Fort Lauderdale Mercedes-Benz Corporate Run

Plantation’s Henley, Boca Raton’s Ernest-Jones win their divisions in Fort Lauderdale Mercedes-Benz Corporate Run

Alice Henley spends her days soaking in the surf and sun — and saving lives.

“I work 9 to 5,” Henley said, “but it’s unlike any other 9-to-5 job in the world.”

Eddie Ernest-Jones spends his days managing a running store in Boca Raton.

“I guess I know a thing or two about running,” Jones said with a grin.

On Thursday night, Dania Beach lifeguard Henley and running aficionado Ernest-Jones of The Runner’s Edge worked overtime to take their talents to the streets of Fort Lauderdale in winning their divisions of the Mercedes-Benz Fort Lauderdale Corporate Run.

Ernest-Jones, 37, was the overall winner in a 5K field that drew 6,817 registrants. He finished the 3.1-mile race in 15 minutes 33 seconds, nearly a half-minute faster than runner-up Evan DeHart (15:58), who won the race the previous two years.

Henley, 25, won the women’s title for the second year in a row, this time in 18:39, and finished nearly a minute ahead of Marlene Persson, 43, of Lighthouse Point.

Accompanying Henley were six other bronze-bodied lifeguards, five of them men. She said before the race that she was recuperating from “stress fractures and pretty much you name it,” and that she would treat the competition as “a fun run.”

But she turned fun into fearsome.

“Once the gun goes off whether you’re injured or not it’s just like doing a rescue,” said Henley, who lives in Plantation. “It doesn’t matter if it’s cold or if it’s rough — instinct kicks in. I use running for work and work for running. Sand, sun, salt — it’s a good life.”

She said the race was challenging because there are participants of all types and fitness levels, and the streets are packed with humanity. “You have to work very hard to get through the crowd,” she said. “I was blown away with my time because I wasn’t expecting it.”

Ernest-Jones lived the first 10 years of his life in Scotland near Edinburgh before moving to Coral Springs and developing into an All-Southeastern Conference runner for the University of Florida. He’s still a British citizen, and spent the past seven years in Boise, Idaho, before returning to South Florida in July.

“The Corporate Run is great because it gets a lot of people out running in a festive event with a good feel to it,” he said. “It’s just super cool running through a big city.”

Huizenga Plaza was filled with thousands of participants from the 276 teams represented. Most of them were under tents filled with feasts that ranged from sushi to sub sandwiches to chicken wings to veggie platters — and so much more. Team OneKreate, an e-commerce photography, video, design and technology company from Hollywood, even hired chefs to whip up homemade crepes.

“We like employee activities and team building,” Annie Patten said. “We call each other the family of one.”

Representing the CEO division were winners Robert Coward, 49, of Sunrise, who works for Sheridan and finished in 21:25; and Anne Vasquez, 39, of Davie, who listed as her employer and finished in 25:04.

Corporate Run organizers will announce Friday the winning men’s, women’s and coed teams in 20 industry-related categories, as well as the overall winning teams (four members each).

“It has been a beautiful evening,” said race co-director Hans Huseby of TeamFootWorks in Miami. “The weather cooperated. The runners and walker are just high as a kite, as in very, very happy, because there’s something magical about that shared experience of covering five kilometers with your coworkers.”

The Mercedes-Benz Corporate Run series continues April 16 at the Meyer Amphitheatre in West Palm Beach. It concludes with the 25,000-strong Miami Corporate Run on April 24 at Bayfront Park.

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