For Miami Marathon and Half Marathon finishers, it was wet but at least it wasn’t hot

On Sunday, January 29, 2017 thousands of runners make their way on the Venetian Causeway under cold and wet conditions during the Miami Marathon.
On Sunday, January 29, 2017 thousands of runners make their way on the Venetian Causeway under cold and wet conditions during the Miami Marathon.

The 15th running of the Miami Marathon and Half Marathon began in darkness, weathered rain showers and ended with a 1988 Olympic race walker crossing the line in six hours, 55 minutes and 14 seconds as the 17,344th and final finisher.

Runners took the rain — only the third time it’s rained on the event — in stride. Some even carried umbrellas, which race director Frankie Ruiz found amusing.

“I told the course marshals that I didn’t think umbrellas were illegal but not smart for your race time,” Ruiz said.

Ruiz reported a smooth outcome despite Sunday’s conditions that caused a relatively high no-show or attrition rate among the 23,000 registrants. While there was no flooding on either the 13.1-mile or 26.2-mile routes, wheelchair racers had to contend with slippery grates and downhill turns off the bridges.

“A couple wheelchairs slid into barricades, but nobody was injured,” Ruiz said. “We placed some hay barrel bumpers and want to add more next year.”

A few bands, DJs and volunteer groups cancelled last-minute due to the weather. The planned 23 aid stations were consolidated into 20.

“Nobody complained about lack of water stations but I’m sure I’ll hear about lack of entertainment,” Ruiz said.

Five additional stations were supplied by water from fire hydrants, for a total of 15 to use the eco-friendly method of filling cups with tap water rather than with plastic barrels of water.

Baptist Health doctors Thomas San Giovanni and Michael Swartzon, who helped direct the medical tent at the finish line, said the overcast day was “excellent” for providing protection.

“We only had one person transported after they finished the race, and he was in stable condition for light-headedness and dizziness,’’ San Giovanni said. “We saw mostly cramping, which is typical, and some sprains.”

Ruiz said his “bandit catcher” chased down about 200 runners who didn’t pay for race numbers before they crossed the line. Mike Neubauer runs about 13 miles back and forth policing the finish area for scofflaws and hearing pleas like, ‘But I’ve run all this way so just let me through’ or excuses like, ‘My number fell off.’

  GPS tracking snapshot from Miami Marathon "bandit catcher" Mike Neubauer, who ran a total of about 13 miles Sunday chasing down non-paying runners without race numbers in the finish line area. 

The pre-race expo where runners partake in seminars and peruse merchandise while picking up packets was held for the first time at Marlins Park, to mixed reviews.

“We continue to struggle to find a home in what is for now a no-convention center city,” Ruiz said. “It was a bit of a convoluted maze, like doing the ‘Amazing Race.’ I heard comments like, ‘Frankie, I spent more time picking up my packet than running.’ We want a better experience.”

The starting line corral setup gets refined each year, with Ruiz pondering a shift north on Biscayne Boulevard.

Registration for 2018 is open and 50 percent off at $85 for the full and $75 for the half.

As is his custom, Ruiz ran the final yards with the final finisher, and that was Gary Morgan, 57, of Clarkston, Michigan, who helped others as a pacer. He was the 1988 U.S. Olympic Trials racewalking champ and competed in the Seoul Olympics.