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Kahlil’s Tale: Find Gold Where You Weren’t Expecting It (and Didn’t Know Where to Look)

This prison inmate ran thousands of miles in a .04-mile dirt path in the yard. Then he came out and ran in the fields and hills, with a wish to join the outdoor community. Join us with an Outside+ membership and you can access more inspirational stories like this one about Kahlil Gonzalez.

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Six whole months in solitary confinement; that inhuman amount of time would not be allowed today. Coming out of a dark, hot and airless cell, Kahlil Gonzalez was never going back to that.

Later, by the time he was released from a correctional facility in upstate New York after a seven-year sentence for burglary, he had run nearly 2,500 miles in prison on a .4-mile dirt path in the yard. So reported Paul Cuno-Booth in a 2016 Trail Runner profile that I have always remembered and still recommend.

Kahlil had originally watched another inmate running around that same perimeter, even in the rain, and finally decided that guy, Joe Murphy, was onto something.

“He was separate from everybody,” Kahlil said in Trail Runner. “He had a little bit of extra freedom.”

When Kahlil emerged from lockup, he was 35 years old and a strong runner, mentored by Joe and as a reward of his own energy and inquisitiveness. He studied running, read about it, and wanted to join the community, while being unsure whether it would accept a felon.

Several years ago, while teaching a media class at our local college, I asked my students to read the story. They were a varied group, some athletic and some not, and some had had their own serious problems (I had a felon or two myself, some of my keenest students; they wanted to be there). When I asked the class of a dozen or 15 what they thought of the article, half of them belted out, “It was great.” I asked what they would ask the author, about process or approach or his findings, if they could, and they all had ideas. And in one of the most fun moments all year, there came a knock on the classroom door, and Paul—previously a staff editor at our companion publication Trail Runner, who’d sat next to me at our office—walked in.

I said, “OK, you can ask him.” And the students did.

These, like the tale of Kahlil, are the stories that resonate, and what you can find across our titles, whether they may be about your primary sports interests or not; and in fact, most of our readers do various mountain or individual sports as well as climb. They are stories that stay with you, that educate and inspire you on various levels. An Outside+ membership will bring you the world of climbing, but also gets you a subscription to any of the dozens of magazines in our ecosystem, among other benefits. Read, find yourself surprised and absorbed, and share. Oh, and Joe Murphy, who changed the course of Kahlil’s life? He started running after reading an Outside magazine profile of an ultramarathoner. Outside is one of the many other magazines you could choose.

While not every feature story goes online, this one from Trail Runner did, so now that you are interested, here is Kahlil’s tale.