The mile after

Mile 26. That’s not a smile.

Mile 26. That’s not a smile.

Photo by Joe grand,

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Throughout the California International Marathon, I saw: a man’s giant testicles hanging from the back of his tiny shorts, a woman barfing on the guy behind her, a couple people trip and fall onto their faces and a man eating a large sandwich mid-run. Somewhere around mile 20, a cheering high-school kid yelled, “Just think, you’re beating thousands of people right now!” He wins points for best motivational cheer.

But after running some 21 miles in the wicked cold is when the race becomes really interesting, and not in a “looking at sperm through a microscope” way, but a “I wonder what it feels like to poo on myself” way. By mile 22, I felt drugged: aloof but excited, totally aware I was about to go on some sort of journey but nervous that something might go terribly wrong.

On mile 23, my legs would barely lift themselves. When I passed a man who recognized me from the gym, he yelled, “Go Alhambra Athletic Club!” and it took me a good 10 steps to comprehend what he was saying. I turned my head and waved back while wondering how to make it to mile 24.

At mile 25, I ran along Alhambra Boulevard by the Safeway, and I was delirious. I saw my friend DJ Dada mixing music under the Bank of America awning and he didn’t see me. I wanted to call out to him but I couldn’t say any words. When I turned onto L Street, my body was in the midst of breaking down. I pulled my hamstring and my legs felt heavy, like there were midgets clinging to them. Every few steps I let out an unintentional groan and I couldn’t see myself going any farther.

On mile 26.1, I could see people falling over, Red Cross volunteers propping them up and hoisting them over the finish line. I had no energy left and I wanted to run as fast as I could across the finish but my legs could only carry me in a dragged out run.

“This … is … my … last … marathon,” I lied to myself with each step.

And then it was over. Three hours, 36 minutes and 45 seconds of running from Folsom to downtown Sacramento and I was finished. Friends and family were there to greet me. My parents held me up as I tried to walk.

As I stepped up onto a curb, the muscles in my calves, neck and back seized up and I stood in the middle of the crowd of runners unable to move, screaming at the top of my lungs, crying out in unimaginable pain. And joy.