet at Boston

Markelle Taylor's first marathon as a free man was the Boston Marathon. He posted an almost seven-minute personal best

Markelle Taylor, formerly known as the Gazelle of San Quentin, celebrated his freedom with a huge performance at Monday’s Boston Marathon. Taylor, whose sentence on a second-degree murder conviction was commuted in late 2018, was granted a charity spot at Boston, where he ran 3:03:52–an almost seven-minute personal best. He is 46.

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Markelle Taylor (centre) with Kevin Rumon and volunteer coach Diana Fitzpatrick after the 2019 Boston Marathon. Photo: courtesy of 26.2 to Life

“I talked with him after the race, and he was elated,” Taylor’s coach, Frank Ruona, said in an email Monday evening. Ruona has been coaching the runners at San Quentin for many years, is head coach of the Tamalpa Running Club in San Francisco, and is himself a multiple Boston finisher.

Taylor approaching the finish line. Photo: courtesy of 26.2 to Life

Taylor had run 3:10:42 (also a personal best, and the course record) at the most recent edition of the marathon that’s been held behind the bars of San Quentin State Prison for the past 11 years, in spite of the race being delayed twice in the fall of 2018–once due to air quality issues from wildfire smoke, and once due to the prison being in lockdown after two death-row inmates died of drug overdoses.

Being a prison marathon, however, the course is not an official Boston qualifier, and the qualifying period for 2019 had elapsed. Still, the B.A.A. is known for showing compassion in unusual circumstances, and allowed Taylor to race, provided he and his supporters committed to raising USD $8,500 for the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts.

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Markelle Taylor, the “Gazelle” of San Quentin. Photo: Jonath Mathew, courtesy of 26.2 To Life

As for what’s next on Taylor’s race schedule, Ruona hopes to have him run as many USATF-Pacific Races in the Bay Area for the Tamalpa Runners as possible, and he will run the famous Dipsea Race on June 9 with four other former San Quentin 1000 Mile Club runners. (His main task for the immediate future will be to find full-time employment.)

Photo: courtesy of 26.2 to Life
“Now there will be more competition to see who can win our various races,” says Ruona. “For the past four years Markelle had won every race we had at the prison.”