Last year the heavens opened, the deluge began and the Mercedes-Benz Miami Corporate Run turned into a sopping-wet mess — perhaps tears from above, as race founder and co-director Hans Huseby had died the previous November and never got to celebrate the event’s 30th anniversary.
Then, a rainbow appeared during a tribute to Huseby by his wife and fellow director, Laurie, who excitedly shouted into the public address system, “Oh my God. What a day. But look at it now! You see that rainbow?”
At 6:45 p.m. Thursday in downtown Miami, there likely will be no rainbows, no puddles and no leaky running shoes in sunshine and temperatures expected to hit 80 degrees. But there will be more than 26,500 runners again competing in the 3.1-mile event that turns Bayfront Park into a festive city of hard-working, hard-playing employees.
“I’m not amazed,” said Laurie Huseby, when asked if she marvels at the massive field every year.
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“You go to a concert and there are people fighting in the corner. You go to a huge musical festival and trouble breaks out, or a stadium and people drink too much and become boisterous. Here, everybody is having a great time and for one night they’re really proud to be a part of their company.
“You don’t have that feeling all the time at work.’’
This year, employees from 860 companies are competing in 20 industry-related categories. And for the first time, the University of Miami, with 1,904 participants, has overtaken longtime race leader Baptist Health (1,140) as the largest team.
Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings just edged out Royal Caribbean Cruises, 507-499.
“Largest team, that’s pretty significant,’’ said Leah Harman, 38, the small-boat manager for marine operations at the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. “From the top down, this university always promotes health and well being and brought that culture to all of us.”
Harman was part of the 2015 winning UM coed team in the education division, finishing the 5K in 22:44. The Hurricanes swept in the education division, also winning for men and women.
“I treat it as a competitive race,’’ Harman said, “but I appreciate that the majority of people are there to have fun — and it really is fun.’’
UM subsidizes a portion of the $40 entry fee for faculty and staff, offers “Well Canes” points toward health insurance reimbursements, has a President’s Cup Challenge that presents an engraved traveling trophy to the sub-team within the UM umbrella that draws the most participants and promotes a UM T-shirt design contest that awards the winner with a $100 bookstore gift certificate and framed T-shirt signed by university president Julio Frenk.
“It’s a fantastic way for people to support wellness, show pride in their employer and connect with other professionals in the community,’’ said Jennifer Cohen, UM’s executive director of benefits.
Miami’s team, captained by Arnel San Pedro, also provides a tented massage station marked “Unwind,’’ a drink station marked “Hydrate’’ and a food station marked “Eat’’ — with baby back ribs, barbecued chicken, baked beans, corn on the cob and other options for vegetarians.
“I started running because of this race,” said Rosenstiel professor Falk Amelung, 52, who finished in 25:29 last year, ran his first half marathon this past January and will compete in the Miami Marathon in 2017.
Amelung will run Thursday with about eight researchers and graduate students who are studying the Cotopaxi Volcano in Ecuador.
“I was vacationing there three weeks ago and had a chance to run in an elevation of 3,800 meters,’’ said Amelung, who grew up in Germany. “Maybe that will help me beat some of my graduate students from Mexico.’’
This year, like last, a fireworks show at 8:30 p.m. will follow the awards ceremony.
“We are going to do the fireworks every year in honor of Hans,’’ Laurie Huseby said. “He always wanted to do them but said he could never get it beyond the executive committee. That’s me. You know how that is.’’