South Florida

Think I-95 is bad? You should see the gridlock in the Corporate Run

A crowd of runners flooded Biscayne Boulevard at the start line as the Mercedes-Benz Corporate Run celebrated its 31st anniversary of health and wellness with a record-breaking 26,000 registered runners in 2016.
A crowd of runners flooded Biscayne Boulevard at the start line as the Mercedes-Benz Corporate Run celebrated its 31st anniversary of health and wellness with a record-breaking 26,000 registered runners in 2016. pportal@miamiherald.com

On your marks, get set, stop!

Or, go, but only for about 10 yards before you must slam on the brakes to avoid a rear-end collision or slalom through an obstacle course.

Rush hour on I-95? No, it’s the annual Mercedes-Benz Corporate Run in downtown Miami, where very little running actually takes place.

The event that starts at 6:45 p.m. Thursday on Biscayne Boulevard has grown to 28,000 participants from 900 companies funneling through a dense grid of streets, most of them walking and talking with their colleagues while blocking the impatient runners behind them.

It used to be a race. Now it’s gridlock.

It’s still a marvelous mobile office party that promotes camaraderie and fitness. It’s a Miami institution which concludes with a celebration in Bayfront Park. But the city’s most popular 5K does not have to be a bumper-to-bumper experience that replicates the agony on our highways. If only participants would follow the common-sense rules of etiquette that apply to any road race or mass event.

“Let’s put the fun back in run and be considerate,” said Josh Liebman, a veteran of the Corporate Run and of 101 marathons.

The main problem is that participants do not line up at the start according to their projected pace. Fast in front in descending order to slow in back.

When the gun goes off and a wall of walkers impedes flow, a traffic jam ensues.

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Dawn Rodriguez does the Miami Corporate Run in a tutu in 2013. PATRICK FARRELL MIAMI HERALD

Footworks, the South Miami store that is the cradle of running in South Florida, has nurtured the event through its growing pains. Organizers spend hours erecting the starting-line corrals marked with signs displaying mile pace times of six minutes, seven minutes, eight minutes and up. It’s an honor system: Line up with those who run or walk at your speed.

But participants either ignore the signs (some runners anticipate that people lining up in front of them have also ignored them, so they enter a faster corral) or, because they are novices, don’t understand them.

Team leaders should enforce the corral system or suffer the chaotic consequences. Walkers ambling at a 25-minute pace or those who want to socialize for 3.1 miles start at the back of the pack.

“The top runners are finishing in 15-16 minutes, way before everyone has even crossed the starting line because it takes a good 30 minutes to get everyone across,” Liebman said. “Some people don’t want to wait so they just move up.”

In the future, Footworks may consider implementing a wave start, in which groups would start in two-minute intervals.

Rachel Tezanos, who will be part of Baptist Health South Florida’s gigantic team, is walking with office mates.

“I’m not in love with the crowds and don’t want to get trampled,” she said. “We’ll start in back and have a good time going at a comfortable pace.”

After the start, basic etiquette applies on the course. Stay to the right and allow room for people to pass on the left.

“Say ‘on your left,’ ‘excuse me’ and ‘thank you,’” Liebman said. “Be conscious of your surroundings.”

Instead of stopping abruptly to take a breather, causing a chain reaction of collisions and curses behind you, bear right and get out of the way.

Don’t walk six abreast in the middle of the street.

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Participants cheer as they make their way to the starting line of the Mercedes-Benz Corporate Run. CARL JUSTE MIAMI HERALD STAFF

“People are walking and chatting shoulder to shoulder, don’t have rear-view mirrors and don’t realize the slowdown in their wake,” said Liebman, who is director of training programs for Footworks, and also a South Miami commissioner who campaigned with the motto “Running For You.”

“We tell people to run single file or walk no more than two abreast.

“If the walkers were more spread out they wouldn’t affect the flow so adversely.”

But because of the clumps and stoppages, runners progress haltingly “and end up running side to side as much as they run forward,” Liebman said. “They’re jumping up on curbs to avoid blockages.”

It’s the Corporate Run Zig Zag.

No one expects to run a personal best in the Corporate Run. But there are corporate rivals who compete to win.

“The most important thing is to be kind, courteous, aware of others,” Liebman said. “But this is Miami.”

But this is Miami. We all know what that means. Kindness, courtesy and especially awareness are qualities of coexistence in short supply here.

Thursday’s Corporate Run presents a perfect opportunity to foster a cooperative spirit.

Workers unite! Share the road.

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