Thousands of runners take to the streets as they participate in the Miami Marathon
Kate Landau had little trouble outrunning thousands of female competitors Sunday in the 17th annual Fitbit Miami Marathon. Her cramping legs and a queasy stomach posed a more difficult challenge — though at least the dreaded rainstorms never came.
At Mile 17 along the Rickenbacker Causeway, the 42-year-old Landau, who won the women’s title by eight minutes in 2 hours 37 minutes 45 seconds, had tummy trouble. So she told the lead cyclist she had to “poo in a Porta-Potty,’’ and the cyclist waited “20 to 30 seconds,’’ according to Landau’s calculations, for the eventual winner to take care of business.
At Mile 20, Landau’s calves and right foot started cramping and never stopped, rising to her twitching quads during post-race interviews.
“I was bonking more than I ever have,’’ Landau, a physician’s assistant from Tacoma, Washington, said of her depleted state.
Ezekiel Kipsang, 22, the overall winner, had a less eventful 26.2 miles in his marathon debut, cruising across the finish line in 2:16:34, more than two-and-a-half minutes faster than runner-up and fellow Kenyan Jacob Chemtai.
The men’s half marathon came down to a sprint, with Kenyan Isaac Mukundi, 31, of Kenya, defeating countryman Dominic Korir, 26, by six-tenths-of-a-second — 1:06:50.1 to 1:06:50.7.
“I had a toothache and was using medicine,’’ explained Korir, “and it made my stomach sick. I had problems.”
Despite the unexpected reprieve from the torrential rain that soaked Miami on Saturday, the 20,000-plus participants in the marathon and half marathon nonetheless withstood warm temperatures, intense humidity and strong headwinds during the event that began at 6:10 a.m. at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Conditions in the predawn darkness: 72 degrees and 91 percent humidity with winds from the southeast at 9 miles an hour — gusting much higher on the MacArthur Causeway early in the race. Pools of rainwater scattered along Biscayne Boulevard and giant pits of slippery mud throughout Bayfront Park made the venue messy. Thousands of spectators still lined the start outside the arena and held up hand-written signs for their loved ones and favorite athletes.
The marathon and half marathon runners proceeded together until the half marathoners branched to the finish down the street at Flagler and Biscayne and the rest ventured south to Coconut Grove before crossing the same finish line.
The women’s half marathon was won by Melanie Myrand of Montreal in 1:19:11.
The women’s half marathon runner-up Rachel Schilkowsky, 26, of Providence, Rhode Island (1:21:22), decided to end her run earlier than planned because the heat and humidity made her ill. The Miami Marathon, produced by Life Time and co-founded by Frankie Ruiz, is considered one of the nation’s and Latin America’s most popular destination races, with more than 100 countries represented. Event rules allow registered marathoners to switch to the half during the race.
“It was 9 degrees with a [wind-chill factor] of -10 a week ago Sunday,’’ said Schilkowsky, the 2018 Hartford Marathon champion and former All-American at Cornell. “It’s really hard to prepare for a race when you can’t even begin to mimic the conditions. It was really windy the first three miles up and over the bridge. I put myself in a hole.’’
The scenic course heads to Miami Beach over the MacArthur Causeway, through South Beach along Ocean Drive, past the Miami Beach Convention Center, over the Venetian Causeway and back into Miami where the half marathon finishes and full marathon continues into the Brickell and Coconut Grove areas before ending near Bayfront Park.
For women’s winner Landau, who, along with Kipsang, earned $4,500, Sunday’s race was just another opportunity to overcome obstacles. Landau, who added $500 to her prize money for being the first female master (40-older), is a single mom who was an All-American runner at Georgetown and battled an eating disorder and exercise addiction for years. Her illness kept her from running for more than 10 years, but at age 34, she began her road to recovery and is now a healthy 5-3 and 112 pounds.
Landau grew up in the Catskill Mountains of New York, and is moving in March with her 6-year-old daughter Grace to Jacksonville, where she’ll work at Baptist Health Cancer Center. She already has qualifed for the Olympic Trials next year in Atlanta, and also was the third American and eighth overall woman in 2:33:26 at the Chicago Marathon in October.
“I’m a full-time working mom, I’m 42, so I don’t have unrealistic goals,’’ Landau said, when asked if she dreams of the Olympics. “It would be nice to run in the Trials and I would love to run under 2:30, but I don’t know if that’s possible.’’
As for the men’s marathon, winner Kipsang, who is from the Rift Valley, said he has only run two half marathons before — and several 10Ks and 5Ks. His parents grow maize and vegetables for a living.
Kipsang said he searched the Internet for possible marathons, saw the Miami race, and requested an invitation.
“I did not know anything about Miami,” said Kipsang, who took the lead near the 22-mile mark. “It was good today. Miami is a nice place to be. The people are very nice. They talk to you.’’