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Markelle Taylor running the 110th Dipsea Race (Photo by Frank Ruona)

This article was first published by San Quentin News, a prison newspaper that reports on rehabilitative efforts to increase public safety and achieve social justice from inside San Quentin State Prison. Visit SQN’s website or follow them on Twitter. The article has been lightly edited to add clarity and conform with PJP style rules.

Markelle Taylor, formerly incarcerated at San Quentin State Prison (SQSP), has broken the three-hour marathon barrier, according to the Marin Independent Journal. 

Running 26.2 miles at a pace averaging less than seven minutes is a goal coveted by competitive long-distance runners.

“It’s remarkable to see how well he is doing,” said running coach Diana Fitzpatrick. “Having difficulties in life, like everyone has, is tough. But in the grand scheme of things, he is doing amazingly well.” 

Taylor, 49, broke the three-hour mark at the Avenue of the Giants Marathon in Northern California on Sept. 19, 2021, with a time of 2:56:19, earning him fifth place overall and first in the men’s 40-49 age group. 

This was no surprise to those who ran with him on the yard as members of San Quentin’s 1,000 Mile Running Club. Taylor was nicknamed “Markelle the Gazelle” and still holds all of the running club’s records for those under 50 years of age, including a time of 3:16 in the 105-lap marathon, according to club coach Frank Ruona.

“He made it look easy, and helped inspire me to be the runner I am today,” said club president Tommy Wickerd. “I will always remember the first time I ran 10 miles. Markelle stood there in the rain yelling, ‘Let’s go, Big Tommy!’ on every single lap, all 40 of them.” 

Taylor has also run the Boston Marathon and recently completed the 110th Annual Dipsea Race in Marin County, where nine runners represented the 1,000 Mile Running Club, according to the Marin Independent Journal. They included Taylor, the club coaches, and formerly incarcerated runners Jonathan Chiu, Lee Goins, Eddie Herena and Chris Schumacher. 

“He’s part of an accomplished group of runners now,” said San Quentin resident Raul Higgins, who has raced in an Iron Man Triathlon, which consists of swimming 2.4 miles, biking 118 miles, then running a marathon non-stop. “He put in the work, and it shows if you set a goal and pursue it with determination you can achieve great things.” 

In addition to his running, Taylor stays busy with steady employment and managing his own sports clothing line, as well as meeting his parole obligations. 

“I just want to help people,” Taylor said. “That’s why I’m always working in the service industry. I love seeing people smile because someone is talking to them and helping them. Hearing them say, ‘This made my day,’ makes it all worth it.” 

Taylor espoused the benefits of running and the support runners give to one another. 

“The running community is so profoundly beautiful and sweet. They’ll tell me we have to go for a run because they know mentally that keeps me balanced. There is no judgment there.” 

Markelle taylor

“The running community is so profoundly beautiful and sweet,” Taylor said. “They’ll tell me we have to go for a run because they know mentally that keeps me balanced. There is no judgment there.” 

The 1,000 Mile Club coach Fitzpatrick noted the importance of running in Taylor’s personal growth.

“Running keeps you focused and on a good path,” she said. “It provides that discipline and framework, and a goal that is really healthy. A lot of the club learned that on the inside and it’s really helping them a lot on the outside, like it does for all of us.”

Taylor is grateful when reflecting back on his incarceration and hard-earned freedom. 

“All I had to go through in prison actually helped me navigate life’s situations today,” Taylor said. “I hope if someone reads this they get inspired. If you don’t give up trying to find your authentic self, eventually you will get there. I am not my past. I am living in the moment to have a better future.

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

Joshua Strange is a writer for San Quentin News, an award-winning newspaper published out of San Quentin State Prison in California, where he is incarcerated.