Mexican marathon legends run ‘people’s pace’ at Miami Marathon to ‘share love’ of running

Teen with muscular dystrophy walks final mile at Miami Marathon

Peri Finkelstein, a 19-year-old with muscular dystrophy, has been been taking part in the Miami Marathon for eight years. This year, she decided to walk the final mile and come down the homestretch walking backward.
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Peri Finkelstein, a 19-year-old with muscular dystrophy, has been been taking part in the Miami Marathon for eight years. This year, she decided to walk the final mile and come down the homestretch walking backward.

Mexican marathoners German Silva and Benjamin Paredes were not in Miami to reprise their famous duel from the 1994 New York Marathon. They ran the Miami Half Marathon at the “people’s pace” in order to “share our love of the sport with fellow runners,” Silva said.

Silva and Paredes, probably the two biggest names at the event Sunday, finished first and second in one of the most memorable marathons. The former training partners were running neck and neck with about three quarters of a mile to the finish line when Silva took a wrong turn into Central Park.

“I automatically followed a motorcycle, but quickly realized my mistake when I saw no cheering crowds,” said Silva, who finished the half marathon Sunday in 1:30:27. “I felt stupid because I had boasted that I would win the race. That motivated me to catch Benjamin.”

Although Silva had lost 40 yards, he summoned his kick and came abreast of Paredes, who gave him an encouraging push on the back.

“I said, ‘Go. You deserve it. Win for Mexico,” said Paredes, who finished the 13.1 miles Sunday in 1:25:29.

The two remain close friends and coach running clubs in Mexico. Paredes’ top runners finished ahead of Silva’s at the Mexico City Marathon last year. They led a contingent of 650 runners from Mexico to Miami.

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Why haven’t any Mexican marathoners stepped up to fill the duo’s shoes?

“We don’t have a system of training groups like they do in Kenya,” said Silva, 51, of the nation which consistently produces the world’s best.

Said Paredes, 47: “Our athletes lack the commitment to what is a very demanding lifestyle.”

New Smyrna Beach couple sweeps wheelchair half marathon

Peggy Sprouse was never really much of an athlete before back surgery at 18 left her in a wheelchair. For most of the next 30 years, Sprouse got her athletic fix by kayaking, but she needed another outlet for when the weather was bad.

“When I first got injured, I would go to gyms, physical therapy and I would lift weights,” Sprouse said after finishing Sunday, “and then once I started kayaking I got more into the whole fitness.”

Sprouse, 56, had heard about handcycling while she was living in New York a little more than 10 years ago, but she had never actually seen it, so she went to Central Park and just started asking around. It was there she found out about Achilles Track Club, which brings athletes with disabilities to compete in mainstream running events.

In 2007, Sprouse went to the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, where she met her husband, Mike Sprouse. A little more than 11 years later, the couple, which now resides in New Smyrna Beach, swept the half marathon wheelchairs division at the Miami Marathon. Mike Sprouse, 58, led all wheelchair half marathoners with a time of 54:30. Peggy Sprouse led all women at 1:16:35.

Alfredo De Los Santos, 49, won the marathon wheelchair division in 1:13:28.

NFL players humbled by running half marathon

Buster Skrine knew he was preparing pretty well for the Miami Half Marathon and it showed Sunday. The cornerback, soon to be a free agent after four seasons with the New York Jets, cracked the two-hour mark Sunday, running through Miami and Miami Beach in 1:59:58.

The rest of the NFL players he brought along with him didn’t fare quite as well, but Leonard Williams and Henry Anderson were just happy to finish.

Defensive linemen, Williams and Anderson are both listed at heavier than 300 pounds on the Jets’ roster. The idea to run the marathon was originally pitched by Skrine, 29, and the 27-year-old linemen were understandably uncertain.

“Clearly, we thought it was crazy,” said Williams. “We’re 300 pounds. We never ran this much before. We do all short burst stuff and we’ve never trained for this before, but it was a fun challenge. We all wanted to do it as a team.”

Williams ran alongside Anderson, who finished in 2:31:41. New York safety Terrence Brooks also ran, although he, like Williams, didn’t have an officially tracked time. Chicago Bears defensive back Marcus Williams, 27, finished in 2:45:36, rounding out the group Skrine organized.

What does a 302-pound defensive lineman like Williams learn from running a half marathon?

“What I learned is lose weight,” Williams said, “and do this again when I retire.”

Marathoners find inspiration through Facebook

Anna Hailey had been a runner for long before a friend in a training group told her about I Run 4 Michael. The Facebook group, which has become the central hub for a nonprofit started in 2013, has more than 41,000 members and connects runners from across the country with those who have physical or developmental disabilities.

Hailey, 38, is from Gardendale, Texas. Noah Dennis, 18, is from Orlando. For the last three years, they’ve been paired together, running half marathons and, this year, a full 26.2-mile marathon in 4:01:11.

“We’ve been paired up for three years,” Hailey said after pushing Dennis in a wheelchair. “We did a half marathon and we’ve kind of stayed in touch.”

All across both races, it’s not hard to find a runner pushing someone else in a wheelchair. I Run 4 is probably the biggest organization, but there’s no shortage of groups pairing marathoners with those who need their help to run.

Kids of Courage brought more than 50 runners to the half marathon. The organization takes children with disabilities on trips throughout the year and began bringing participants to marathons eight years ago. Marc Gamss, 33, is one of the marathon organizers for Kids of Courage and he’s typically paired with 21-year-old Joseph Porush, who has a nervous system disability. On Sunday, they finished in 1:34:46.

“The objective of our organization is like impossible is possible,” Gamss said. “This is what we’re doing here.”

Teen with muscular dystrophy adds new feat to Marathon resume

Peri Finkelstein has been taking part in the Miami Marathon each of the last eight years. In each of the last four, she’s even been doing some of it herself.

In 2016, Finkelstein walked the last 1,437 steps. A year later, she walked the entire final mile. Last year, she stretched it out to 1.5 miles.

But Finkelstein has muscular dystrophy and the long walk left her legs spasming for months. This year, she wanted to do try something new.

“She wanted to do something not as long, but something that was interesting,” said Lori Finkelstein, the 19-year-old’s mother, “so she decided she was going to learn how to walk backwards.”

Finkelstein is now a freshman at Adelphi University in Garden City, New York, has either physical therapy or crosstraining every day and has been setting goals for herself every year since she began participating in the Marathon. She went back to walking the final mile this year, but added a little bit of flair on the end.

“Every day she’s doing something,” her mother said. “I have to say, ‘It’s OK to take a day off.’”

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Miami Herald sports writer Susan Miller Degnan has been the Miami Hurricanes football beat writer since 2000, the season before the Canes won it all. She has won several APSE national writing awards and has covered everything from Canes baseball to the College Football Playoff to major marathons to the Olympics.