Alex Gutierrez, a former pro bike racer, knows all about human stampedes. So he will not be intimidated when he joins 25,000 other runners and walkers Thursday in the 29th annual Mercedes-Benz Corporate Run in downtown Miami.
“In cycling it gets pretty cutthroat when you approach the finish,” Gutierrez said. “At least in running there’s no risk of a massive pileup and going home with road rash.”
In fact, the main point of the 3.1-mile Corporate Run is not to win but to share good times with colleagues outside the workplace through collaborative fitness. The city’s largest office party includes a picnic in Bayfront Park after the race.
Among the record number of 884 companies entered this year is J and B Importers, a bicycle company where Gutierrez is purchasing manager. J and B, which designs Sun bicycles, builds wheels and sells bike parts to shops around the country, fields a team that has grown to 24, with Gutierrez leading the way. He paced his CEO to a personal best in 2012.
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“But we’ve learned that it’s not a race for running a fast time,” Gutierrez’s co-worker Chad Schmele said. “You spend the first mile dodging people.
“It’s really about a healthy lifestyle and camaraderie away from the desks where we sit 10 hours a day.”
Gutierrez and Schmele, who sit next to each other in the Kendall office, were cyclists first. They’ve adopted running as an alternative sport.
Gutierrez, 47, is now running 25 miles a week and cycling twice a month. He used to be a pro cyclist at the elite level competing in road races, criteriums, track races, mountain bike events and cyclocross. From 2000 to 2008 he raced for the Aerospace Engineering team and was state criterium and pursuit champion. Now he satisfies his competitive itch in 5Ks and half marathons.
“After so many years of the same thing — get up at 5 a.m. to do the two-hour ride before work and long rides on the weekends — I wanted a change,” he said. “Running is different. It doesn’t require so much time, but it does require more endurance. You also have to be more in tune with your body and its aches and pains.”
Schmele, 39, grew up in bike-friendly Oregon. Now he does 40- to 60-mile rides on the weekends and commutes to work every day on his bike.
“I used to ride to work when I was young and didn’t have a car,” he said. “There’s really no reason not to in Miami, although it did take a while to get used to the traffic and the lack of bike lanes.”
J and B pays Schmele $4 a day to commute in its effort to be a green company and reduce reliance on fossil fuels.
“That pays for my car insurance,” he said.
Schmele is a buyer for J and B, which imports parts from Asia and sells a line of beach cruisers and recumbent bikes.
“Cycling and running use different muscle groups, so it’s like cross training,” he said. “Cycling to me is less stressful on your body. Running is a more efficient workout.”
And the Corporate Run?
“It’s about being fit,” he said. “But mostly it’s a way of thinking about work as fun.”