Phineas Mandl (left) and his mom Tonya taking a selfie after completing the 37th annual Los Angeles Marathon. Photo Courtesy of Tonya Mandl.

Nobel Middle School student Phineas Mandl accomplished his goal of running in the Los Angeles Marathon after recovering from a rare sinus infection that had left him unable to speak and partially immobile.

“It feels really good,” Phineas said after crossing the finish line.

Phineas and his mother Tonya Mandl were among the estimated 15,000 runners who participated in the March 20 marathon, which included 2,000 middle and high school students from the Students Run LA program (SRLA).

Like his peers at the Northridge school, Phineas had been preparing for the event since last September. But those plans were nearly derailed when he was diagnosed with an infection last December. It took away his ability to speak, and most of his mobility on his right side.

Doctors initially believed it would take years of therapy for Phineas to function normally, much less run a marathon. But six weeks later, however, Phineas had recovered and continued to train. With Tonya by his side, he completed the marathon in 5:56.

Tonya has participated in seven LA Marathons, but she said this one was her most enjoyable.

“I’ve never cried when finishing a marathon until this year,” Tonya said. “I had ‘mommy’ tears.”

Although he had already completed a virtual marathon the year prior, this was Phineas’ first LA Marathon. 

It was also Phineas’ first time seeing and visiting some of LA’s historic landmarks and locations, such as Chinatown, Beverly Hills and City Hall. Occasionally, he and Tonya stopped and took pictures before resuming the race.

Tonya said she had never seen him so excited.

“I can’t decide [my favorite part],” Phineas said. “Just name a random part that isn’t the [six-mile] turn around and that’s my favorite.”

Phineas kept a slow and steady pace most of the marathon, averaging around 13-14 minutes per mile, before exhaustion began to take its toll around the 20-mile mark.

On doctor’s orders to not overexert himself, he and Tonya speed-walked the rest of the course. It took them about an hour to finish the race. Although tired, Phineas was still able to run the last stretch and across the finish line, holding his mother’s hand as he did so.

Like the other Nobel students, Phineas had “power words” written onto his arms with a Sharpie to motivate him. On his left was “Wooooo!!!” while his right had “Yasssss!!!” Throughout the race, Phineas tapped the words on his arms.

Despite posting a longer time in the LA Marathon over last year’s virtual marathon, where he was clocked in at five-and-a-half hours, Phineas said he had a much more enjoyable experience this time around.

“It was more fun, which makes it easier,” Phineas said. “And we only did one turnaround. The virtual run we did, I wasn’t able to count [the number of loops].”

A total of 22 Nobel Middle School students completed the marathon. Two were unable to finish due to ankle injuries, but did make it to the 16-mile mark.

Additionally, the team’s mentor — a high school junior who attended Nobel — suffered a knee injury the week prior to the marathon. It would have been his fifth marathon.

Phineas and his teammates celebrated the following day at a Jamba Juice and Cold Stone Creamery.

The Noble students who finished the marathon will speak about their experience during a school-wide assembly on April 6.