One of the nation’s most popular destination running events — the Miami Marathon and Half Marathon — is in jeopardy of not being a destination on Sunday for up to 3,000 runners set to experience a horrendous snowstorm in the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast.
“Where we have favorable weather, it usually means a cold front has just passed through the entire country to get to us,” said marathon chief running officer Frankie Ruiz on Friday afternoon. “I think that’s one of the reasons we’re an appealing destination for so many folks. But if the timing is not there for them, it’s not there. In this case those runners are getting a double shot.”
For the second year in a row, a cold snap has hit South Florida just in time for the marathon, which moved its starting time 15 minutes earlier to 6 a.m. to give runners cooler weather a bit longer. Sunday’s start outside AmericanAirlines Arena before the sun rises is projected to be in clear, 46-degree conditions, cold for most locals but after a few miles of churning through the streets, absolutely delightful for those competing.
By the time organizers start taking down the course in the early afternoon, the temperatures should rise to the high 50s — still extremely favorable conditions.
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Ruiz said officials will move packet pickup after the health and fitness expo closes at 6 p.m. Saturday to the Intercontinental Hotel for those who might arrive late. The Intercontinental packet pickup will stay open at least through midnight and maybe later.
The marathon and half marathon do not give registration refunds, but those snowbound or unable to travel because their flights were cancelled can defer their registration for the same distance to next year’s event for $35. Requests to defer must be made in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The weather should not affect most of the 24,000 registrants, at least 25 percent of them from outside the country. Colombia has a contingent of nearly 1,000 runners, with Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Canada and Brazil also well represented.
Several of the international elite runners attended a marathon press conference Friday at the office of Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez. They included Luis Carlos Rivero Gonzalez, 28, of Guatemala, a criminal attorney who won the Miami Marathon last year and in 2013, and placed third in 2014.
Benazzouz Slimani, a Moroccan who lives in Italy and turned 40 Friday, has also repeatedly mastered the streets of Miami, Miami Beach and Coconut Grove, winning the marathon in 2009 – but finishing second three times, including last year.
“I feel happy anyway,” Slimani said with a smile after last year’s second-place finish could have left him completely frustrated. “I’m looking for a lady to get married to so I can stay in Miami.”
The lady is yet to be found, but Slimani hopes another victory could be in his grasp Sunday as Gonzalez will shake up the field a bit by opting to run in the 13.1-mile half marathon.
“I go maximum from start to finish,’’ Slimani said Friday. “I came from Italy to win.”
Gonzalez said he, too, came to win, and switched to the half-marathon distance because he, like several others in the race, is training in hopes of qualifying for the Olympics and will wait to run the full marathon in April at Rotterdam.
“The half marathon will show me what kind of shape I’m in for April,” said Gonzalez, whose half-marathon best was 1:06 in 2014 at San Jose, Costa Rica.
The deep half-marathon men’s field includes Cuban Norbert Gutierrez, 34, who arrived in Hialeah from Havana last August and has a 1:04 half-marathon best; and Benson Cheruiyot, 33, a Kenyan who lives in Valparaiso, Indiana, and ran a speedy 1:02:51 best in 2013 at Indianapolis.
“It’s a very pretty course and I’ve always wanted to run it,” Gutierrez said in Spanish. “My goal is to finish in the top three.”
Cheruiyot said he left snow for perfect running weather.
The women’s half-marathon field is also deep, with Soranyi Rodriguez, 23, of the Dominican Republic back to defend her 2015 title (1:19:12). Among those with whom she’ll have to contend is former six-time NCAA Division I All-American (Harvard) Lindsey Scherf, 29, who ran the half in 1:11:45 in 2012 in New York City.
No elite female runners were listed in the marathon distance Friday, but that often has a way of changing on race day.
“Miami is ready,” Ruiz said.
Miami Marathon and Half Marathon
When, where: 6 a.m. start Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena, 601 Biscayne Blvd.
Who: 24,000 combined field.
Late registration: $170 marathon; $150 half marathon, at expo.
Health and Fitness Expo: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday at the Mana Wynwood, 318 NW 23rd St., Miami, 33127. Free admission. Shuttles to and from expo are available at Bayside, the Miami Beach Convention Center and the Midtown neighborhood at 32nd Street and North Miami Avenue.
Noteworthy: After the expo, packet pickup will be extended through at least midnight at the Miami Intercontinental hotel, 100 Chapin Plaza, 33131. For more information on marathon weekend, including Saturday’s Tropical 5K, go to themiamimarathon.com or email email@example.com.