Even before South Florida learned last week that the Miami Marathon was bought by a billion-dollar fitness corporation, the 26.2-mile trek through Miami and Miami Beach was on its way to what organizers believed would be another successful run — vacant title sponsorship notwithstanding.
Now, approaching the event’s 12th running at 6:15 a.m. Feb. 2, race cofounder Frankie Ruiz expects a sellout by Tuesday for the race that was just renamed Life Time Miami Marathon for the 2014 edition.
As of Thursday evening, a combined 22,600 had registered for the marathon/half marathon, with only 2,400 slots left to reach the 25,000 limit. Though entry fees go up beginning at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, registration will completely shut down the moment the limit is reached.
There is no race-day registration.
“It’s insane how people wait until the last minute to register, but they do,” Ruiz said. “It’s our Miami culture. We know it’s going to happen, but everything is moving along well.”
Ruiz said Life Time Fitness Inc., the publicly owned Chanhassen, Minn.-based company that on Jan. 17 purchased the marathon and other events previously owned by U.S. Road Sports & Entertainment Group, is expected to secure a title sponsor well before next year’s marathon. At that point, the event’s name will likely change again.
Life Time Fitness owns 108 health clubs and about 75 sporting events around the nation after its recent acquisition.
“We’re excited to have Frankie Ruiz and [race director] Javi Sanchez on board, and to get to work with the team down there,” Life Time Fitness spokesman Jason Thunstrom said. “We can leverage their knowledge and expertise to possibly help us improve some of our other events around the country.”
Sanchez and Ruiz said organizers will deliver to participants the same experience as previous year’s races, despite the absence of ING as the title sponsor.
“I’m forever grateful for what they did,” Ruiz said of ING, which sponsored the event for eight years. “However, we always prepared for a rainy day. We knew that the business model could not be supported entirely by title sponsorship.
“We’ve basically made sure the business is run in a manner in which it’s still financially viable while not removing any of the bells and whistles that the runner is used to seeing.”
Ruiz said the Miami Marathon used its sponsors and partnerships from US Road Sports & Entertainment’s other properties — they included four other marathons as well as several additional races — to help offset costs.
Most marathons comparable to Miami’s size have budgets of at least $2 million.
Miami’s event, which begins outside AmericanAirlines Arena on Biscayne Boulevard, has grown into a full-blown international extravaganza, with nearly a quarter of all the participants from outside the country.
“We’ve enhanced our relationship with groups from Central and South America because Miami is their destination race,” Sanchez said. “Long distance running is at a current high in Latin America and Miami is one of the best options from what they’ve communicated to us. We are doing our part to make sure that remains the case.”
Ruiz said that this year the participants will have a flag decal on their bib numbers that indicates where they’re from. “So you’ll see the Guatemalans, the Ecuadorians, the Colombians, and so on, all proudly displaying their bibs with their name and flag,” he said. “That’s the first we know of any race doing something like this.
“We think that’s pretty innovative.”
Another enhancement this year: organizers translated race instructions into Spanish and Portuguese. Emails pertaining to everything from where to pick up race packets to race-day logistics have been going out in the various languages.
Both the marathon and half marathon begin at the arena and travel most of the first half of the race along the same route. They head over the MacArthur Causeway to South Beach, through the Venetian Islands, Arts District, Downtown Miami (where the race ends for the half marathoners), Coconut Grove, and down Brickell Avenue to the finish at Bayfront Park.