FRANK RUONA, central to the film, is the 1000 Mile Club’s volunteer head coach since the club’s 2005 inception. A veteran of 78 marathons and 38 ultra-marathons, including The Western States 100-Mile Endurance Run, he was recognized as the #1 road runner in the nation for ages 55-59 by USA Track & Field, the sport’s governing body. He believes that having the “Marathon Mindset,” the toughness, focus, and determination necessary to succeed as a runner is also what it takes to succeed in life. For 40 years, Frank was an executive for a highway construction firm. Now retired, he never imagined he’d be spending so much of his golden years inside a prison. “I’ve been told by a number of the inmates that setting a goal and achieving that goal means a lot to them. They, in their life, they didn’t often set goals. And what goals they did set, they didn’t often achieve them, and I think they get a lot of satisfaction from being able to achieve the goals they set for running.”
MARKELLE TAYLOR, a former high school track star, is the club’s reigning champ. Frank feels that in the real world, trained on a real track and on trails, Markellecould be a competitive “master runner” in his age group. Serving a 15-to-life sentence for second-degree murder, Markelle started to run in prison 2 years ago when he saw the stress inmates experienced when facing parole boards and being denied. He thought running would help him stay on track and give himthe chance to be something more than his rap sheet. “It’s not about me anymore. It’s about all the victims,” Markelle has said. “People that I’ve caused harm to and everybody I’ve victimized and everybody who was victimized. I dedicate every run, every mile, every half-mile, every quarter, every inch to them.”
RAHSAAN THOMAS, has been incarcerated for 16 years and is serving a 35-to life sentence for second degree murder with firearms enhancement. He is a writer, a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and has been published in the Missouri Review’s Literature on Lockdown, Life of the Law, The Marshall Project, and The Beat Within. He talks openly about what brought him to prison, “I’ve been accused of a lot of crimes, most of which I really did. To view my rap sheet – well, there’s a story behind all those charges, not to make an excuse. I became what I hated, I had that same lack of empathy towards others. Even if I have a right to justice, I don’t have a right to vengeance. You know if I can change, I haven’t had a fight in 13 years, then the world can too, it all starts with forgiveness.”
LARRY FORD, a former building inspector, is currently serving 2 life sentences. He’s the 1000 Mile Club’s secretary, a position he takes great pride and pleasure in, and has completed the San Quentin Marathon four times. Running helps Larry cope with the stress inside the prison and interrupts the endless thoughts about the crime that landed him there. "Everyday what you did goes through your mind. You think a thousand different scenarios how you would do something different or how you wish you did something different. How any little thing could have changed your life that day, but it didn't."
BILL PILLARS, one of the club’s earliest members and its first secretary, is now released. He ran his first marathon three weeks after undergoing hernia surgery, and, cheered on by other inmates and the coaches, finished it, coming in last place. Since then, he feels that running is “in my blood.” Sentenced to 25 to life under California’s “three strikes” law, Bill did 15 years until “three strikes” was reversed, his sentence was reduced to 8 years and he was immediately released. Bouncing from job to job and struggling to get hired because of his record, Bill finally landed a job at a highway construction company, Ghilotti Brothers, Inc. Frank’s former company, where he is now Stockyard Foreman. In 2015, Bill received the Employee of the Year Award. “I feel good with myself right now... As far as my job, running, enjoying company with good people, and you know, just being a person that I visualized on being when I was incarcerated.”
ANGEL LEMUS, incarcerated at Pelican Bay and San Quentin State Prison for 4 years, now released and currently working as an electrician in his native San Jose. Angel’s time behind bars taught him to bury his emotions for fear of seeming vulnerable and getting drawn into a fight that could land him in solitary, or doing more time. Running provided an outlet for physical and emotional release, and he attributes running and the approach of the running club to turning his attitude about life around. “Every day waking up and going out into the yard and seeing the big 40 foot concrete walls, there’s nothing beautiful about that. But if you can go out there and run, it frees your mind and it’s like you’re not even there.” Along with Bill, he has run The Dipsea, the oldest trail race in the country.