Virtual Life Time Miami Marathon Highlights Resilience and Spirit of South Florida Runners

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The Life Time Miami Marathon may have cancelled all in-person events in 2021, but its spirit raced on. As events all across the country were being called off due to COVID-19 concerns, Life Time was conceptualizing their first-ever digital experience of Miami’s world-renowned running event. 

This year’s Life Time Miami Marathon participants took to the streets over three weeks in January to build their own #VirtuallyMiamiFamous experiences. 

Almost 5,000 athletes from over 50 countries participated in the Life Time Tropical 5K, Miami Half Marathon or Miami Marathon this year. #VirtuallyMiamiFamous participants ran the virtual race from all over the globe, but South Florida runners came out strong, with just about half of the registrants taking part in the digital event from our sunny coasts.

Without the road closures, race energy and cheering crowds, runners had to tap into deeper reserves of grit, willpower, and joy to make it through their solo races this year.

“I really couldn’t imagine running 13.1 miles without the spectacle of race day and the energy of the crowd,” said Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon of @jetsetsarah, a Miami-based travel writer and on-screen host.

In the end, Sarah completed her 13.1 miles near her home and found a deep appreciation for her experience:

“Maybe this morning’s run was a metaphor for life. Sometimes you think you can’t go on, but you find a way to take a few more steps, no matter how slow. Sometimes it seems like the dark is all-encompassing, but eventually the light bursts through. And sometimes, you surprise yourself by accomplishing something you didn’t think you could,” she wrote on her post about the experience.

What initially was a difficult decision for the race organizers ended up highlighting the vitality of our community. Life Time Miami Marathon Co-Founder, Life Time Chief Running Officer, and Miami’s Chief Wellness Officer, Frankie Ruiz noted:

“South Florida runners are unique in so many ways and they reflected that through their enthusiastic participation in the #VirtuallyMiamiFamous experience. Our decision to go virtual was not an easy one for us, but after seeing how our community embraced it and made the most of it, we have no regrets. We saw groups gathering safely to celebrate on their own and we were tagged on social media which helped us share that celebration with the world; the running and racing spirit of South Florida was filled with energy and hope. The runners made it clear that racing lives on to inspire even through the most uncertain times.” 

Without the structure of an official race, #VirtuallyMiamiFamous runners got to be creative in how they got in their miles this year. The Life Time Miami Marathon course usually runs through the scenic hearts of Miami - South Beach, downtown, Brickell and Coconut Grove. This year runners carved out their own paths.

Some participants ran loops through their neighborhoods, some along South Beach, and some people like Joshua Funderburg, a former group fitness manager at Equinox Brickell Heights, ran along the official race path anyway.

Funderburg has been running the Miami Half Marathon since 2016. Now a NASM-CPT, run coach, On ambassador and group fitness manager at Equinox SOHO/W50TH in New York City, he decided to run the actual Miami Half Marathon course with friend and fellow trainer, Sam Jackson. Funderburg even achieved a PR in his #VirtuallyMiamiFamous race for two. Though Funderburg found it special to carry on his yearly tradition with a friend by his side, he did miss the energy of the race.

“The crowds, the family of runners going through the same physiological and psychological things as you give you an edge and plenty of extra adrenaline. The crowds of cheerleaders, whether you know them or not, give you much needed boosts of motivation, and crossing a finish line is an experience like no other, ” he said. “I miss all of that. I’m sure, when we get back to it, I’m never going to take all of it for granted again.”

No matter how South Floridians finished their 5Ks, half marathons or marathons, their resilience was on display this year.

“What really makes [Miami Marathon] come alive and thrive is the positive resiliency of the people that run South Florida,” said Ruiz. “There is no doubt that we will look back 20 years from now and mark the 2021 #VirtuallyMiamiFamous event as a transformational event for galvanizing the community. We believe the challenges the community endured further fortified the appreciation we have for one other.” 

All anticipate the race and community coming back stronger than ever for the 2022 event. 


Jacqui Somen is a health & wellness writer, NASM certified personal trainer, and certified pre and postnatal fitness specialist. Follow her at @vivamafit.

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