MIAMI - Saidi Juma Makula, the 25-year-old winner of the Lifetime Miami Marathon, was ecstatic about his $4,500 prize for 2 hours 21 minutes 59 seconds of grueling work.
"That's a lot of money, like 10 million Tanzanian shillings," said former Olympian Makula in Swahili through an interpreter. "I could buy a vehicle or piece of land with that money. Instead, I'm going to finish building my house. It's a concrete block house, and my family lives in two rooms."
While his wife and two children grow cabbages, flowers, mangoes, tomatoes, sweet potatoes and onions on their small farm in the East African countryside near Arusha, Tanzania, Makula trains in Uganda.
Makula was one of 12 medalists representing nine nations in the marathon and half marathon races, reflecting the International identity of the event. Participants came from 83 countries, with more than 1,500 from Colombia.
Women's marathon winner Aydee Loayza Huaman, 25, of Cusco, Peru, outran her competitors by nearly eight minutes in her marathon debut, finishing in 2:46:52 to runner up Lana Gobert of Aruba.
In the predawn darkness brightened by downtown's neon lights and energized by more than 22,000 competitors outside the AmericanAirlines Arena, the 18th annual Life Time Miami Marathon and Half Marathon got underway on Biscayne Boulevard at 6 a.m. in 72-degree temperatures and strong winds.
The closest race Sunday was the half marathon, with 17,000-plus participants. Dominic Korir, 26, of Kenya, prevailed in 1 hour 3 minutes 52 seconds - six seconds shy of a course record and only two seconds ahead of runner-up Daniel Kemoi, also of Kenya.
Last year, Korir finished second in the 13.1-mile Miami Half Marathon by six-tenths-of-a-second.
Beatie Deutsch, a 30-year-old New Jersey native and ultra-Orthodox Jewish mother of five from Jerusalem, won the half-marathon women's division in 1:16:49.
"Hi! It's your wife. I won!" Deutsch told her husband, Michael, in a phone call minutes after finishing. "It wasn't a great (finish) time, but it was hard - windy."
For marathon runner-up Elkin Serna of Guarne, Colombia, the degree of difficulty Sunday was extraordinary. Serna, 35, who was born with a disease which reduces his vision to 10% of what a fully sighted person sees, followed the blinking light on a bicycle assigned to guide him. Despite not being able to see anything beyond an arm's reach, Serna, a two-time Paralympics silver medalist, finished in 2:27:28 - a 5:38-per-mile pace.
"I really liked the course," said Serna, who has already qualified for the Summer Paralympics in Tokyo. "But I thought it was very windy. I was drinking my water and eating my gel, but I did feel and hear the people clapping and cheering."
Thousands of spectators stood along the stairs leading to the arena and lined Biscayne Boulevard hoisting hand-written signs and taking photos and videos of their favorite athletes or loved ones at the start.
Unlike last year, conditions were dry as participants packed the streets and headed toward the MacArthur Causeway and Miami Beach. The marathoners continued past the cafes on Ocean Drive, through Miami Beach, over the Venetian Causeway and back into Brickell and Coconut Grove before returning to the finish near Bayfront Park.
"From my perspective as an organizer and just judging by quick conversations and smiles seen throughout downtown Miami, I'd say the race was great to Miami and Miami was great to the race," said race director Frankie Ruiz, chief running officer for race owner Life Time. "Spectators came out and supported full force."
For women's marathon winner Loayza Huaman, her debut 26.2-miler was far different from the usual mountain trail running she does.
"I love to run long distances and runners in Peru invited me here," Loayza Huaman said. "So I thought, 'Let's give it a try.'
"Very beautiful course! I loved seeing the cruise ships and ocean and I loved the part with all the trees in the beautiful setting (of Coconut Grove). I loved that people were always cheering for me. It gave me motivation."
Among Sunday's 100-plus runners with disabilities were the chair racers.
The handcycle racers were led by overall winners Alfredo De Los Santos of Hopewell, New York, in a blazing 1:05:44 for the full marathon, with Dianne Leigh Sumner of Newton Grove, North Carolina, winning the women's marathon in 1:57:29.
The marathon's pushrim division was won by Duane Morrow of Hoschton, Georgia, in 2:26:12.
Jose Sotolongo, director of sports and entertainment tourism for the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau, once again reveled in his hometown's marathon, finishing his 52nd half marathon Sunday. He has participated in every Miami Marathon event since this version's debut in 2003.
"The reason why I love this course is because of its natural beauty," Sotolongo, 58, said. "People travel thousands of miles and pay thousands of dollars to come and run where we can do it for free."
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