Beginning February 16 through March 18, 2017, the production team is running a 30-day fundraising campaign on the crowdfunding site, Kickstarter to raise capital for production. Click here for more information and to contribute.
San Quentin is a state prison located on the San Francisco Bay, in Marin County, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. SAN QUENTIN MARATHON tells the story of the 1000 Mile Club [include hyper link: http://www.1000mileclub.com/about/], the running club inside the prison. The club members are inmates convicted of murder and manslaughter, robbery, as well as non-violent crimes. Many are serving life sentences. Through running, they say it’s a chance to feel freedom... or something like it.
The 1000 Mile Club club is coached and sponsored by the Tamalpa Running Club, a masters running club in Marin County. Since the club’s inception in 2005, Frank Ruona, a veteran of 78 marathons and 38 ultra-marathons, has been their volunteer head coach. For many of the inmates, running the annual marathon is their ultimate goal. To help them reach that goal, Frank and his team of dedicated assistant coaches, veteran marathoners Kevin Rumon and Diana Fitzpatrick, lead regular work-outs and hold monthly track events throughout the year.
The marathon “course” is a dirt and concrete quarter-mile path, with six ninety-degree turns, that loops the prison’s lower yard. To replicate the distance of a 26.2 mile marathon, it means running 105 times around that lower yard loop. Round and around. Hour after hour.
Just as important as building physical stamina, Frank believes it’s the mental work-out – developing “the marathon mindset” – the toughness, focus and determination that helps the men not just succeed running the loop, but in the marathon of life itself. Frank continues to run and mentor former inmates who are now released in the Bay Area as they readjust back to the outside and struggle to create a sustainable life after incarceration.
The film traces the origin story of the club, the first marathon and explores running’s impact towards rehabilitation and redemption. As much as running has transformed current and former inmates’ lives, Frank has been equally changed. A life-long registered Republican, Frank has become more attuned to the US prison system over the years coaching the 1,000 Mile Club. Frank embraces his role as coach and mentor and has evolved into an accidental advocate for prison reform.
November 17, 2017 marks the 8th Annual San Quentin Marathon. What does it take to become a marathon runner? Inside a maximum security prison? How has it transformed the lives of the runners – inside and outside prison? And the coaches?
I first read about the San Quentin marathon in a GQ Magazine article. Being a runner myself, I could imagine the therapeutic benefits running could have on inmates, and the image of a person running around in circles to find some kind of freedom inside a prison resonated with me profoundly and with cruel irony. As I began my research, I was moved to learn that for some, completing the marathon is their single greatest achievement in life. They say running teaches discipline, gives a space to visualize success, and offers a calm mental place to mend broken family relationships. What I found most inspiring was learning that, over the years, the impact of the 1000 Mile Club has expanded beyond the prison walls.
My main passion is telling stories of under-represented voices. This comes from my experience as a woman and as a person of color and the feeling of invisibility that comes from not seeing images that reflect and reinforce your place in the US mainstream. Most of my previous work has been in narrative storytelling and when I started this project, I approached it as such. But in my research, I began to feel limitations with the narrative format and felt the documentary medium would allow me to address directly the issues brought out organically by the subject matter.
There are those who believe that programs like the running club coddle inmates and that prisoners should not have access to them. A life-long registered Republican, Coach Frank Ruona has become more attuned to the US prison system over the years volunteering at San Quentin, and now finds himself questioning how we as a society treat those who are incarcerated. Punishment or rehabilitation?