DISCLAIMER: I received my entry into the Miami Marathon to review as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review, find, and write race reviews!"
I was hesitant to sign up for this race based on my experience running the half marathon in 2016. I'm glad I finally gave it another chance 6 years later because this time around was so much better. The things that went wrong back then have improved and were better this time around.
The first thing I was stressed about was the expo. Driving around Miami can be very hectic and stressful. With the expo being at the Miami Convention center with a huge parking garage across the street, it made things so much easier this time around. I walked right in and headed to the VIP section to pick up my bib, swag, and hang out. The VIP section had massage tables, hair braiding, snacks and beverages. I did have a little fun and get a couple of braids put in my beard. The race shirt is nice. It's not overdone with all the sponsors on the back. It's simple and has the Miami colors you come to expect. The VIP race jacket and bag are also very nice and I look forward to using them in the future!
The second thing I was stressed about was finding parking before the race. I remembered in 2016 driving around for a while because garages were still closed and I luckily stumbled across a church that was allowing people to park in their lot for $20. This time, the garage I've used for Miami Heat games was open early for the race. It's about a 5 minute walk to the start line. I was also surprised to find that even with an hour to go before the race, the garage was still pretty empty. I know people took advantage of the shuttle options but I still expected this lot to be full, being so close to the start.
The starting corral was very organized as I remember from 2016. You're assigned a corral based on your expected finish time or in my case, corral B if you're VIP, or really fast. This year it was because of VIP, I'm not that fast these days. There were a lot of bathroom options and surprisingly, the ones closer to the start line had the shortest lines. I think everyone just assumed the closer you got, the longer they'd get. So I lucked out and was able to quickly use one without having to wait more than a couple of minutes. I ran into a bunch of my local running friends and 3 of my fellow BibRave teammates. This year I was running the full marathon and was ready to go!
The first half of the race was great. The weather was cool to me although it was very humid. I still kept cool with the breeze coming off the water. The atmosphere is more quiet in the first half as it's still very early, mostly everything is closed, and people are still sleeping from their city life partying the night before. The aid stations were great and handled the craziness well. You get the major bridge out of the way at the very beginning and then you just have a good amount of smaller ones the rest of the way. The live music along the way and the crowds from miles 11-13 were very helpful for a motivational push.
As expected and as usual, it starts to die down a lot as you break off from the half marathon runners. Thankfully the course starts taking you through the city more where people are now out having breakfast and supporting you. This definitely helps as runners started getting affected by the sun bringing the heat along with the higher humidity. The aid stations definitely became more crucial and the volunteers continued to be awesome. People were sitting out on their lawns cheering us on, spraying us with their hoses to help cool us down and even offering drinks and snacks to help us deal with the cramping.
The last mile is the best! Going through that very long finishing chute with the entire way packed with people cheering you on is such an adrenaline rush. Right before you hit the last corner to the finish, there's a mat that lets the announcer know you're coming and he reads off everyone's name to the crowds. This is definitely great for them if they're waiting for you because they can hear your name loud and clear and know you're there. I used the crowd to push me a little harder for one last sprint while also easing up just enough to avoid the dreadful cramps that lock your hamstrings up in a second. Definitely wasn't how I wanted my finishing photos to come out, ha!
After you cross the finish line, you get your medal which as always, Miami does very well. This years 20th anniversary medal was beautiful. I still think 2016's two-sided design was the best. There were 3 packaged meal options as you made your way to the finishing area. The volunteer was nice enough to let me take the chicken wrap and veggie pasta. Both were delicious. I headed to the VIP area to relax and cool down before heading home. The VIP area gave you private access to the finish line and spots in the grandstands. Watching a 91 year old finish the half marathon was spectacular. I hung out for a while and then headed up to relax and recover. I wanted to take advantage of some of the other VIP perks but I was too exhausted at that point knowing I still had about an hour drive home.
This race does sell out, so if you're looking for a fun half or full marathon to run in a beautiful area surrounded by lively crowds, definitely add this race to your bucket list. Just keep in mind, the weather is different every year. It can be in the 40s or the 90s. It could be clear skies and sunshine or cloudy and pouring. You'll still enjoy it either way!