When Luis Carlos Rivero Gonzalez of Guatemala won the 2013 Miami Marathon, he dedicated the 26.2-mile victory to his father, his childhood running partner whose 2007 murder by “criminals” spurred him to train harder in his honor.
On Sunday, Rivero Gonzalez won his second Miami Marathon, this time dedicating it to his 4-year-old daughter Luisa.
Now a criminal attorney like his late father, Rivero Gonzalez crossed the finish line near Bayfront Park in a career-best 2 hours 20 minutes 47 seconds, then pumped his arms triumphantly and fell to his knees in “tears of joy.”
“It’s hard for me to talk about him,” the 28-year-old, who won $2,000 and a colorful medal, said in Spanish. “I would love for him to be here.”
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Gonzalez led a combined marathon and half marathon field of just over 20,000 on a spectacular, 53-degree day.
“It means a lot,” Gonzalez said. “It’s something you imagine and dream about, but when it becomes true, it’s marvelous. Miami is now like my second home.”
Men’s runner-up for the third time and 2009 Miami Marathon winner Benazzouz Slimani, a Moroccan who lives in Italy near Venice, was also satisfied with his 2:22:45 finish, despite a sometimes “difficult wind” around Mile 20 and a shoe that bothered the sole of his right foot.
“I feel happy anyway,” Slimani said, breaking into a smile when asked what he thought of South Florida. “I’m looking for a lady to get married to so I can stay in Miami.”
While Slimani and Rivero Gonzalez ran together much of the race, the women’s winners in the marathon were not nearly as amicable.
Alemnesh Eshetu Habtemikael of Ethiopia won $2,000 for her 2:39:31 finish, overtaking Maria Peralta of Argentina (2:39:33) with a final kick in the last 150 meters to win by two seconds.
Peralta was cleary agitated at the finish, saying in Spanish that Habtemikael drafted behind her the entire way and didn’t follow the usual racer’s etiquette of alternating the lead position — even when Peralta said she gestured several times for the Ethiopian to take the lead.
“The whole marathon I was running just ahead and her feet kept crashing into mine,” Peralta, 37, said through an interpreter. “I even opened up a lane and signaled to her to pass me.”
Habtemikael, at 24 considered young for a marathoner, is in the United States for the first time and does not speak English. She said through an interpreter by phone that she did nothing wrong.
“I felt Maria’s pace was too fast for me, and I stayed [close behind] to keep up with her,” the Ethiopian said, saying she was “tired” and denying that she intentionally clipped Peralta.
The half marathon was not quite as contentious. Mariano Mastromarino, 32, of Argentina, won in 1:05:24. Michael Ottoniel Mucia Lopez of Guatemala was second in 1:07:01.
“I love the course,” said Mastromarino, who came to Miami from Argentine summer temperatures in the 90s. “Some fans recognized me and were cheering for me in Spanish.”
Soranyi Rodriguez, 22, of the Dominican Republic, led the women’s half marathon field in 1:19:12, with runner-up Elizabeth Young, 35, a Department of Justice prosecutor from Washington, D.C., clocking 1:22:28.
Ludovic Narce of France won the marathon’s hand-cycle wheelchair division in 1:12:56.
The women’s hand-cycle marathon winner was Ashley Cooper-Heath of Kingsland, Georgia, in 1:40:20.
More than 20,000 runners and walkers from at least 80 countries and all 50 states turned an otherwise peaceful Sunday morning into a loud, festive celebration of fitness and perseverance. They took off into predawn darkness from outside AmericanAirlines Arena just after 6:15.
Marathon medical director Frank Sanchez called the favorable weather conditions “ideal” and said the medical tent was much less crowded than usual.
“It hasn’t been this good since the first race [in 2003],’” he said.
Before the marathon started, organizers led moments of silence for Walter Reyes, 50, who died Wednesday when he was hit by a car while cycling in Key Biscayne; and for John “Hans” Huseby, a South Florida running icon who died recently at 64 and along with his wife created the 26,000-strong Mercedes-Benz Corporate Run.
“Hans was a running visionary and worked tirelessly for more than four decades promoting the sport,” the race announcer said.
Miami marathon director Javier Sanchez was thrilled with the day’s events, which came to a close around 2 p.m.
“The international flavor and culture of what Miami is and how it appeals to the world was expressed greatly today,” Sanchez said. “’It was a wonderful race, very competitive.
“Wearing the title of Miami Marathon champion and representing your country brings great pride to these individuals.”
Still, marathon winner Rivero Gonzalez said he doubted he’d be back for next year’s race.
“Most likely this was my final Miami Marathon,” he said. “I’ve been here at the podium three times. That’s enough.
“I want to go out a winner.”