More than 28,000 expected for Miami Corporate Run (a.k.a. state’s largest office party)

More than 28,000 runners are registered for the 2017 Mercedes-Benz Miami Corporate Run, which overtakes downtown early Thursday evening.
More than 28,000 runners are registered for the 2017 Mercedes-Benz Miami Corporate Run, which overtakes downtown early Thursday evening. MIAMI HERALD

Miami’s 3.1-mile downtown office party — otherwise known as the Mercedes-Benz Miami Corporate Run — gets going at 6:45 p.m. Thursday for 28,100 participants from 850 companies.

The event, in its 33rd year, will take over Bayfront Park and the surrounding streets as runners/walkers do the 5K course and then celebrate in a massive 550-tent city that includes 1,609 tables, 7,380 chairs and all levels of catered feasts.

While it is considered a fun event for employee bonding and the promotion of healthy living, rivalries have developed over the years between some of South Florida’s largest companies.

There is the annual rivalry between Baptist Health and the University of Miami for largest team. Baptist had the most participants for many years; but last year, UM took top billing with a team of 1,904. Baptist was second with 1,140.

Determined not to let that happen again, Baptist captain Clara Lerma and her 12 “coaches” were super motivated to get employees and their families registered. They held pep rallies at various Baptist Health locations, had a new lime-green T-shirt designed and did more in-house promotions than in the past.

Their efforts paid off. Baptist reclaimed the No. 1 spot with 2,341 participants for the 2017 run. UM is a close second with 1,982. Baptist also boasts the two largest tents — 20 x 100 feet — where employees will be invited to “Stuff Your Pita” with shrimp, veggie and chicken caesar wraps provided by Deli Lane restaurant.

“It’s definitely a fun rivalry between us and UM,” Lerma said. “Baptist has been on top most years, but UM keeps us on our toes, that’s for sure. It’s such a great event, and very near and dear to the Baptist Health family.”

Another annual battle takes place between the cruise lines — Norwegian, Royal Caribbean and Carnival. For the second year in a row, Norwegian has the biggest team with 616. Royal Caribbean is next with 513, and Carnival is third with 500.

When the event began in 1985, as the Manny Hanny (Manufacturer’s Hanover Trust) corporate challenge, there were 1,300 entrants. Under the leadership of Laurie Huseby and her late husband Hans, longtime owners of the FootWorks running store in South Miami, the Corporate Run has exploded into one of the biggest corporate 5Ks in the nation.

Hans Huseby died in December 2014 at age 64. But the race lives on and now includes a fireworks show, something he always wanted.

Hans’ brother and sister, “Uncle Pete” and Jill, came down from Minnesota this year to help run the Miami Corporate run and its sister events in Palm Beach and Fort Lauderdale. Pete has worked in the construction business his whole life, so he was tasked with helping build the start and finish lines. Jill packed medals and helped with the tent city.

Both siblings used the phrase “blown away” to describe their impressions of the event their brother created three decades ago.

“I really get it now, how all-consuming it is to put this gigantic event on,” said Pete Huseby, Hans’ younger brother. “I used to always mark the dates of the runs on my calendar, so I would know when not to bug him. It is really inspiring to be here live and see what he was doing all those years, and what an amazing diverse extended family of people he had working with him.”

“It’s been amazing to be on the inside this year and see what my brother contributed to this community and what he and Laurie have built,” said Jill Huseby, Hans’ older sister. “I was out at Bayfront Park and just seeing all those tents … it’s mammoth. What an absolutely great way to keep my brother’s memory alive and for employees of all these companies to bond.”

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