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Why They Run: Miami Marathon 2020 Profiles

We spoke to runners gearing up for the Life Time Miami Marathon and Half Marathon [1] on February 9 about what motivates and inspires them to run.

Alicia Cesaro: “You just need your sneakers.”

Alicia Cesaro and her daughter Lillian after a half marathon in December.

Alicia Cesaro, 30, admits she runs for fun. The Coral Gables resident grew up competing in various sports, including basketball and lacrosse, where running is part of the game. After college, she continued pursuing physical activity with regular participation in exercise classes at her local gym and ran in a few 10Ks. So, when the freelance fashion and beauty writer lived in Washington, D.C., a few years ago, the sights and great weather energized her to run regularly again. She ran in her first half marathon, part of the Rock ‘n Roll Marathon Series [2], there in April 2018.

“I never particularly enjoyed long-distance running,” Ms. Cesaro said. “But, I realized you can run any time without much planning. You just need your sneakers.”

Ms. Cesaro ran that first half marathon while in the second trimester of her pregnancy with her daughter Lillian, now 16 months old. With a race time of 2:12, she moved to South Florida with her husband the day after the race. She realized, though, running had given her time to clear her mind and get away from everything.

As she settled into her new life in Coral Gables and after the birth of Lillian, Ms. Cesaro looked to running to get her much needed “me time.” Again, the spontaneity of running appealed to her.

“With running, you can do it at any time. It’s not like an exercise class, where you have to plan ahead. If something happens, especially with a baby, you’re not forced to give it up, you just go at a later time.”

Ms. Cesaro has been training for the Miami Half Marathon by following a program on the Nike Run Club app. She runs three shorter distances a week, mostly around the Granada Golf Course in Coral Gables, and a longer distance on Saturdays. She also enjoys running along Miami Beach’s Boardwalk and in Coconut Grove.

In December, she ran in the Fitteam Palm Beaches Marathon and Half Marathon [3] in West Palm Beach with an upper respiratory infection and finished at 2:09. But for Ms. Cesaro, it’s not about her finish time.

“Running is something you can do anywhere, in any city. You just pick it up and go,” she said. “You can do it with friends or alone, and it’s a great way to explore a new place and de-stress. Get out of your head and pound the pavement.”


Daughter-Dad Duo Katy Coffield and Tony Patao: “Runner’s high is real.”

Tony Patao and Katy Coffield, along with Katy’s husband Ryan and children Camden, 3, and Emma, 1, after the Turkey Trot in November.

Katy Coffield remembers her first “long-distance” run as the mile she ran when she was 10 years old. Despite playing basketball and soccer in middle school, she returned to running as a high school student at Our Lady of Lourdes Academy in Miami, where she competed as a long-distance runner on the cross country and track teams. Seven years later, she ran her first Miami half marathon alongside her father Tony Patao.

Now 29, the Coral Gables mother of two and influencer marketer has again returned to running, even starting her own run club from Burn Boot Camp. She says she has been inspired by her father’s completion of 2,277 miles in competitive racing since his first marathon – the New York City Marathon [4] – in 2003. She and her dad will run the 13.1-mile course of the Life Time Miami Marathon and Half Marathon.

“I’m not myself if I haven’t exercised,” Ms. Coffield said. “Running makes me a better person.”

Mr. Patao agrees with his daughter. “My wife can tell when I haven’t run,” he said. “I’m usually in a bad mood when I don’t run.”

Mr. Patao, 58, has competed in 126 competitive races since that first marathon in New York. Eleven of those races have been at the Miami Marathon and Half Marathon. The Coral Gables-based financial executive has also completed in two Ironman races – one in Panama City, Florida in 2007, followed by another in Tempe, Arizona in 2008 – and a 50-mile ultra marathon through the Finger Lakes National Park in New York state.

His inspiration to start racing, he says, was his own father’s death from a heart attack at age 61. From that experience, Mr. Patao vowed to live a healthy lifestyle, including exercising regularly and focusing on good nutrition.

“I run with people half my age, so they can push me,” he said. “Usually, though, I’m the one pushing them.”

Mr. Patao also gets inspired by the 70- and 80-year-old runners he sees at the races. “If I can do that, that would be great,” he said. And as a five-time “Legacy Runner” in the Chicago Marathon [5], he’s on his way.

He and Ms. Coffield have set their sights on the New York City Marathon in November. Both would love to qualify and raise money to support charities that help mothers and children. She hopes to complete the Miami Half Marathon in less than 2:08, her time at her last race in West Palm Beach in December. Mr. Patao hopes to finish under 2:00, possibly beating his personal record (PR) of 1:40:32 from a race in 2007.

“I get a ‘runner’s high’,” Mr. Patao explains. “When you lace up your shoes and run 6 or 8 miles, when you’re finished, you have heightened mental acuity and the rush of endorphins. It helps you feel better and, I think, gets rid of bad toxins.”

Ms. Coffield admits she’s not always ready to run, but once she does, she says she experiences a “runner’s high” too. And that feeling helps her look forward to her next run. “It’s a mental game.”


Marcela Navarro: “Find what works for you.”

Marcela Navarro with her fiance Nick Reyes and son Andres.

“I’m not a runner,” Marcela Navarro, 31, admitted.

The software company client relationship professional says she enjoys working out at the gym and practicing yoga but, for her, running is physically challenging.

Nevertheless, the Southwest Miami-Dade County resident and mother of 16-month-old Andres will lace up her running shoes for her first-ever half marathon on February 9.

“I’m nervous, but I’m ready,” she said of the 13.1-mile race she plans to run with 16 other members of her family coming to Miami from as far away as Nicaragua to compete in the Life Time Miami Marathon and Half Marathon.

Ms. Navarro says those family members inspired and convinced her to run through a group chat they use to communicate with each other. Her sister ran a half marathon in New York a few months ago and her aunt, who lives in Virginia, committed to coming to Miami for the race. Joining them will be cousins and nieces.

“I told them if I could run five miles by the end of last month, I’d run the race,” she recalled.

She met her goal, and with some loving persuasion and accountability from her family, she has continued to train, running shorter runs during the week and long-distance runs on Saturdays, her longest an 11-mile run on Saturday.

“You have to have an open mind and be patient,” she said of the challenges she faces while running. “Find what works for you.”

For her, what has worked to overcome obstacles, like wanting to quit, is to listen to audiobooks and podcasts while she runs. She also enjoys the scenery, like that of the Old Cutler Road trail, where she has run some of her longer distances. Additionally, Ms. Navarro says she uses her yoga breathing and taps into her “yoga state of mind” to help keep her focused and tune out distractions.

She plans to go at her own pace during the half marathon and hopes to finish with a time of 2:30:00. Cheering her on from the sidelines of the course will be Andres and her fiancé Nick Reyes, whom she will marry in May.

 She’s looking forward to finishing and celebrating with her family. “I want to finish,” she said of her main goal. “I’ll be happy and proud.”