Kenyan athletes dominate during Life Time Marathon in Miami

George Onyancha, 29, and Damaris Areba, 27, both of western Kenya, easily won the prestigious Miami running competition in their first appearances.

Kenyan athletes topped the 2023 Life Time Miami Marathon on Sunday, which attracted 18,000 runners from 69 nations and all 50 states sprinting between roadside cheerers.

According to The Miami Herald, George Onyancha, 29, and Damaris Areba, 27, both of Kisii, in western Kenya, easily won the prestigious running competition — their first appearances in the 21st annual event.

Onyancha, who grew up on a tea farm, won the overall competition in two hours, 18 minutes, and 25 seconds. His first trip to the United States resulted in his leaving $4,500 richer, thanks to his running abilities. 

Kenyan athletes Life Time Miami marathon
Kenyan athletes George Onyancha, 29, and Damaris Areba, 27, dominated during this year’s Life Time Miami Marathon. After outrunning more than 18,000 others, they each took home $4,500. (Photo: Adobe Stock)

In the 26.2-mile marathon, the champion broke away from the pack at just over 15-1/2 miles, finishing the race five minutes and 51 seconds faster than — and over a mile ahead of — Ethiopia’s Siraj Amda, who came in second place with 2:24:16 and earned $2,000.

“Palm trees look like umbrellas,” Onyancha said of Miami, according to The Herald. “Beautiful.”

Areba, trained by the farmer to whom she is married, finished first in the marathon’s women’s field at 2:33:49, also for $4,500. It was the second-fastest time in history and two minutes ahead of another Kenya citizen, Isgah Cheruto, who finished in women’s second place in 2:36:19, winning $2,000.

Although Areba claimed to have been too busy racing to observe the course, she did gush over the cruise ships she spotted Saturday night and the spectators in Miami who “cheered for me the whole course.”

Manager Sylvester Mokamba, who represents both of the race winners, will accompany them to Grand Prairie, Texas, for training.

The Life Time Miami Marathon began outside the Miami-Dade Arena at 6 a.m. Sunday, with winds gusting to 13 mph and temperatures and humidity starting at 74. It runs a picturesque route through South Beach, past cruise ships and the famous neon signs of Ocean Drive before heading toward Miami Beach. 

The marathon comes to an end close to a lively Bayfront Park after passing the Miami Beach Convention Center and the grand Venetian Causeway, then back into Miami. Spectators and thousands of recreational and elite runners lined the course.

“If you’re running and need to run faster, pretend you’re being chased by the police,” one spectator advised runners while sitting on a bicycle near the start and flying a giant “Trump” flag.

Sally Heyman, a former commissioner for Miami-Dade, ran the first Miami Marathon and has attended every year since.

She commended Frankie Ruiz, Life Time’s co-founder and chief operating officer, for his expertise and the expansion the global attraction has seen over the years since it started in 2003 with 3,000 people.

“As far as I’m concerned, it was everything that Miami has to offer,” she said of Sunday’s festivities, according to The Herald. “The energy was high, the weather cooperated, the community, police, everything seemed to work, and it continues to show that after 21 years, we just keep making things better in such a busy city.”

Nacho Hernando-Angulo, a 29-year-old resident of Magic City originally from Madrid, Spain, won the 13.1-mile half marathon Sunday in 1:08:36. The women’s half marathon winner was Weynshet Ansa Weldestadisk, 26, of Ethiopia, who finished in 1:14:55. 

“The city is windy and hot, but it’s so beautiful,” Weldestadisk said of Miami, The Herald reported. “I wish I lived here.’’

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