Participants of Mercedes-Benz Fort Lauderdale Corporate Run ready to bond once again

Members of the Ultimate Software team pose for a photo after the 2013 corporate run in Fort Lauderdale.
Members of the Ultimate Software team pose for a photo after the 2013 corporate run in Fort Lauderdale.
Roger A. Rodriguez / For the Miami Herald


Former U.S. Sen. George LeMieux will run the streets of Fort Lauderdale on Thursday night.

It’s probably a lot more fun than running for political office.

LeMieux, chairman of the board of Gunster Law Firm, will join a capacity field of 7,000 at 6:45 p.m. in the Mercedes-Benz Fort Lauderdale Corporate Run.

“I would say it’s more jogging than running in my case,’’ said LeMieux, 44, who expects to run a 9- to 10-minute-a-mile pace for the 3.1-mile course that begins near Huizenga Plaza at 32 East Las Olas Boulevard.

The event, produced by TeamFootWorks in Miami, awards medals to the fastest overall men’s, women’s and coed teams (each team has four runners), as well as in 19 industry-related categories. The overall male and female also win awards, though those runners must be actively employed by a registered corporation.

Fort Lauderdale’s race is the first of an annual three-city series that continues April 16 in West Palm Beach and ends April 24 with the 25,000-strong Miami Corporate Run.

“It’s great for team building and camaraderie in the office — and great for the community,’’ said LeMieux, who also will be representing his law firm in the CEO category. “Like any business, in a law firm you’re working hard trying to get things done, and often it can be too frenetic to have an opportunity to do something with our team members outside the office. This is good for our health and a really nice event outdoor event in beautiful South Florida.’’

Last year it wasn’t so beautiful. About an hour before the race began, an intense storm moved through Fort Lauderdale, sending a deluge of rain and heavy winds onto the course. There was a tornado watch, and race directors Laurie and Hans Huseby worked with police and firefighters to decide whether to cancel.

“It was nerve-racking,’’ Laurie Huseby said. “But five minutes before the start, the rain stopped. Only about 3,500 people showed up out of 7,000 registered.’’

Joe Perez, a solution consultant in the sales department for Ultimate Software, was one of them. Perez finished fourth in the men’s field in 17 minutes 26 seconds, leading his Weston-based firm to second place in its coed “communications’’ division and first place among men in the communications division.

“It changed the dynamics of the race completely,’’ said Perez, 35, who grew up in Miami Springs. “Not only could nobody warm up, but there were stretches of the course where you were running through four inches of puddles. And the entire mile-and-a-half stretch running back to the finish line was into a headwind.

“But what I love about the Fort Lauderdale course is that it allows the runners to spread out very quickly, which in turn allows people to get good times. Mostly what I love is that it brings health and wellness to your daily corporation. We have groups of individuals that train together three or four times a week.’’

Ultimate Software, captained by Mabel Cabrera, has the largest team in the Fort Lauderdale race — 320 runners and walkers.

“We have a big initiative for wellness,” Cabrera said. “I’ve had people over the years tell me we started with the Corporate Run and now we’re doing marathons. It has turned out to be the start of something great for them.”

LeMieux’s Gunster Law Firm is one of several companies that enter all three Corporate Run events.

“The evening is so delightful and our company is wonderful with what they do with health initiatives,’’ said Gunster team captain Mary Hargreaves, who ran in her first Corporate Run in 2001. “I had never run five minutes before that.’’

Gunster, like many companies, pays for all its employees’ registration fees, a team T-shirt and post-race refreshments that include sushi.

“We don’t have that many fast runners,’’ she said, “but the whole experience is just so cool.’’

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