Billed as the “Florida’s Largest Office Party,” the 34th annual Miami Corporate Run drew 28,265 participants from 850 companies to the heart of downtown Miami late Thursday afternoon.
The balmy weather was perfect for the 3.1-mile race, which included 193 CEOs. A seemingly-endless collection of runners, joggers and walkers of all ages, shapes, sizes and athletic ability crammed onto the start line at the corner of Biscayne Blvd. and S.E. First Street.
The first to cross the finish line for the second year in a row was 31-year-old John Hinkle, representing the University of Miami, which had the second largest team with 2,190 participants.
Thirty-six-year-old Guadelupe Merlos became a three-time women’s winner, coming in as the top finisher among the 15,210 women in the race in18:40. Merlos, a 36-year-old accountant for the Chopard watch company, was the runner-up last year.
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There was some confusion at the finish line because it appeared Brittney Waters, a 31-year-old substitute teacher and coach at Gulliver Schools, might have won; but in order to qualify, runners must be full-time employees of their companies and she is part-time.
Hinkle is a resident at UM’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute and training to be an opthalmologist. The Shelbyville, Kentucky, native ran cross country and distance track events at Yale University and attended medical school at the University of Pennsylvania. His winning time was 14 minutes, 13 seconds.
“There was more pressure this year because I won last year,” said Hinkle, who lives in Shenandoah. “But the buildup was fun, and this race is fun because you’re running through the streets and the people are lined up cheering for you. When you get tired, they yell for you, and that makes you want to go faster and push yourself a little more.”
He said it a different kind of rewarding representing a company than a school.
“When you’re on a track team, like for a high school or college, everyone’s a runner and everyone’s doing the same thing,” he said. “When you’re on a team like this where everyone knows each other from work, not running, they’re all just excited to get out here and do their best and when they hear you can run fast they’re excited for you.”
He trains on Thursday morning with other colleagues, including Nathan Scott, who finished second and was a decathlete at Tufts University.
Merlos grew up in Indiana and has been running since high school. She ran for Vincennes University in Indiana and St. Thomas University in Miami Gardens. She has run every Corporate Run since 2010, and last won in 2016. She trains six days a week in Key Biscayne and other parts of Miami.
“I wasn’t expecting to win because I am coming off a plantars fasciitis injury on my left foot and you never know which fast runners show up from other companies,” she said. “After the first two miles, I felt good and felt like I could win.”
She said winning the Corporate Run is special “because you’re not just running for yourself, you have your company’s name on your shirt, so you are representing a whole company and that makes winning even better because it’s for our whole team.”
The fastest runner in the CEO category was Jaime Miguel, 41, of Intradeco. His finished the race in 18:05. Geoffrey Pool, 35, of Biscayne Bay Pilots was second in 18:52. The top female CEO was Romaine Seguin 58, of UPS in a time of 21:28. Lourdes Solera, 54, of MCHarry and Associates was second.
The two companies with the biggest teams — and the bayside tents with the best views — were Baptist Health South Florida and UM. Baptist had a race-high 2,709 participants and its tent area was decorated with the company’s trademark pineapples. The UM hospitality area featured orange and green tablecloths and streamers.
Rounding out the Top Ten were Royal Caribbean (540), Carnival (512), Miami-Dade County (363), Jackson Health (305), World Fuel Services (270), Mercantil Bank (228), Citi (220), and Gables Engineering (193).
The event is open to employees of businesses of all kinds, government agencies, financial institutions and non-profits. The goal is to promote health and camaraderie in the workplace, and there is no question there was plenty of fraternizing going on in the tents after the race.
Companies offered catered meals to their employees, and beverages of all types flowed. The evening ended with a firework show over Biscayne Bay.