As Dom Culetta, senior exercise physiology major, crossed the finish line of the annual Life Time Fitness Miami Marathon, all of the leg cramps, sweat and pain were replaced with a euphoric feeling of strength and pride. After experiencing the views of cruise ships at sunrise, the high rises of Brickell and support from nearly 25,000 other runners, participating University of Miami students earned their medals for completing half and full marathons.
The Miami Marathon, sponsored by Life Time Fitness, started at 6 a.m. on Jan. 29, where runners had the option to race in the full or half marathon. Some UM students decided to take on the challenge.
“It surprised me that I had made it that far,” said Culetta, who completed the full marathon. “It was extraordinarily satisfying because after these months of training, it all culminated to this one final line and I just swear all the pain just went away. It was the highest I’ve ever been.”
When runners arrived at Brickell around 5:30 a.m., music blared through the streets energizing the crowd before they committed to the 26.2 or 13.1 mile stretches.
“It was like a frat party,” senior political science and international studies major Madeline Joyce said. “They were playing all this EDM music and there were people dancing, it was crazy. It was fun that I was around all of these people that were really hyped up.”
However, the high-energy at the starting line only carried the runners for so long, as their excitement eventually turned into pain and discomfort. The Miami heat added an extra challenge, especially for students like sophomore meteorology and marine science major Eric Schmitt, who ran the full marathon.
“It was definitely a lot hotter than I expected,” Schmitt said. “I’m from Georgia, so when I was training it was in the 50s during my runs and then down here it was like 80 and sunny. I think it just caused me to get more dehydrated. Around 10 or 15 miles, I started cramping up because it was a lot hotter than I was used to.”
Some students wanted to take their love of running to the next level by participating in the marathon. Senior public relations major Lexi Zisselman played soccer in high school and decided to sign up for the half marathon over the summer.
While many people complete marathons for themselves, some enjoy running for a cause. Culetta raised $1,121 on a GoFundMe page that he created in support of Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. He had been involved in philanthropic efforts through the pre-medical fraternity at UM, and wanted to continue his work through running.
“About 70% of their patients are Medicaid patients, so I wanted to fundraise for kids from low socioeconomic backgrounds,” he said. “It definitely helps running the race for something larger than yourself and I just wanted to give back to this community.”
Joyce also ran the half marathon and began increasing her training mileage around Thanksgiving. Prior to the race neither Joyce or Zisselman had completed a full 13.1 miles, as training plans typically stop runners short of the race distance.
“I would go through phases of being nervous and then I would get excited,” Joyce said. “The morning of, I woke up feeling really confident like ‘I just want to start.’”
For Zisselman, one of the most inspiring parts of the experience was seeing disabled individuals compete in the race. She emphasized the supportive environment from other competitors and people on the sidelines.
“Everytime you would hit a water or Gatorade station, there would be fans cheering everyone on all over the place,” she said. “It was a really supportive environment and everyone was really motivational.”
After mile 20, Schmitt’s energy started to build as the finish line got closer.
“My whole goal was trying to finish, I wasn’t trying to set any record,” Schmitt said. “I just went for it.”
As Zisselman crossed the finish line, she felt uplifted by the cheers of her friends and family.
“I was so exhausted but it was also feelings of gratitude and happiness that I was able to accomplish something that I was trying to accomplish for a while.”
Joyce was proud of herself for achieving her goal as well, and would encourage any student who is thinking about completing a half or full marathon to try it.
“It’s definitely possible, trust your gut and go for it,” she said. “It takes a long time to build up endurance. I thought, ‘oh my gosh, how am I going to ever get to 13 if I’m just starting out running two?’ I would say it’s really cool to set a goal and finish it and know that your body is what made you accomplish it.”