Luis Orta repeats as men’s winner in the Tropical 5K race as part of marathon weekend

Instead of his normal training run in preparation for the upcoming World Cross Country Championships, Luis Orta entered and easily won his second consecutive Life Time Tropical 5K in Miami Saturday morning.

Orta is a former University of Kentucky distance runner (2009-2013) and 2016 Venezuelan Olympic marathoner who is in town for the race weekend with runners from his “My Olympic Coach” company. He coaches nearly 50 of them who will participate in Sunday’s Life Time Miami Marathon and Half through Downtown Miami, Miami Beach and Coconut Grove.

Saturday’s race was the warm-up event and Orta made it easy pickings in a time of 15:25, 59 seconds faster than runner-up Roger Reyes of Hialeah.

“[The race] was easy. It was not complicated, just straight forward,” Orta said. “It was a little bit windy, but all good.”

The first woman to cross the finish line on the 72-degree blustery morning was duathalon dynamo Monica Doval (20:45) of Fort Lauderdale. The 44-year-old Peru native, who became an American citizen in 2019, entered the Tropical 5K as a training run — for Sunday’s half-marathon and ultimately her upcoming World Duathlon Championships in April.

“It was so nice. I had no idea I would win,” said the married mother of a 5-year-old son. “The race was smooth, but windy as hell. I kept saying ‘Don’t push me around so hard.’ ”

Andrea Suarez of Puerto Rico (21:30) was second.

The early morning point-to-point race from Watson Island to the southern tip of South Beach was also a conquest for Miami Ju Jitsu fighter Benjamin Kunzle, a 24-year-old who became a quadriplegic last year when he suffered a freak training accident. Kunzle was able to make it to the finish line of his first race on a hand-cycle in 32:51 despite a struggle with the steep MacArthur Causeway bridge. He finished second in the category.

The course included 3.1 miles of water-lined views, including the scenic MacArthur with its backdrop of gleaming cruise ships docked at the Port of Miami. The field of 3,000 runners made their way through Miami Beach before heading to the finish line in front South Beach’s famed Joe’s Stone Crab Restaurant.

Orta, 33, hosted his company’s booth at the weekend Expo in addition to running Saturday. In two weeks, he will be off to Australia to run in the upcoming Cross Country World Championships.

“It’s a very busy week for me,” the Boulder, Colorado, resident said. “I’m growing my company, which is what I am focusing on right now. I’m not just an athlete now. I need to make a living outside of my running. The time to do it is now.”

Doval appreciates each day she is able to compete. Last February she was run over by a spooked horse during the Gravel Miami biking event. The horse reared as the pack of bikes passed, coming down on Doval. Her left calf was crushed and the animal’s hooves made contact with her face and neck. The ensuing fall produced injuries that required surgery.

Five months later, Doval competed as part of Team USA in the duathlon World Championships in Romania. She is participating in her first Miami Marathon weekend.

“I was nervous because I had no idea what to expect,” said Doval, who is director of operations for Global Fitness Educators and also a personal trainer. “It’s a beautiful course and it was great weather. I’m just enjoying life each day. I’m always thankful. I’m ready to run [Sunday].”