Kenyan runner pulls away for decisive win at Miami Marathon

The last time Samuel Kipkosgei Malakwen raced in the Life Time Miami Marathon he won the 26.2-mile race by one step.

On Sunday, he wanted none of that, so after 21 miles of drafting behind fellow Kenyan and friend Julius Kirwa Choge, Malakwen sensed Choge’s diminishing strength and made his decisive move.

“I remembered two years ago,’’ Malakwen, 35, said. “I started to pull away because I knew it was safer than to wait. You never know how strong a guy can be. With 7K to go, it’s not easy to catch up.’’

This time Malakwen, arms triumphantly raised, broke the tape with time and pavement to spare, winning his second Miami Marathon in 2 hours 19 minutes 46 seconds for the $2,000 prize.

Choge, 35, followed in 2:21:42 for $1,000, and 2013 champion Luis Rivero Gonzalez placed third in 2:30:11 for $500.

Women’s defending champion Mariska Kramer Postma, 39, of the Netherlands, also won $2,000 in capturing her second consecutive Miami title in 2:49:28, despite being nearly dehydrated from a severe bout of diarrhea that began five hours before the 6:15 a.m. start.

Postma, who was exhausted by the end, was bitterly disappointed in not qualifying for the European Championships — she missed the cutoff time by more than 11 minutes. With 50 meters to go, she gave the thumbs-down signal then used both hands to vehemently slice down on the victory tape.

“If you don’t feel well, it’s not much fun to run in humidity and heat,’’ said Postma, who nonetheless decimated her nearest competitor, runner-up Elina Junnila of Finland (3:02:32), by more than 13 minutes. “When we started the race, I felt there was no energy in my body. On top of that it was pretty warm, so after 5 kilometers I already knew this was going to be a long day. I had to let go of my plans and the pace I wanted and just make it a nice, long run in Miami.

“There was simply nothing in my legs — no energy, nothing. I had to talk to them, like, ‘Helloooo?’ ’’

Bertine Laine, 31, of Miami, placed third among women in 3:10:51.

Among athletes with disabilities, Ludovic Narce, 45, of France, was the hand-cycle winner in 1:14:14, and Cristian Torres of Colombia won the push-rim wheelchair division in 2:08:18.

Jacqui Kapinowski of Tequesta won the women’s hand-cycle division in 1:40:17.

The event, in its 12th running and first with publicly traded Life Time Fitness Inc. as the owner, reached its limit of 25,000 registrants for the third consecutive year. Nearly 6,000 signed up for the marathon, said chief running officer Frankie Ruiz.

Several thousand spectators lined the course and stood on the stairs of the neon-lit AmericanAirlines Arena as the wheelchairs and athletes with disabilities took off at 6:05 a.m. in predawn darkness. At 6:15, the streaming pack of humanity followed.

It took 38 minutes for the last runner to reach the starting line.

Two-time Latin Grammy Award nominee Ed Calle played a powerful rendition of the Star Spangled Banner just moments before the race began in extremely tough conditions: 73 degrees with 87 percent humidity and 7-mph winds. By 9:30 a.m., the sky turned dark and racers were doused by a rain shower and much-needed shade.

The humidity decreased by 10 a.m., and the slight breeze cooled the course. But by noon, when the slowest runners were plodding toward the finish, the sun blazed and temperatures approached 80.

Men’s runner-up Choge said he began to tire after 20 miles. “It was very, very hot and I was dehydrating,’’ he said. “I felt myself running out of gas and I waited to see what would happen next. He passed me at 21 and all I could do is try my best so the guy behind me wouldn’t catch up.’’

Malakwen and Choge are from the city of Eldoret, where the high altitude provides optimal training for many talented distance runners. Both are married and fathers and the sons of farmers. Malakwen, whose widowed mother grows corn, wheat and beans, has a 9-year-old son and 7- and 5-year-old daughters; Choge, whose daughter is 3, has parents who grow tea crops.

The two worked as a team, helping each other grab water at aid stations and sharing encouragement during the race. “We are proud together,’’ said Choge, who said he loved the course that winds through downtown Miami, into Miami Beach, through the lush, canopied neighborhoods of Coconut Grove and back to the finish near Bayfront Park.

“It’s a very nice race and a beautiful, flat course,’’ Choge said. “The people are very cheerful in Miami, and they shout for you and make you motivated.’’

Malakwen said he’d use his prize money to help his family “and the poor people’’ in his community. Choge said he’ll invest his money.

Postma, who said she appreciates Miami for the weather and landscape and coffee and the fact “that no one is on time here,’’ will use her money for her “husband’s hobby — me.

“I buy too many books, and he buys too many gadgets.’’

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