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21-Thousand Run/Walk ING Miami Marathon

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MIAMI (CBS4) – Thousands of runners from South Florida and from across the nation took off at the crack of dawn Sunday morning in the ING Miami Marathon and Half-Marathon in downtown Miami.

So what could motivate so many people to get up so early on a Sunday morning.

“I don’t know, this is crazy,” said runner John Marshall.

The race began around 6:20 a.m. in front of the AmericanAirlines Arena.  The course headed north and continued through Miami Beach, Downtown Miami, Little Havana, Coconut Grove, and Coral Gables before returning downtown for a finish at Bayfront Park.

Organizers said approximately 21,500 runners and walkers participated in the eighth annual event which featured a full marathon course and a half marathon course.

“We’re from various areas,” said Daniel Silvermantz as he pointed at the numbers pinned to the other runner’s shirts.  “New York, California, Israel.”

“I’ve talked to some people who said ‘We look for any excuse to come down to Miami and this is a really good excuse’,” said Miami-Dade Commissioner Jose “Pepe” Diaz.

In addition to the runners and walkers, physically challenged athletes also took part in the marathon using everything from recumbent bikes to skateboards. Friends, family and curious spectators lined the 26.2 mile course to cheer them all on.

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Because of the scope of marathon, several major roads in Miami and Miami Beach were closed to traffic during the event and re-opened shortly after noon.

“This weekend we have like a $30 million impact on the economy in the city of Miami,” said Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado.

With each passing year, the ING Miami Marathon is becoming a premier running event.

“The added element is the kids, we have the run at 11 O’ clock and that’s something we don’t do in any other marathon,” said Rob O’Leary, CEO of ING U.S.A.

Miami resident Willie Schefer was among first to cross the finish line.

“I just ran with the pack.  It was awesome.  The environment was great, a lot of fun out here,” said Schefer.

“I’m absolutely exhausted,” said Laura Ridge. “But I got the time I wanted, so I am happy.”

Tesfaye Alemayehu from Ethiopia placed first in the full marathon in just under 2 hours and 13 minutes.  Kumsa Adunga won the half marathon in 1 hour and 7 minutes.

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