The 28,000-strong Mercedes-Benz Corporate Run rocks downtown Miami

On Thurs., April 27, 2017 confetti rains down on more than 28,000 runners during the start of the 33rd Mercedes-Benz Miami Corporate Run in downtown Miami's Bayfront Park.
On Thurs., April 27, 2017 confetti rains down on more than 28,000 runners during the start of the 33rd Mercedes-Benz Miami Corporate Run in downtown Miami's Bayfront Park. cjuste@miamiherald.com

A moving, breathing city with legs churning, arms pumping and vibrant T-shirts creating a kaleidoscope of color rumbled down Biscayne Boulevard tiny step by tiny step Thursday night, waiting to break free.

The 33rd running of the Mercedes-Benz Miami Corporate Run drew an event-record 28,104 men and women from 846 companies and proved that South Florida loves a party — even if it makes you sweat.

John Hinkle, 30, a first-year resident at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine’s Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, outran them all in 15 minutes 46 seconds to win the wildly popular 3.1-mile spin that began in 1985 as the Manufacturers Hanover Corporate Challenge.

Kelly Lamb, 25, a Miami tax consultant with Deloitte, led the 15,088-strong women’s field in 18:44.

“This was fun, huge, a very impressive 5K — like the size of a marathon,’’ said Hinkle, a future ophthalmologist who grew up on a horse farm in Shelbyville, Kentucky, ran cross-country and track for Yale and went to Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. “Everyone here approached it in their own way. Some people were out here to run fast, some people were out here to have fun. I’ve never seen anything like this. It’s like a running state fair.”

The field was so huge that Hinkle, who competed with three other residents, crossed the finish before hundreds still hadn’t reached the start. But despite being among that massive field, Hinkle ran the entire race alone in the lead.

“You just try not to get caught,’’ he said.

Also running alone up front for the first time in the Corporate Run: Lamb, a native Coloradan who moved to Miami more than a year ago and was a seven-time All-American in cross-country and track at Adams State University.

“It was intimidating,’’ Lamb said of the field, packed together like sardines in 81-degree heat and 82-percent humidity. “I’ve never been in a race this big.”

Baptist Health was back to being the largest team with 2,341 participants, followed by the University of Miami with 1,982 and Norwegian Cruise Line’s 616. Even the CEOs competed, 222 in all.

David Martin, 34, a Miami Beach lifeguard from Hollywood, finished second overall in 16:16.

Guadalupe Merlos, 35, a Best Meridian Insurance senior accountant who led all women in 2016 in 19:10, was the women’s runner-up Thursday in 19:51. Merlos said she had to be careful “not to stumble over other people’s feet.

“But as a runner it’s so much fun to help promote a better lifestyle for your co-workers. It’s about sharing health and knowing that we are capable of more than we thought.”

As usual, Bayfront Park — ground zero for the event — was swathed in white with 550 tents, some of them massive, under which participants and their families partied and played and feasted on an elaborate array of food.

Race director Laurie Huseby, 65, who owns FootWorks running store in South Miami, co-founded the Corporate Run — now a three-city series — with her late husband, Hans. She said she never imagined the race would get to this point, including a fireworks show afterward in honor of Hans.

“But we knew it was a winning combination because everybody has such a great time,’’ Huseby said. “Hans used to say that ‘it’s people’s first step to fitness.’ The bosses are out there having a great time with their employees. And people realize, ‘Oh, I can do this on a regular basis.’

“This is better than the Christmas office party. Do they even exist anymore? I used to say that the mailroom guys compete against the CEOs. But I don’t think there are mailrooms either.’’

The race awards medals to the top men’s, women’s and coed teams (four runners apiece, as submitted by team captains after the event) in 20 industry-related categories. But don’t expect the race to grow.

“We really are at capacity,’’ Huseby said. “We can’t have any more entrants than we’ve had.’’

She paused a few seconds to reconsider.

“There might be a couple areas we can add a few tents.”

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