Miami Marathon | Half Marathon

Miami race winners also have Olympic dreams

Edward Tabut, 30, of Kenya, crosses the finish line for first place in the half marathon with a time of 1:06:45 during the Life Time Miami Marathon by Bayfront Park on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014.
Edward Tabut, 30, of Kenya, crosses the finish line for first place in the half marathon with a time of 1:06:45 during the Life Time Miami Marathon by Bayfront Park on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014.

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Special to the Miami Herald

Edward Tabut of Kenya won the men’s half marathon portion of the Miami Marathon and Half Marathon on Sunday, and that gave him a chance to explain what running means to him.

And it was a passionate explanation.

“Running is my opportunity,” he said, “and it is my fitness, and it is my life.”

Running also might be his gateway into the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“I have a shot at Rio,” said Tabut, 30, with a smile after his $1,000 victory Sunday.

Finishing second in the half marathon was George Towett, 29, another member of that Kenyan contingent that made crossing the finish line on Biscayne Boulevard ahead of the pack a common occurrence. Was the dominance surprising? Certainly not, considering Kenya’s illustrious history in distance running.

Tabut was clocked at 1 hour, 6 minutes and 45 seconds, with Towett trailing him by 90 seconds.

The two Kenyans split much of their time between the U.S. and Kenya. When they do go back home, they join their parents and families, helping out on the farms they grew up on. Tabut’s family raises corn and tea leaves, and Towett’s family concentrates on wheat and dairy.

The two runners are good friends — most of the time.

“Yes, of course he is my friend,” Tabut said of Towett, but then added a proviso. “Of course, when we run and race against each other, we are not so friendly. But we are friendly the rest of the time.”

Tabut, who finished third in the 2009 Miami Marathon, does his training in New Mexico, while Towett trains out of Kentucky.

The victory was somewhat of a rebound effort for Tabut, who was unable to finish a full marathon just four months ago in Des Moines, Iowa.

A U.S. runner, Shannon Miller, 29, captured the women’s half marathon in her first competition ever in Miami.

Miller grew up in Cleveland, has spent time in Florida’s Ponte Vedra Beach, attended Eastern Kentucky University and is currently in the process of moving to New York.

She went into Sunday’s race thinking “… at least a second or third was possible.” Finishing first was a bonus.

Another bonus was all the palm trees she has been able to see in South Florida. “I just bought a little souvenir of a palm tree,” she said. “For some reason, I’m sort of obsessed with palm trees.”

However, during the race, she said she refrained from looking at the palms and other scenery South Florida offered as she was running the streets of Miami, past huge cruise liners and alongside Biscayne Bay.

“You have to keep your focus,” she explained.

Like Tabut, she wants to make strides toward an Olympic dream.

“Going to the Olympics in 2016 and 2020 is the goal,” she said with a smile. She would like to compete in the marathon or the 10K — or both.

In addition to her own running, Miller is a fitness instructor. “I teach classes of all kind,” she said.

What occupies her life other than keeping herself and others in top physical shape? “Pretty much eat and sleep,” Miller said.

On Sunday, she finished in 1:21:08. Not nearly as good a time as she wanted.

“That’s way slow,” she said. “It’s not up to my standards.”

Then she added, “But I felt pretty good and smooth the entire race.”

She did allow that heading into the race, she considered it, “A race for distance, not time.”

In addition, Miller — who also collected $1,000 — was never really pressured into a better time by a fast pace.

With the race over and not leaving town immediately, Miller has time for sightseeing in South Florida.

And that’s just fine with her. There are plenty of palm trees to be seen.

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