Ronnie Holassie has run hundreds of races during his life, but never shed a tear at the starting line.
Until Thursday evening, when he stood on Biscayne Boulevard, observed a moment of silence for the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing and contemplated the terror inflicted on his beloved sport.
Then Holassie, wearing a T-shirt imprinted with the words “Boston, we stand with you,” went out and made a 15-minute, 27-second statement in the 29th running of the Mercedes-Benz Corporate Run, an event he won for the 16th time.
“It was very emotional for me at the beginning,” he said. “But I really wanted to win this one to show how resilient we are.”
Holassie led a record field of 25,000 employees — teachers, bankers, lawyers, mechanics, plastic surgeons, Coast Guard officers, waiters, dental hygienists, dog walkers, car salesmen, real estate agents and pilots among them — for 3.1 miles through downtown in what is popularly known as Miami’s largest office party.
This year, 10 days after two brothers detonated homemade bombs near Boston’s finish line, killing three spectators and injuring more than 200, the show of solidarity encompassed not only workplace colleagues but anyone who has run elbow-to-elbow in a mass footrace.
“I wanted to be here even more than in the past because of what happened in Boston,” said Adam Goldstein, the Royal Caribbean International CEO who finished second in the male CEO division. “Runners especially feel that collegial bond. We share the pain.”
Piero Cecchi and Dusty Gerard Rhodes, bed transporters at Baptist Hospital in Kendall, said they felt not a trace of nervousness running for their team, the largest in the event with 2,400 participants.
“You can’t live scared or the only safe place would be under a rock or on an island,” Rhodes said.
Added Cecchi: “It’s really uplifting and motivating to see everyone here, enjoying each others’ company despite all the crazy threats out there, whether you’re going to a movie or a race.”
Holassie, 41, was undeterred. The Corporate Run is practically his signature event. He’s run it about 20 times (he’s lost count) — as a groom for Calder Race Course, as a veterinarian’s assistant, as owner of his auto detailing business and this year as a subcontractor for CBS4 television.
Holassie, a two-time Olympian for Trinidad and Tobago, was at the Atlanta Games when the bomb went off in Centennial Park. He was planning to run in his fourth Boston Marathon on April 15, but a hip injury forced him to withdraw.
“I could have been right there,” he said. “I had friends who finished in four hours. I was so angry last Monday. But today I was proud. Nothing can keep us down.”
The Miami police department asked people not to carry backpacks or gym bags and deployed extra officers. The bomb squad truck was parked near Bayfront Park. A helicopter hovered overhead, but security was not oppressive.
“The operation of the event could not have gone more smoothly,” said organizer Hans Huseby of Footworks. “There were extra units and they set up an emergency medical center, but they didn’t make it feel scary. We have a new reality and we’re adapting.”
Evan Dehart, who works for the construction management firm of Moss and Associates, finished second in 15:50 after winning the Fort Lauderdale Corporate Run three weeks ago. He, too, almost ran Boston this year after running it last year.
“The bombing was in the back of my mind — it was kind of like getting on an airplane after 9/11,” he said. “But it will not affect my enthusiasm for racing — it will only increase it. I felt like I was supporting a cause.”
Guadalupe Merlos, 31, who works for Best Meridian Insurance, was the top female in 19:37, and Romaine Seguin, 53, of UPS was the fastest female CEO (23:34).
All said a sense of strength linked the spectacular throng as it snaked through Miami’s streets.
“It’s so nice to see 25,000 people pushing forward for peace,” said Ricardo Mor, a teacher at the French-American School of Miami, whose team wore a shirt with a salute to Boston.
Ignacio Pakciarz, first in the CEO division (19:21), brought 28 employees from his Big Sur Partners wealth management firm on Brickell Avenue.
“We need to be unafraid and united,” he said. “The Corporate Run is a perfect symbol of that message.”