Sunday’s Life Time Miami Marathon is sold out, but runners are still ‘begging’ for entry – AOL
Race director Frankie Ruiz never envisioned his inaugural 2003 Miami Tropical Marathon blossoming into what it has become as it approaches its 21st birthday Sunday as the Life Time Miami Marathon and Half Marathon: sold-out, waiting list of 6,000, must-be-at event that in a smaller-scale way, rivals the big daddies that sell out — New York City, Chicago and London among them.
Ruiz knew it would be beautiful — how could running past lit-up cruise ships and along Ocean Drive and over the Biscayne Bay with dolphins dancing in and out of the water not be? But he never thought he would get daily phone calls from folks pleading to quietly sneak into the combined field that remarkably reached its 18,000-registrant capacity in October.
“I’ve been getting calls from people not into running at all and saying, ‘I have a neighbor…’ or ‘I have a brother…’ or ‘Hey, can you help me get so-and-so in?’,’’ said Ruiz, the event co-founder. “We increased our field by 3,000 this year and still only could get 600 or 700 waiting-list people in because others dropped out or deferred entry.
“I kind of chuckle thinking about what it would be like to be a major sporting event promoter. All these people want to register for an event that some might consider torturous. In my own running club I had people get down on their knees, basically, and say, ‘Please! I’ve been training.’ I firmly believe we could have easily blown away the 18,000 limit based on the demand.”
The combined marathon (26.2 miles) and half marathon (13.1) field was initially capped two years ago because it was getting too large and unwieldy for the crammed streets, exacerbated by supply-chain issues caused by the pandemic. The course remains the same, starting at 6 a.m. in front of the Heat’s Miami-Dade Arena.
Regarded as one of the most scenic marathons in the nation, the course heads toward Miami Beach over the MacArthur Causeway, through South Beach along Ocean Drive, past the Miami Beach Convention Center (where the race expo has returned Friday and Saturday), over the majestic Venetian Causeway and back into Miami where the half marathon finishes and the full marathon continues into the Brickell and Coconut Grove areas before returning to the finish adjacent to Bayfront Park.
About 30 percent of the field tackles the marathon distance.
“Oh my gosh, it had such a lasting impression on me, from the experience of the weekend expo to the morning of the race — the motivational music, the number of volunteers, how well-organized it was, how well the course was marked and the entertainment until the end,’’ said defending women’s half marathon champion Lisa Brooking, the 35-year-old West Vancouver Canadian who trounced the rest of the women’s field last year in 1 hour 20 minutes 19 seconds.
“Miami definitely knows how to put on a great event and one worth experiencing again, she said. “The course is stunning and because I had never been to Miami before, I was seeing it all for the first time. I’m not sure how it will all unfold Sunday, but I’m ready to toe the line and inspire other women.’’
Ruiz, who also serves as the cross-country coach for Miami Belen Jesuit, which won its 14th state championship (13 led by Ruiz) this past season and was named Florida Coach of the Year, said he views the event as “almost a perfect balance of economic activity and local community health-and-fitness motivation.’’
“People come from out of town and use our city to celebrate running and their culture, and they’re joining and inspiring the local community at the same time.’’
Studies the past few years have cited the marathon’s annual economic impact of $15 million to $20 million for Miami-Dade County, Ruiz said.
Participants will compete under tropical skies that sometimes deliver deluges, often bring intense heat and every now and then delight with chilly temperatures. But likely no chill Sunday.
The weather forecast, as of Thursday, called for a race start at 74 degrees, rising to about 76 with a chance of showers by the time the elite competitors cross the finish between 8 and 9 a.m. The humidity is expected to start at 83 percent and gradually decrease, with Easterly winds blowing in the low double-digits. By 10 a.m., when many marathoners are finished but plenty are still struggling, temperatures are expected to rise to about 79 under partly cloudy skies. By 11 a.m. the thermometer could reach 80.
“Let’s face it,’’ Ruiz said. “Everyone judges their experience by those three or four hours they’ve had on the course, but how about paying attentions to the last several weeks of training? If you live in South Florida, we’ve had a pretty good last couple of months of weather.”
No matter what transpires in the heavens, race organizers are ready with 23 aid stations, not including the comprehensive medical tent at the finish with doctors and medical personnel supplied by Baptist Health. Several medical professionals will line the course, as well as fire-rescue ambulances.
Ruiz said “about 500 police officers” supplied by the City of Miami, Miami-Dade, Miami Beach and neighboring municipalities are situated along the course, all paid, off-duty officers. “It’s such a large undertaking that the resources have to be pooled,’’ he said.
Runners will represent 69 countries Sunday, led by Colombia’s 1,452 and Mexico’s 1,101. Among participants from all 50 states, Florida leads the way with 9,387 registrants, followed by New York’s 843.
The elite field represents several countries, though Brooking as of this week t he only champion returning. In 2022, Kenyans swept the marathon, with Kenya’s Jackson Limo, then 38, winning in 2:21:33 and Kenya’s Martha Akeno, 27, setting a course record for women in 2:29:00.
Joining women’s champ Brooking in the half-marathon event was overall winner Cesar Lizano, 39, of San Jose, Costa Rica, in 1:10:14.
On Sunday, a young, newcomer to the event, 24-year-old former collegiate runner Paxton Smith, will compete in his third marathon. Smith, who ran for the Pac-12’s Colorado, earned his master’s last year, and ran a 2:17:24 best in June at Grandma’s Marathon in Duluth, Minnesota. He achieved his goal of qualifying for the Olympic Marathon Trials, and said he’s excited to run his first Miami Marathon in his new city.
“For me it’s the opportunity to compete in the city I now call home,’’ said Smith, an eighth-grade English teacher. “To be able to engage in your own community by competing in a marathon is a rare opportunity. I hear it’s super fun. The course looks beautiful and I train on a lot of it.’’
This year’s prize money is almost identical to last year’s, with $4,500 going to the male and female winners, $2,000 for second and $1,000 for third, with the half-marathon winners earning $1,500, $800 and $450. Male and female masters winners (40-older) earn $500.
The runners with disabilities division got a big boost in prize money because of the Woody Foundation’s contribution to the prize purse, Ruiz said. The winning women and men in the handcrank and push rim categories each win $700. “It makes our race that much more inclusive.’’
Ruiz urges fans to arrive early and sit on the bleachers near the finish or stand and cheer along the route. Designated cheer zones include Mile 5 1/2 at Washington Avenue and 17th Street in Miami Beach (6 to 8:30 a.m.); Mile 11 at the Omni Metrorail Station at Northeast 15th Street and Biscayne Boulevard in Miami (6:30 to 9:30 a.m.); Mile 20 1/2 at CocoWalk at 2982 Grand Avenue in Coconut Grove; and Mile 24 at Brickell Medical Plaza at 2660 Brickell Avenue.
Brooking, who was set to arrive in Miami on Thursday, left temperatures dipping into the 30s at night and low 40s during the day. She’s thrilled for the marathon challenge no matter what the conditions.
“Sometime you have the most success when you least expect it,’’ she said. “That’s the beauty of sport. Some things play in your favor, some things don’t. I’m excited to see what 2023 will bring.’’
If you go
▪ What: Life Time Marathon and Half Marathon
▪ When/Where: 6 a.m. start Sunday on Biscayne Boulevard outside the Miami-Dade Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd.; Finish is a bit down the street adjacent to Bayfront Park. There are bleachers for spectators on Biscayne at the finish.
▪ Who: Combined field of 18,000.
▪ Expo/packet-pickup: 12 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Miami Beach Convention Center, 1901 Convention Center Dr., Miami Beach.
▪ Note: Registration closed. Race sold out.