Ex-convict Michael Santos had an
exceptional experiencein federal prison in many ways.
He wrote several books while locked up for more than 25 years. He started dating a former high school classmate then married her. Santos also bought a pair of cheap cross-trainers from the prison commissary and ran marathon distances — 26.2 miles — on tiny, dusty prison tracks.
Santos, who was in prison for trafficking cocaine, ran his first marathon distance with ex-Brocade CEO and white collar criminal Gregory Reyes on a 95-degree day in May 2011 at the federal prison in Taft, Calif. The farthest the two had ever run together was 15 miles.
“It was running around a circle for four and a half hours,” Santos told Business Insider.
The idea of running in circles for hours while wearing crappy shoes is incredible to me, seeing as when I ran my first and possibly last marathon, I did it on a distractingly beautiful route while wearing top-of-the line shoes and eating special electrolyte gummy candy.
Michael Santos is an unusually motivated human being.
Like many inmates before the mid- 1990s (when Congress prohibited federal prisons from bodybuilding equipment), Santos lifted weights to stay in shape. After about 10 years of that, though, he started worrying about getting too bulky to wear a suit once he finally got released. He switched to running on prison tracks. (Some tracks were 1/4 mile, and other tracks he ran on were 1/3 mile long.)
Santos started running 10-mile distances daily on the prison track and five miles on visiting days. He told himself he was never more than “65 miles away from a visit,” he said. Santos sometimes ran as many as 20 miles a day, in silence and without much scenery. He used the time to focus and think about his career goals.
In 2010 Santos struck up a friendship with Reyes, a hugely successful businessman who was doing time for back-dating corporate stock options. (The practice of backdating to make stock options more valuable has largely been abandoned, thanks in part to Reyes’ high-profile conviction.)
Santos motivated Reyes to start running, and pretty soon they were doing 10 miles together. Reyes said he’d like to do a marathon. The prison cardiologist advised them to train for it. Most marathon training programs are three months long and involve gradually increasing your distance and then “tapering” down before the big race day. Santos and Reyes didn’t really go that route.
One weekend they did 15 miles. The very next weekend they decided to run the full 26.2 miles on the prison track since it was May and they knew it would just get hotter. “We should just bang it out right now,” Santos remembers telling Reyes.
Santos marked his time using a Timex Ironman watch. Each time he finished a loop, he’d push a button on the watch to mark his time. Santos finished in 4:35. Reyes completed his marathon in about 4:12, Santos remembers.
Santos went on to run 52.4 miles on the dusty oval during his stay in prison. He banged out 700 miles his last month of prison, averaging more than 20 miles a day. He’s been out of prison since 2012. Faced with the social demands of freedom, Santos has “only” run six marathon distances since his release.
He has never run an organised race. For him, marathons were never about getting a trophy or a pin or even getting faster. These days, his marathon times are five hours — significantly slower than his first one.
“I am out there just to think, and put one foot in front of the other and hit the goals,” he said.
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