Guatemala’s Luis Carlos Rivero Gonzalez has been a professional runner for more than two years — mainly at distances of 10 to 21 kilometers — but he had never raced 26.2 miles until Sunday’s ING Miami Marathon.
Toeing the front of the starting line with about a dozen elite marathoners from Africa, South America, Europe and the United States, the 26-year-old law school graduate ran away from all of them. He never saw them again until after he broke the tape in Bayfront Park in 2 hours 26 minutes and 14 seconds — two minutes ahead of runner-up David Kipkoech Tuwei, 29, of Kenya (2:28:15) and third-place Tesfaye Girma Bekele, 30, of Ethiopia (2:28:22).
“Yeah, I had expectations of winning,” Gonzalez said through a translator. “It felt good to be able to represent my country in the marathon. My dream is to be in the Olympics. I’m going to fight to reach that goal.”
He collected $2,000, plus a colorful race medal. Tuwei and Bekele won $1,000 and $500, respectively.
Gonzalez said as a child, he ran with his dad for fun. But five years ago, his father — a lawyer in the town of San Marcos — was killed by “criminals,” and it spurred him to train harder in his dad’s honor.
Gonzalez admitted when questioned by reporters that his coach falsified his best marathon time as 2:23:08 on his application for elite runner status for the ING. Top runners get to start at the front of the pack, along with other perks. With 25,000 runners in the marathon and half marathon milling around in front of AmericanAirlines Arena for the pre-dawn start, Gonzalez did not want to be slowed by the huge crowd. The strategy worked; runner-up Tuwei said he didn’t have the leader in sight for long after the starting gun.
Women’s marathon winner Mariska Postma Kramer of the Netherlands had been registered as an elite competitor for the half marathon, but decided at the last minute Saturday to enter the marathon instead. It turned out to be a good decision, as the 38-year-old professional runner cruised to a 2:46:07 victory in her first Miami race — more than two minutes in front of runner-up Tezata Desaign Dengersa of Turkey and Ethiopia (2:48:43). Third-place Kir Selert of Brooklyn, N.Y., finished in 2:55:10. Miamian Alyson Venti, 30, came in fourth in 2:58:32.
“I was together with Dengersa till the half marathon, then all of a sudden, she wasn’t there anymore,” Kramer said. “From that point, I was alone. From Mile 22 to 24, I had a sparring partner. We had fun together, but I dropped him too. So I was all alone.”
The top three women collected $2,000, $1,000 and $500, respectively.
No marathon records were broken Sunday, owing to a humid 70 degrees at the start warming to the upper 70s around 11 a.m. as the last finishers headed into Bayfront Park.
The marathoners toured a broad swath of coastal Miami-Dade County beginning at AmericanAirlines Arena and heading east over the MacArthur Causeway to Miami Beach. They returned to the mainland on the Venetian Causeway, then traveled seven miles south through downtown Miami to Coconut Grove. From there, they returned north along Bayshore Drive, made a two-mile, out-and-back detour on the Rickenbacker Causeway and resumed the final, two-mile northward march along Brickell Avenue to Biscayne Boulevard and the Bayfront Park finish line. Spectators cheered them loudly all along the route, augmented by live and recorded music and other entertainment.
Said two-time women’s marathon wheelchair winner Jacqui Kapinowski, a part-time Tequesta resident: “I love the people. The spectators are fantastic. How can you not love it?”