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Former San Quentin Inmate Runs As Free Man At Boston Marathon

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) -- A San Francisco man who's running in Monday's Boston Marathon has had a unique training regimen: he's spent years doing laps inside San Quentin State Prison.

Weeks after stepping out of San Quentin Prison, Markelle Taylor is realizing his dream of running the Boston Marathon. Most of Taylor's training comes from years in the 1,000 Mile Club, a running group inside San Quentin led by volunteer coaches.

"What I do is concentrate on my breathing, my running," Taylor said. "It's my way of meditating, it's my way of being free."

Club members compete in the annual San Quentin Marathon -- 105 laps around the prison yard.

Head coach Frank Ruona says Taylor has owned first place.

"He holds all the San Quentin records for all the distances," Ruona said.

Taylor has also made strides turning his life around. After serving almost 18 years behind bars for a second degree murder conviction, the 46-year-old San Francisco man got his sentence commuted.

"Through my God, my spiritual transformation and through my running, (they) gave me my healing and my purpose," Taylor explained.

Christine Yoo met him while directing a documentary on the running club, called "26.2 to Life: the San Quentin Prison Marathon." Yoo worked to make Taylor's Boston marathon dream a reality.

"As soon as he was found suitable for parole, for whatever reason, I ... saw in my mind that he was crossing the finish line in Boston," she remembered.

Taylor ran the San Quentin marathon in 3 hours, 10 minutes and 42 seconds, his personal best. It qualified him for Boston but the entry deadline passed.

With the help of the race director Dave McGillivray, who started the nation's first prison running club in Massachusetts, Yoo found a way for Markelle to run. He got a spot as a part of a charity team -- the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts.

Recently, an online campaign raised the money he needed to join the team: $8,500 donated to the nonprofit's economic and social justice mission.

Taylor, who has been averaging a race a week training with volunteer coaches, hopes to complete the Boston Marathon in under three hours.

"He actually was the first 40 and older runner to finish the Oakland half marathon. He took first place," noted coach Ruona.

Volunteer coach Diana Fitzpatrick added that Taylor's attitude makes all the difference.

"He's open to changing, improving, getting better, listening to advice, listening to coaches," she observed.

The same qualities are helping him settle into his new job, transitional housing and new opportunities.

"I'm a winner in the fact that I did the work to allow myself a second chance at freedom and, by going to Boston, that's another blessing," Taylor said.

And when he crosses the finish line, he hopes it's the start of many milestones in his marathon of life.

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