Race director Laurie Huseby promised that the 30th anniversary of the Mercedes-Benz Miami Corporate Run would be memorable.
So memorable, it turned out, that Miami Corporate Swim might have been more appropriate.
As the skies unleashed one deluge after another Thursday evening in downtown Miami, thousands of sopping-wet runners and walkers nonetheless assembled at Bayfront Park to party — then run their 3.1 miles so they could party again.
That included winner Bret Fransen, 33, an information technology specialist at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Miami Beach and former University of South Dakota runner who crossed the finish in 15 minutes 22 seconds.
“Really cool race!” Fransen said, incredulous that 27,601 competitors from 888 companies entered the run, making it the largest 5K in the Southeast. “Oh, my goodness. Tons of people, lots of rain and still very well organized. There were so many of us here for the same reason: health and fitness and getting out of the office to do something together besides work.”
Aimee Nielsen, 31, a race ambassador for Live Ultimate, won the women’s title in 18:35.
Strangely enough, the downpour gradually ended about 15 minutes before the 6:45 p.m. race began, then again turned into torrents about a minute after Fransen finished.
Abdellah Riahi, 20, of France placed second in 15:46.
“It’s just water,” assured Eddie Suarez, who handled registration for the 5K, which drew a field so massive that FootWorks had to shut it down in late March. “We’re like kids playing in the rain.”
Huseby, 63 — who gave a touching tribute to her late husband, Hans, the Corporate Run founder and co-director who died last November — also downplayed the weather.
“No bigee,” she said. “You get soaked. So what?”
Around the time Huseby gave her tribute, a rainbow appeared beyond the 550 tents that filled nearly ever muddy crevice in the park. “Oh, my God. What a day,” she said. “But look at it now! You see that rainbow?”
The rain likely scared some from running, but the fun-seekers wearing a kaleidoscope of bright, clever T-shirts promoting their companies prevailed. They feasted on elaborate spreads under their tents. They played beer pong, sang through the downpour and danced to blasting pop music for pre-race stretching and post-race imbibing.
“The Chamber of Commerce officially calls this liquid sunshine!” shouted master of ceremonies Dave Ragsdale from a giant stage in the park.
“Rain’s not going to stop us,” said Eli Cruz, 29, of South Miami, a solutions specialist for Verizon. “If anything, it’s refreshing. It’s such a great time to get together with your peers. We talk crap to each other, but we push each other, too. I’m sure there will be plenty of bragging in emails this week.”
Cruz’s boss, Verizon Wireless regional president Mariano Legaz, 43, of Lutz, Florida, was the top CEO in 20:04.
“I love this,” Legaz said. “The beauty of this series is that it’s not about your finishing time or place, it’s about being one with your co-workers and sharing with your team.”
Raeah Braunschweiger, 25, of the 1,458-strong University of Miami group, won the women’s CEO title in 21:46.
The race, which gave out commemorative 30th anniversary medals to each finisher, awards plaques to the fastest four-person men’s, women’s and coed teams in several industry-related categories.
Also running were Florida’s top two finishers in Monday’s Boston Marathon. Bryan Huberty of Miami Beach finished sixth in 16:22. Right behind him, as he was at Boston, was Sharkey in 16:42, good for 10th.
“My legs hurt very much,” Sharkey said. “But I had to come out and support the Corporate Run, Carnival Cruise Lines and Laurie.”
After the awards ceremony, participants were treated to a 10-minute fireworks show.
“I felt like Hans was there,” Suarez said.