Keith Giroux Ran a Marathon in Jail. Now, He Has His Sights Set on Boston

The Greenfield resident is training for the biggest race of his life.

Keith Giroux

Keith Giroux, foreground, moments after finishing the Myles Standish Marathon/Photo provided

Keith Giroux has been out of jail for two months, but his ankle still bothers him.

It wasn’t jail that gave him the bum ankle, per se, but the treadmill inside it—a treadmill on which he ran 26.2 miles in clunky, borrowed sneakers last Marathon Monday. The 30-year-old wrote about his makeshift Boston Marathon for Runner’s World, and his story of redemption was greeted with an outpouring of support from readers around the world.

“I have all these people from everywhere reaching out to me, telling me what an inspiration they found my story to be,” Giroux says. “That feels good, that my story was able to do that for people.”

Giroux’s story starts as an inmate at the Franklin County Jail, where he was serving a sentence for tampering with a monitoring device, after violating probation and failing to comply with sex offender registry requirements following a 2006 sexual battery charge. Today, he’s a free man living in Greenfield, parlaying his newfound drive into a future he never imagined for himself: a life as a marathoner. He’s working to qualify for the 2018 Boston Marathon, setting his sights on one of the world’s most prestigious races.

To help get there, Giroux ran Plymouth’s Myles Standish Marathon just three weeks after his release, finishing in an impressive, if not Boston Marathon-worthy, 3:24:14. (Boston qualification requires a 3:05:00 finish or faster for Giroux’s age group.) A running coach who read his Runner’s World story is also helping him train for next spring’s Providence Marathon. For Giroux, however, both races pale in comparison to the Boston Marathon.

“The goal is to run my way into Boston,” he says. “Boston’s the one everybody loves to run, you know?”

As most New Englanders do, Giroux grew up familiar with the Boston Marathon. His great uncle ran it a few times, and Giroux says he always admired that. But Giroux, a smoker since middle school, was never a runner himself—until last year, when he was transferred from a prison in Tennessee to Franklin County, where smoking is not allowed.

Newly tobacco-free, Giroux picked up running while he finished the last chunk of his sentence. First it was just jogging in the yard or on the treadmill when he could, and slowly it grew into a daily habit.

“Once I started running, if I didn’t run for a day or two, I couldn’t get over the feeling of being inactive, not doing anything, sitting around,” he says. “I found running to be so therapeutic. It gets you out of the moment for a little bit.”

Eventually, with help from jail staff and fellow inmates, Giroux ran his Boston Marathon. For four hours and 13 minutes, he pounded away—doing lasting damage to his ankle all the while—as, across the state, 30,000 runners braved Heartbreak Hill and turned right on Hereford, left on Boylston.

Though his story has become very public, Giroux still calls it “just a small thing,” and says the strong reaction from readers has been surprising and humbling, even uncomfortable.

“I have very mixed feelings,” he says. “Sometimes it kind of makes me feel bad, because I never set out to seek any sort of attention or recognition for what I did, because to me, it doesn’t feel like I did much.”

But running Boston for real, in the flesh, alongside a field of thousands, would turn that “small thing” into proof that his life is getting back on course.

“It’d be meeting the biggest goal I’ve ever set for myself,” Giroux says. “I have all these life goals, but I’ve never actually achieved any of them, really. It’d just be a huge confidence boost—a reassurance to your ego, that you can accomplish great things.”