ING Miami Marathon and Half Marathon race director David Scott recalls standing in the Miami Beach Convention Center at last year’s fitness expo and seeing an airline pilot explaining that he had just flown in on a red-eye from Alaska, and intended to run the marathon.
“I said, ‘I’m terribly sorry, but we’ve been trying to warn everybody that we were nearing a sellout and to register early,’ ’’ Scott told the man, informing him registration had closed.
“He was stunned — and he wasn’t the only one.’’
When the 11th running of the ING event takes off before dawn Sunday in front of the AmericanAirlines Arena and traverses one of the most scenic courses in the country, the field again is expected to be bulging.
The races are approaching their combined limit of 25,000, about 6,500 of those competing in the marathon.
“We are pacing at the same record level as last year,’’ Scott said. “There’s still room to register for the full and half marathon, but I just don’t know for how long.’’
Scott, a native Miamian who turns 61 this week, has been meeting and greeting runners the past three weeks while running various portions of the marathon course and holding up a 3-foot-long acrylic sign with lots of orange numbers on it to attract attention.
The dollar amount on Scott’s large placard — $1,086,523 — mimics an ING commercial with a hypothetical amount one might need to retire comfortably. The sign draws their attention, and Scott segues into the race from there.
Hundreds of South Florida runners know Scott from his involvement in road races, and stop to chat with him about this weekend’s event, or to have their pictures taken with him. The race’s theme is Miami Famous, and organizers post the photos on the event’s Facebook page.
“When you think of Miami you think of big events,’’ Scott said, “big hype. We’ve had the Super Bowl, college national championships, the celebrities.’’
Scott met four members of the Miami Fit training group recently while running the course. And, naturally, the four women — wearing their blue “Go For It’’ T-shirts — posed for photos with him.
“We’re all really excited to participate,’’ said Marlene Avalo, 39, who works for Miami-Dade County and will compete in the half marathon with the others for the first time. “Dave had previously done a presentation to our running group to try to get us to join, and we saw him along the course.
“Running through South Beach is so nice, and Dave is a very personable guy. He got us motivated.’’
Fellow runner Hilda Valero, 40, who owns an assisted-living facility in Miami, said it was fun bumping into the race director while training.
“To see Dave out there doing the same thing as us was inspiring,’’ Valero said. “He ran part of the course with us, and it made it more personal. I can’t wait to see what it’s like on race day.’’
The event’s chief running officer, Frankie Ruiz, 34, also a longtime cross-country coach at Belen Jesuit Prep, said he can’t speak for every race, “but I do know that a lot of our internal mantra, if you will, has been to live what we sell. Dave, being at the helm as one of the leaders of the company, has taken that upon himself.
“The No. 1 question we get asked, is ‘Have you run your own race?’ ’’
Ruiz said marathon organizers do something else that participants training for the big day appreciate: setting up water stations during the few weekends preceding the race.
“We find out popular routes and set up a tent and table, usually near a public park,’’ Ruiz said. “We get there early and give out cold water and Gatorade. It has been very well received, and we also use it as an opportunity to get some last-minute feedback and questions about the race. It helps us indentify issues we may have forgotten or need to reinforce.’’
Scott and Ruiz maintain that one of the gratifying parts of being in the road-running production business is being able to participate with their patrons in the sport they promote.
“We actually enjoy the sport of running,’’ Ruiz said. “It makes our industry unique in that you can play what you do, or you can do what you sell.’’