MIAMI, FL. (Jan. 25, 2015) — Guatemalan Luis Rivero Gonzalez has run four marathons in his life. Three of them have been in Miami. There is a reason.
There is something about the tropical ambience and International flavor of South Florida’s top distance running event, presented by Life Time – The Healthy Way of Life Company (NYSE: LTM), that brings out the best in Rivero Gonzalez.
So it was not a surprise to see Rivero Gonzalez down on his knees, crying tears of joy in triumph just past the finish line, when he won Sunday’s 13th edition of the Miami Marathon and Half Marathon for the second time in three years.
“I’m very happy because entering an international marathon like this one three years in a row is very difficult to win,” said Rivero Gonzalez, who pulled away from 2009 winner Benazzouz Slimani after 21 miles to win in a personal best 2:20:47. “It’s a dream come true. It’s something you imagine and dream about, but when it comes true, it’s marvelous.”
Alemnesh Esthu Habtemikael of Ethiopia held off Argentine Maria de Los Angeles Peralta at the finish line to take the women’s title by two seconds in 2:39:31. The two battled neck-and-neck for the greater majority of the race, but Habtemikael had the greater kick down the home stretch on Biscayne Blvd. Third place went to Miami’s Erika Huerta who covered the distance in 2:55:26.
“I started pushing in the last 100 meters, even though I was tired, but I saw that [second place Peralta] was also tired,” Habtemikael said. “I kind of saw that I could do it and just pushed it, told myself, ’I’m going to go for it.’”
In the men’s half marathon, Argentine Mariano Mastomarino was the clear winner in 1:05:24, with the next four runners separated by just 21 seconds. They included Michael Ottoniel Mucia Lopez of Guatemala (1:07:01), Mario Maias of Boulder, Colorado (1:07:07) and Jonny Wilson of Flagstaff, Arizona (1:07:21).
Future Dominican Olympic hopeful Suranyi Rodriguez, 22, led the women’s half marathon from beginning-to-end for her second career win at the distance, finishing in 1:19:12..
It was a banner day for running, with start time temperatures in the 50’s and very little of the humidity that can be typical of Miami. Nearly 21,000 runners navigated through the communities of Miami, Miami Beach and Coconut Grove, with glistening cruise ships and the art deco colors of South Beach among the unique backdrops enjoyed on the way to the finish line in front of Bayfront Park and the downtown high-rises. The destination race brings an estimated $65 million in economic impact to the area each year, with runners representing 80 countries and all 50 states.
Slimani. who placed second in Miami in 2011 and third in 2012, tried to keep up with Rivero Gonzalez, who was a total unknown when he first showed up in Miami in 2013. Back then, he didn’t even have a time to enter to qualify as an elite runner because it was his first marathon. Now he said the experience of the past three Miami Marathons was instrumental in running a personal-best time on Sunday.
“The experience is fundamental, and it helped me a lot winning the race today,” said Rivero Gonzalez, who became the event’s second two-time winner after finishing third last year. “I’ve continued gaining experience and today I ran my best time by four minutes.”
Rivero Gonzalez believes the experience helps him know when to strike in the race.
Running alongside Slimani for the first two-thirds of the 26.2 mile circuit, Rivero Gonzalez bolted when the pair caught up to third-place finisher Elvin Cu Cacao in the 19th mile.
“Running the marathon is all about patience, and I was just waiting for the moment to attack,” said Rivero Gonzalez. "My message to all my people back home is that you can be successful and make it in the United States – not just in sports, but in all walks of life "
Cu Cacao, 23, said his hip began giving out and he started cramping up at the 19-mile mark, which slowed him down enough for Rivero Gonzalez and Slimani to pass him.
“I started fast looking to run a personal best, but I simply could not maintain the pace,” said Cu Cacao. “It took everything out of me to finish the race and make the time I did.”
The women’s marathon’s photo finish was proceeded by a cat-and-mouse race between the two ladies that left the loser a tad upset when it was over. The anguish of losing by a small margin after running 26-plus miles was evident from Peralta’s facial expression as she crossed the finish line.
Peralta, a 37-year-old Argentine claimed that she felt contact from behind several times in the race, but Habtemikael refused to pass her and instead was content to stay on her heels.
“It had me running frustrated the entire race,” said Peralta, who also placed second in Miami’s half marathon in 2011.
Even though he missed his personal best of 1:04:40, there was not very much for Mastromarino to be concerned about in the men’s half marathon. He led from the start.
“I love the course, the race,” said the 32-year old Mastromarino. “I felt a little bit cold, but I felt great. Everything was beautiful. Some fans recognized me and were cheering for me in Spanish.”
Rodriguez’s time of 1:19:12 was three minutes off her personal best in the women’s half marathon..
“I felt good. The whole race went fine,” she said. “It was a great course. I found it easy to run.”
Race Director Javier Sanchez was thrilled with the 13th edition of the event.
“Our vision is in the long-term development and growth and premium experience for all participants,” Sanchez said. "It was a wonderful race and very competitive. And it was great to see so much international representation.
“Wearing the title of Miami Marathon champion and representing their country means a great deal to these runners. So I was not surprised to see a couple of our former champions win again.”