[Previous entries: Pre-Marathon and Part One]

Mile 13

As a reward, I put on my headphones. My marathon playlist keeps me moving. I see stee pass in his car down the highway. I’ll see him again in about an hour. I run the numbers. 15, 25, 27, 37, 39, 49, 51, 101. It’s all about getting that medal.

It rains, just slightly.

Mile 14

How much can change in a mile. The novelty of seeing stee has worn off. The rain has stopped. It’s hot again. And I’m feeling those miles of running uphill. My hip hurts. My feet hurt. I am nowhere near the finish line. At this point, I’m not sure how I’m going to be able to finish. As much as I just ran, I have to do it again, but while I feel like this. I think about how it felt hours ago when it was dark and I was just starting out. It felt like days earlier. Could I do it again, but now in the heat and the sun and that throbbing in my hip and the aching in my feet? Why would I do this? Is this worth it?

More sponges. More water. More drinking. I stop to pee, trembling in the filthy port-a-potty, only to find I cannot pee. I think I have to, but I can’t. Does that mean my body is now tricking me into stopping, or have my organs started shutting down? I try to rub that friction goo on my legs, but I can’t get the bottle open with my teeth because I’m just too tired, so I throw it away, grab another sponge, soak my legs in cold water and keep going.

Keep going. Keep going.

Mile 15

What have I gotten myself into? What am I trying to prove? Who cares if you run a marathon? Why do you?

It’s time to stop. Every time I start to walk, I feel something push me from behind, right at my hip, making me pick up my pace again. Something won’t let me slow down.

It’s time to stop. Pack it in. No more. I’m seeing things. I think I see the car parked on the side of the road, but I don’t see stee. I’m imagining things, wishing I could go home.

Stee suddenly appears at my side. “Hey! You’re still doing it!”

It takes everything inside of me not to collapse. The tears start. “I’m done,” I say. “I want to go home.”

“You’re doing great.”

“I’m done.”

“Oh, no. You’re okay. You’re gonna be fine.”

He’s the tallest Burgess Meredith of all time as he walks next to me, offering another sports drink, taking gear I don’t need off of me, telling me that I’m almost done.

“I’m done now.”

“No. That’s mile 16 up ahead. After that it’s ten miles.”

Ten point two, but what’s the point of correcting him?

“Ten miles,” he says. “That’s two five-mile runs. You do that all the time. In your sleep. What’s two five-mile runs? And then nothing but sitting by the ocean and drinking lots of booze.”

I remember the sign I passed a few miles ago. “Go, Stacey! At the end of this, there’s a cocktail waiting for you!”

Mile 16

“See? Here we are at Mile 16.” He’s slowing down his walk to match my running pace.

“I’m walking faster than I’m running. I gain time during my two-minute walk breaks.”

“You’re doing great.”

“How’s the duck?”

“The duck’s looking tired. But she’s still up there.”

“I have to get to mile 18. I’ll be okay if I get there.”

“You’re okay. What hurts?”

“My hip. My feet. Everything. But my hip. My feet.”

“Man, I just saw you, and now look at you.”

I tell him I have to keep going or I will cry and stop. He tells me he’ll see me soon, and heads in the other direction.

I try to distract my brain. I sing along to Kelly Clarkson. I stare at the ocean water. I stare at my feet. Someone has written in chalk along a patch of road: “YOU CAN DO IT. YOU ARE ALMOST THERE. STRONG LEGS. NO PAIN.”

I chant in my head. Strong legs. Feeling light. No pain. I find the ability to make it to

Mile 17

Here is where I start hallucinating. I can smell people who are nowhere near Hawaii. I can hear people who aren’t alive anymore. Every time I see a little white mile-marker sign I hear the Law & Order sound in my head. Mile 17. “Dum-Dum!” Like we’re getting closer to my inevitable death. And then I realize I am, because eventually I’m going to die, because we’re all going to die, and here I am wasting time pushing myself through Painville for what? What is the point? Why do people do this? Why am I doing this?

How come every time I try to slow down, something’s pushing me to keep going? Why won’t it let me walk? Something in my head answers, “When there was only one set of footprints, that’s when I was carrying you.” And then I start laughing, because I’m so exhausted I now think Jesus is talking to me, and then also I have finally understood why that Footprints thing means something to people, and I look up ahead and I swear to you there’s a sign in front of me, big and bold in old-fashioned diner writing: “JESUS COMING SOON.” Like a Hollywood trailer. And it’s all so much that I don’t know what to do other than think, “I hope the duck’s okay.”

I time my footsteps to the names of people I love, people who would want me to finish, people who believe in me, who think I can do anything, even things I don’t know I want to do yet.

15, 25, 27, 37, 39, 49, 51, 101.
15, 25, 27, 37, 39, 49, 51, 101.
15, 25, 27, 37, 39, 49, 51, 101.

More sponges. I pass a group of kids playing drums. They’ve been playing for hours. I’ve been running for hours. Almost six hours.

Mile 18

There it is. The mile marker that says I will finish. The book told me I would, so now I think I will because if you’ve come this far, you won’t let yourself stop. Or so it says. And so I think. I can’t let myself stop, no matter how wonderful it would be to just stop. To sit. To be still and breathe and not be on my aching feet anymore. My hip feels like it’s creaking, and I can feel my spine begin to break off into tiny brittle pieces. I will be not right anymore.

An official photographer is poised in front of me. As I pass him, I remember I’m almost finished, and I start to smile. “There she is,” he says.

Mile 19

Dan says to me, “It’s all Mile Six News from here, baby. Run it in.”

I hear my dad. “Just run it in.”

Mile 20

Here is where I allow myself the smallest walk break. Five extra minutes of walking, because I can’t really feel parts of my feet and the parts I can feel are aching and my hip is very angry. I am now in a quiet residential area, and there’s hardly anybody around.

I reach “JESUS COMING SOON.” It’s a little Jehovah’s Witness chapel, and everybody is in there singing. I start to run again, even though it’s uphill.

I pass a man standing outside his house with a hose. I make a terrible mistake. I shelter my iPod on my left side. “Hit me,” I say to him. Instead of lightly spraying, as everybody else has, he hits me full-blast with some kind of fire-hose strength.

Two things happen immediately, and all of this happens within seconds:

My right ear clogs with water. I can’t hear the music. I can’t hear anything.

My right calf muscle immediately spasms into a charlie horse. I feel it twist and pull up into itself, and my knee buckles.

That’s it. It’s over. Done. Leg cramped, can’t move, can’t move forward. Done. Pack it the fuck in. Too much. Too much pain. Never predicted this, not in all the training and prep. Never thought I’d be done in by a random cramp from cold water. Stupid. All this for nothing.

“NO!”

That’s my brain, talking to my leg. “No, this will not happen. You will not get a cramp, and you will not ruin this. We are not stopping. We are not sitting. We will not wait out your pussy cramp. So let it go and fucking keep going. Take all the pain and focus it on that douchebag who just hit you with an ice stick, Tonya Harding-style. Just keep going. Let the pain go and use it to hate that guy.”

And then the cramp released, I hated that guy, and eventually the water drained from my ear.

And I was past that. I had survived that. I hadn’t stopped. I would have never thought myself capable of that. If you had shown me that moment and paused right after the cramp and asked me what would happen next, I would have guessed falling down weeping, crawling over to the man with the hose, asking to use his phone and then sitting on his couch watching Cribs until stee came to pick my hobbled ass up.

I never would have thought I’d have ordered my leg to shut the fuck up.

Mile 21

I’ve got just over five miles left, and I’m running through a touristy section of Maui. There are shops everywhere and since the marathon is almost six hours in, nobody cares about these last couple hundred, sweat-soaked hobbler-zombies making their way down Old Lahaina. Some of them are watching us, smoking cigarettes, looking at each other like, “Why would you do that to yourself?”

An official photographer snaps my picture. I am listening to “I Believe In a Thing Called Love,” and not quietly. Then I hear, over the music, over everything, someone shouting, “MENCIA!”

I turn to see the photographer pointing at his head and then mine. My hat. He gives a thumbs up and beams. Unbelievable. I give a thumbs up back, which is ridiculous, but I don’t know what else to do.

Mile 22

Someone gives me a popsicle. There has never been a better popsicle in my life.

I see stee. He comes running up beside me, snapping pictures where I think my eyes are giving him the finger. “You’re almost done. You’re going to finish. You’re really going to finish! This is so exciting. Are you okay? I bought you a granola bar. And a ring pop. And… that popsicle looks great. Are you okay? How’s your hip?”

“Hurts. All hurts. Mencia fan. Charlie horse. Hate.”

“It’s hot. It’s so sunny and so hot. But look how pretty it is over there. We should come back here later maybe.”

“Uh-huh.”

“What can I do?”

“I don’t know.” The shuddery breath starts. I force it away. I can’t cry, or I won’t be able to breathe and I won’t be able to move. “I don’t know. You’re doing it. You’re doing it. Every time you show up it’s when I think I can’t do this anymore. I don’t know how you’re doing that, but I really appreciate it.” More shuddery breath.

“Do you want me to keep walking with you? I could keep walking all the way to the finish and then I could come back here for the car.”

“Well. Don’t you want to see me cross the finish line?”

“Yes. And it’s really far from here. Five miles! That’s a long walk!”

“You’re hilarious.”

“You’re almost done. I’ll see you at the finish line, okay? Are you okay?”

“See you at the finish line.”

“You’re going to do it. You’re awesome.”

“There’s only one set of footsteps, stee.”

“What?”

“And I’ve figured out what the numbers mean.”

“Oh, dear.”

“And I love popsicles.”

Mile 23

I am in pain. I am hot. I am done. I have been running for more than six hours. I still have almost another hour to go. At least forty-five minutes. I can tell somewhere in my brain that I have more energy than my body wants to believe. I start trying to figure out how to talk my body into doing what it is pretty damn sure it doesn’t want to do. Three point two more miles. More miles. Miles. It sounds like a little, but it’s still quite a lot.

How do I make my body move when all it wants to do is cry? What can make me happy when there’s no real reason to? What song can get my blood going and my head going and my body moving and makes me feel like I can do anything? What is going to make me happy but not make me cry? Because if I run any slower at this point, I’ll be running in reverse. What song is gonna get me to mile 24?

Mile 24

Britney Spears. “Toxic.”

Holy shit, it works. Like a charm. I am even dancing a little, singing and running, passing people. (Luckily I don’t notice that what I’m also passing at that very moment is a cemetery, or I might not have been so joyful). The official photographer laughs at me. Policemen are shaking their heads as I pass. I am clearly delirious, but it is working. I am moving.

Mile 25

“… Baby One More Time”
“I’m a Slave 4 U”
“Oops! I Did It Again”
“Stronger”

Thanks, Cristela, for letting me swipe those songs from your iPod. Britney, I owe you some cash.

Mile 26

I decide to run the rest in. Screw the numbers. I can get this done. I’m running a little faster, and it’s hotter, and the end feels like it’s stretching away from me like the hallway in Poltergeist.

Someone running the other direction falls in front of me. He’s okay. He’s running to catch up with a friend who’s behind me. There are people behind me? When did that happen?

I take off my headphones and round the corner for the final bend.

“That’s it!” a woman shouts from the sidelines. “See that white fence? That’s your finish line. You did it. You’re going home now. Welcome home.”

People are applauding, welcoming me back. I can hear “It’s a Small World” playing at the finish line. Why? Strange choice.

I’m rounding the bend and it sounds like a party going on at the finish line. The music changes to AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.”

I’m getting closer. It’s almost here. I’m going to have run a marathon.

I see stee at the finish line. He’s beaming — trying to wave, take a picture and hold up a cardboard sign all at the same time.

Over the loudspeaker I hear, “FROM LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA! LET’S GIVE A HAND TO NUMBER SEVEN-THIRTY-FOUR: PAMELA RIBON!”

They said my name correctly!

Stee’s sign comes into focus: “YOU CRACKED IT WIDE OPEN, PAMIE!”

I see the clock over my head at 06:44 as I lift my arms and feel the tears and cross the finish line.

“Congratulations,” I hear over and over.

I duck my head for the medal. I grab it in my hands. Both trembling hands.

“All that. For this,” I say.

06:45:12

My final time. Those are the only numbers I have to remember now.

I caught up with my future.

[Next post: The damage report]

88 thoughts on “The Marathon, Part Two (Miles 13-CrazyTown)

  1. I was crying a little as I read this, remembering the mile 20 psychological break I had as I realized I could no longer feel my toes. Feeling that medal around my neck made it all worthwhile. Congrats, Pamie.

  2. Congratulations on your first marathon. What a wonderful marathon report! Keep in mind that only 1/10th of 1% of the population will ever go that distance (at least that’s what we’re told). I ran Maui in 2004 and your report brought back every bit of pain and beauty. I think I got new blisters just reading it! So when’s your next one??

  3. That was awesome. I’ve seriously been checking your site all day to see if you would finish or not. Well done! I get winded when I drive 26 miles, so I can’t imagine what it takes to do what you just did. My dream is to one day run (and write) just like that. Congrats.

  4. That was so beautifully written – it had me crying too. I don’t even know you, but I’m so proud of you for finishing the marathon! What a tremendous accomplishment, and something you’ll probably always remember. Thanks for thinking of us little peons out there on the internets, and letting us have a little glimpse of your life. This was very inspiring. Congratulations!

  5. Pamie, awesome as always, great to have the full rundown! I’m so proud :) wish I could do that.. I generally get through around 5-6km a night, but no way I think I could do a marathon! Maybe in future.. you’ve inspired me :)

  6. Congratulations! I’m in awe of your strength and stamina [mental and physical] and have to admit I teared up a little, reading that. Which really sucks since I’m at work right now.

  7. Pamie – congratulations on an amazing accomplishment and terrific piece of writing. Also, without even realizing it, your wonder killer skills struck again – reading about a local marathon this past weekend prompted me to wonder whether you were still planning on trying to run a marathon. It only took a couple of days to get my answer.

  8. Oh, my god, you are crazy. And amazing. And talented in ways that the Internet never knew about? That right there is my idea of hell (I was thinking about “The Long Walk” too) and you did it, and you wrote *poetry* about it practically.You don’t even look like a shambling wreck in your photos: you look like you’re just out in the neighborhood for a quick little aerobic jog. No way in *hell* did the girl in those pix just run over 26 miles! You’re a superhero.I could never. I could never.

  9. Way to go, Pamie! I’m so thrilled that you did it and you didn’t let yourself quit and it can be sooo tempting to quit in those late miles!”In truth, a marathon has no finish. Its effects are carried for life within the body, the memory, the life story and the self-image…” -Welcome to the marathon club! I can’t wait to see if you sign up for another one.

  10. Right now I feel like this is the most inspiring thing I have ever read. YOU DID IT.I’m running a 10-mile race this weekend- my longest distance to date. I will have you in my head.

  11. I’ve always hating running no matter how hard I tried to get myself to learn to like it, so I can’t really relate AT ALL to your experience here…Which is why I was surprised at how choked up I just got reading this entry. And how incredibly proud I can be of someone I’ve never met.Congratulations!

  12. Wow. Just… wow. You are amazing, girl. You’re an inspiration.BTW, I’m pretty sure where you’re sitting in that first picture is a spot where I sat on my last visit. I love Maui. :-)BIG congrats from the loud woman on the front row at B&N in Houston.

  13. You are awesome.I have to admit I couldn’t wait for the second part to find out if you finished, so I looked up the results online. I nearly jumped for joy when I saw how well you did.All day I was checking your site to hear how the end went. Like others have said, I teared up while reading your rendition of the day. You tell a good story pamie. You have inspired me before, and now you have done it again.Thank you, and you totally rock!

  14. Congratulations!!I’m in the group that cried reading this. Laughter through tears and all that, make for a great read. You are an inspiration to push past all the crap and accomplish goals! Great job, Pamie!!

  15. The aches and pain described was certainly felt by your readers. I’m looking forward to my training that will start next month – but only half the distance of your accomplishment.After running a 30K (18.75mi) in ths spring, I took 6 months off to relax. Now the exileration of running is returning. Thank you!

  16. Oh man, i am SO proud of you! Did you think you’d ever get through it? And how great did it feel to sit down at the end? WHAT an accomplishment. Raise the roof for Pamie!! :)Stee definitely deserves a medal for his support along the course…our supporters never really fully understand how big of a difference they make in such a mental battle.When’s the next marathon? :)

  17. Congratulations! This is where it all begins. Next thing you know, you’ll be thinking “hmm. I like to swim. And ride my bike. And I can run. Onward IRONMAN!”Well, that’s how it happened at my house, and now I’m a triathlon widow.

  18. ohhhhh, pamie. i loved reading these marathon entries. i already knew you were a star, and this is even more proof!oh, and i’m not at all surprised at “Toxic” being the song that got you to mile 24. i can’t really stand miss brittney (i’m a christina girl myself…you know, with some metal/modern rock thrown in there), but there’s something about that song. my boyfriend even had that as his ringtone for a while. mmhmm.

  19. I’ve never run a marathon. But I’ve never thought I’d cry reading about one, either, and you just made me. Congratulations so much – I can only imagine the tiniest bit of what that must feel like, and even that is wonderful and amazing.How on earth did you remember everything afterward? I would think it would be one big blur.

  20. i knew you could do it. but the excrutiating details made me even more impressed than i already am. the question remains, is there anything you can’t do?i am extraordinarily proud of you! go pamie!!

  21. Congratulations on your first marathon, Pamie! My husband has run 2, and I’ve seen the challenges that it’s presented him with – I know I could never do it myself! So, kudos to you!!Also, I’m with you on your sentiments about Britney – listening to her at my desk gives me the much needed energy to get through a long day!!So glad I stumbled across your book, and then your website – you’re my new favorite blog :)Have a great weekend!

  22. I’ve been reading you for many years, Pam, and I think this just might be my favorite thing you’ve ever written.And I’m so glad you laughed at the Jesus footsteps thing. Because that is freaking funny. :)

  23. Yay! Way to go! And thanks for sharing this with us. I’m sure you’ve inspired more than a few people to get out there and run. (And from those of us who aren’t into the whole running thing, thanks for the vicarious experience, now we don’t have to do it.)ps If the Cristela you’re thanking is Cristela Alonso, I went to high school with her. It’s a small, crazy world.

  24. Congratulations, Pamie! You should be so proud of yourself… ya know, I really loved the way you wrote this, and I almost cried at several different points (and trust me, I don’t usually cry all that often!) Great post!

  25. I’ve been sitting for like 5 minutes thinking about what to write. I guess that makes me speechless. You really, really rock, Pamie. Way to go!The ending, coupled with the “exhausted-Pamie” pic almost made me cry…but with “i’m sooo proud of you!” tears.

  26. I have never, and likely will never, run a marathon, but I had tears streaming down my face by the end of this post. It felt like being there. Only without the sweat and cramps and all! Way to go!

  27. New reader. A friend directed me here for this post, as he knows I’m a hiker/runner.That is the best account of running I’ve read. You communicated exactly what goes on with a person as they move through a race. I’ve never made it to a marathon myself (this surely inspired me to keep working at it), but I have done some other runs and this hit it right on.Congratulations.

  28. Congratulations!!! I just walked my first marathon and your blog made me a little weeping. Dang, it was hard. I wanted to give up about mile 15 but I knew my friends were waiting for me at mile 19, 21 and 22 so I kept putting one foot in front of the other. I finished, I hurt, I swore, I mentally flipped people off and yet, I’m already thinking about the next one.

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