Marathon Man : Melges Scott Ran With a Dangerous Crowd as a Youth. Now He Goes the Extra Miles--26 of Them--to Help Others.

I've been running about 11 years. I decided to train for the L.A. Marathon at 17. I ran it in 1989 even though I didn't have a number; everyone encouraged me to do it. I didn't train that much, I just did it on my own. I just had the motivation. I felt real good about finishing. I figure I can sit and tell my children about this one day.

I know I can win the next L.A. Marathon. I have a lot of obstacles to overcome. I used to drink, and I stopped. When I was young, I used to hang around gangs. But I would never hit nobody. I would never fight. I got influenced to steal a couple of times; I've seen some shootings.

I prayed a lot. I believe in Jesus. It's something to do to stay out of trouble.

I took up running to stay out of trouble and make something out of myself. I tried to hurt myself once; I was full of anger. I got kicked out of school because I had a knife on me, and I was playing around with it and got caught.

I was in a special class and people teased me. I also didn't have much money. When I accepted Christ I started to feel better about myself. As long as we're alive, we're going to make mistakes. And I wasn't hanging out with the right people: they did drugs, spray-painted things. But I started resisting.

I got shot for wearing a burgundy jacket (gang colors). The bullet went in my leg. After that, I made up my mind to do better. I started to make myself study, I made myself keep motivation. I used to be afraid to do a lot of things, like shop, but I started learning how to use things like the phone book. When the marathon came up, I had the confidence to do it.

Running gives me peace of mind. Sometimes I feel like quitting, but why? I don't want to go back to how life used to be. I want to help people. I'm going to be a spokesman at the Special Olympics this year. It's amazing I was chosen. It makes me want to keep on going.

Sometimes I don't feel handicapped; I don't feel anything's wrong with me. Sometimes I think, "Aw, what's wrong with me?" But I figure everyone's got a handicap of some kind.

My art is something else that's important to me. I started messing around with painting about 10 years ago. I want to get real good at it, make a little money for myself. When I get money, I want to give it to the church, because churches help people.

Sometimes when I don't do well, I say, "This (running) isn't for me." But sometimes I'm OK. I can't worry about things, it just makes the problem worse. I just accept what's going on. If you don't put your heart into something, things don't happen. You have to be open, but if things are bad you have to be able to let them go.

I came close to death a lot. People say, "That's just luck you're still alive." But that was really God saying, "Wake up before it's too late."

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