Other Sports

Runners from Italy, New York, Peru and Kenya win Miami Marathon and Half Marathon

Allison Kieffer of New York City escaped a monumental blizzard for a tropical weekend getaway of clubbing, sunning and running.

But the debut half marathon she planned to run Sunday at the Miami Marathon and Half Marathon became her debut marathon when Kieffer, 28, discovered Saturday night that no elite woman was registered in the 26.2-mile distance and the prize money was twice as much.

“I said, ‘OK, sign me up,’ ” Kieffer said. “I’ll take two grand over one grand.’’

Kieffer earned the dough and paid the price.

Overcoming excruciating blood blisters on both feet, Kieffer got her $2,000 by surging just before Mile 22 to lead the women’s field in 2 hours 55 minutes 31 seconds during the coldest Miami Marathon in history.

The overall marathon winner, Moroccan Benazzouz Slimani, not only became a two-time Miami Marathon champion Sunday with his 2:24:56 finish in perfect, 46-degree racing conditions, he became the oldest victor after turning 40 on Friday.

“From start to finish I go by myself,’’ said Slimani, who won by nearly 17 minutes over runner-up Juan Manuel Martinez, 27, of Colombia (2:41:51).

A combined field of more than 24,000 registered for the event.

Slimani, who lives in Torreglia, Italy, won the 2009 Miami Marathon in 2:16:49. He said battling gusty headwinds Sunday on the second trip over the MacArthur Causeway bridges and during the last several miles didn’t help his result.

“I love Miami,’’ said Slimani, the Miami Marathon runner-up last year and in 2011. “Beautiful city, good people. I am very, very happy to be here.’’

Age a number

As for being 40, Slimani scoffed at the idea that he was even remotely old to be the fastest marathoner.

“Many athletes run races who are 42, 44, with good times,’’ he said.

The more competitive race was clearly the half marathon, as several elite runners used it as part of their training toward what they hope will be future qualifying times for this summer’s Olympic Games Marathon in Rio de Janeiro.

Stephen Njoroge, 25, of Kenya, won the half marathon in 1:05:08, with countryman Benson Cheruiyot, 32, who trains part of the year in Valparaiso, Indiana, finishing second in 1:05:25.

“When we were around 10 kilometers there were about seven runners and after 12 kilometers we decided to push very hard,’’ said Cheruiyot, who is from Kenya’s Rift Valley and noted he liked Miami because “of the famous basketball team.”

He said at some points of the race “it was very nice’’ but at other times “it was very windy. It was hard running against the wind. There were a lot of people cheering for us at the same time they were running and that made us very, very happy.”

Njoroge, 5-2 and 117 pounds, lives in Central Kenya and said he will be back next year.

Half marathon women’s winner Santa Ines Melchor Surquillo, 29, of Peru, set an event record in 1:13:52 — this year both courses were altered to encompass two trips over the MacArthur Causeway because of construction on the Venetian. The previous Miami Half Marathon women’s best was Risper Gesabwa, who ran a 1:14:00 in 2014.

Surquillo, who doesn’t quite reach 5 feet, weighs 99 pounds. Like the other half-marathon winners, she earned $1,000. She said she already has qualified for the Rio Olympic Marathon, and that her 2:26:45 finish at the 2014 Berlin Marathon gave her the marathon record for South American women.

“It was very cold at the beginning,’’Surquillo said. “After the first 5 kilometers I felt warmer and was able to find a comfortable pace. After 15 kilometers, nobody else could reach me. There were a lot of Latin Americans supporting me and yelling, ‘Vamos!’ and ‘Let’s go, Ines!’ ’’

Positive feedback

The race, which goes through Miami, Miami Beach and Coconut Grove, began at 6 a.m. with a full moon casting its glow on AmericanAirlines Arena and the Freedom Tower across the street. Race director Javier Sanchez was thrilled with the outcome.

“Absolutely fantastic,’’ Sanchez. “I keep hearing wonderful feedback from everybody.’’

Although officials said Friday that up to 3,000 registrants could miss the race because of the paralyzing snowstorm through much of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, Sanchez and chief running officer Frankie Ruiz said Sunday it was too early to tell how that affected participation.

“We got a lot of interesting emails and phone calls from people who either drove hours just to get here or flew earlier when they learned of the forecast or took alternate flights to make sure they could run,’’ Sanchez said.

For women’s winner Kieffer, who won by nearly six minutes over runner-up Jordania Diaz of the Dominican Republic (3:01:25), the difference was in arriving Friday.

A former scholarship runner at Wake Forest and Arizona State, Kieffer began running when she was 5 but said the longest race of her career before Sunday was 25 kilometers. She lives in Greenwich Village and gets paid to coach for the Gotham City Runners.

Kieffer said doctors in the medical tent “popped’’ and bandaged all her blisters, an “incredibly’’ painful experience.

What will she do with the prize money for which she sacrificed her feet?

“Go on another vacation,’’ she said, “wherever there’s another prize-money race.’’

Related stories from Miami Herald