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Miami Marathon organizers urge runners to take precaution

As the Life Time Miami Marathon and Half Marathon bore down on a capacity field Friday, with 800 of 25,000 spots still open when the day began, organizers and athletes prepared for a hot but seasonable day of running Sunday.

Almost everyone who trains for a 26.2-mile journey by foot through Miami and Miami Beach — or even half that distance — knows that hydrating fully, downing carbohydrates and getting substantial rest are necessary to get through the race with as minimal suffering as possible.

“We’re hovering at one of the warmer races, definitely,” Miami Marathon chief running officer Frankie Ruiz said. “Be aware. Adjust your pace and prepare accordingly. You know your body and what you’re capable of.

“You respect the distance, so respect the weather as well.”

The event, which begins with a wheelchair start at 6:05 a.m. in front of AmericanAirlines Arena, is forecast to begin amid temperatures in the low 70s that rise to close to 80 by noon. The humidity is expected to start at about 90 percent and fall to about 73 percent by noon. The forecast calls for partly cloudy conditions and no rain.

Talented local racer Bryan Sharkey grew up in Miami, ran for Gulliver Prep and then Princeton, and still finds himself battling the elements.

Sharkey, a senior financial analyst for Carnival Cruise Line, won the Palm Beaches Marathon in early December in 2 hours 43 minutes 47 seconds. The race began in the high 70s and rose into the 80s by the end. He collapsed at the finish and needed three intravenous bags to recover in the medical tent.

“This time I’m only running the half,” he said of the Miami event. “When I ran the Miami Marathon four years ago, the exact same thing happened.”

Sharkey, who finished fourth in the Miami Marathon the only time he ran it, said he’s more prepared than ever after winning his past five races in varying distances. His best finish in the Miami Half Marathon was third in 2004.

“I’m very excited for this race,” he said. “The course is beautiful.”

Elliott Mason, who also lives in Miami and has a technology solution company, will start out with Sharkey but continue to finish the marathon distance. He’s hoping for a 2:32 result.

“I like that it’s on my home turf,” Mason, 35, said. “I run part of the course pretty much every day. I like the scenery and running through Miami Beach, and I like the stretch on the MacArthur Causeway past the cruise ships. It’s not favorable conditions, but everybody has to run in the same weather.”

That includes several other elite runners who flew in from various countries, such as last year’s winners — Luis Carlos Rivero Gonzales, 27, of Guatemala (2:26:14); and Mariska Kramer Postma, 39, of the Netherlands (2:46:07). They will vie for the first-place marathon prize of $2,000, with second-place finishers earning $1,000 apiece and the third-place finishers $500.

Ruiz said marathon organizers are fully prepared for the weather conditions, with an alert system using signage and social media such as text messages to inform runners of varying warning levels. The levels go from green (optimum) to yellow to red to black (race canceled, which has never happened).

“It’s a reminder to runners to use caution, slow down, adjust your pace accordingly and drink a little more,” Ruiz said. “Each level means different things for us internally that trigger things on our end that have to be mobilized to make it safer for runners — more ice, spray stations, etc.”

There are 22 aid stations, with a minimum of two nurses at each, Ruiz said. Baptist Health South Florida provides 250 medical personnel — physicians, nurses and athletic trainers — to man the race. A large medical tent by the finish has one area for musculoskeletal problems and minor injuries, and another critical care area where ailing runners are tested for salt and sugar levels with finger-prick blood tests that determine if they need IV fluid.

Last year, when the race began in 70-degree heat and rose with each hour, about 250 were treated to varying degrees in the medical tent, and another 50 to 60 throughout the course, said Miami Marathon medical director Dr. Thinh Tran.

Tran, a triathlete, said two athletes were transported to local hospitals “for low-salt — hyponotremia. They recovered quickly and were sent home. The biggest problem is cramps and exhaustion, though we did have an asthmatic with a problem breathing because she ran out of inhaler.”

Tran, like Ruiz, encourages participants to “get plenty of rest before the race, hydrate starting now and begin the race in your rhythm — don’t get excited and run too fast. At Mile 3 you might feel like you don’t need water but keep sipping.”

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