Sebastian the Ibis had lost his mojo and gotten “weak in the beak,” as depicted in “A Stronger U” video that University of Miami events planner Edyna Garcia conceived for her alma mater.
Garcia’s motive: to spur more UM employees to register for the 25,600-entrant Mercedes-Benz Miami Corporate Run at 6:45 p.m. Thursday on Biscayne Boulevard.
“Sebastian is getting negative feedback that he has lost his spunk and just not cheering like he used to,” Garcia said of the Hurricanes mascot depicted in the video. “He’s sitting in the locker room hearing voices and seeing negative press clippings. But he starts working out to transform himself.”
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Not only does UM’s good-natured mascot get in shape, he ultimately appears in front of the school’s Herbert Wellness Center with a super hero’s cape and takes off into the sky.
UM’s participation in the Miami Corporate Run has also soared, going from 449 employees three years ago to 1,038 Thursday in the 5K run that encourages corporate camaraderie and physical fitness. And if team captain Garcia and UM maintenance mechanic and Corporate Run aficionado David Siqueiros have their way, the Canes’ entries will keep skyrocketing until Miami’s team surpasses Baptist Health South Florida.
“Next year we’re going to beat them,” vowed Siqueiros, who on his own has recruited more than 160 employees to sign up for this year’s event and help make UM the second-biggest company (of about 850 total) represented Thursday. “What’s cool about our team is you get people from different departments coming together and networking. While we’re training and walking around UM, we’re getting a vibe about our campus and seeing buildings being built. We have a better connection and understanding about the university and each other.”
Bring on the competition, says Baptist Health captain leah Holzwarth, 46, corporate director for Wellness Advantage, the employee wellness program.
“We have our own zip code,” Holzwarth boasted of Baptist Healths’ massive area inside Bayfront Park, where 1,867 Corporate Run participants mostly from the company’s six hospitals and various outpatient facilities will party and feast under two giant tents. “We’ll give [UM] a couple years to try to catch up but I’m not going to be stressed out about it. We’ve got this. Let them give it a good go.”
Baptist Health’s Corporate Run participation numbers have been decreasing in the past couple years, down from what Holzwarth said in 2012 was a one-time high of 3,500, at that point spiked by employees’ opportunities “to get a little extra money in the paycheck at the end of the year” through a wellness incentive program.
Like UM, Baptist Health still gives employee incentives for meeting certain health standards.
Both employers subsidize a portion of the $40 race fee, provide racers with specially designed company T-shirts and throw a post-race party at Bayfront with lots of food.
“The energy of all these people doing something active together is so positive,” Holzwarth said of downtown Miami overflowing with upbeat folks. “It’s amazing.”
Baptist Health has walking, running, swimming and cycling training groups. It also has a traveling trophy for the entity within the company that has the most Corporate Run participants.
UM has its Well Canes fitness program, and also has a traveling trophy for the most involved department. UHealth Sports Medicine representatives will be on site to treat minor injuries to racers.
“I typically would have never walked together with co-workers,” said UM advancement department administrative assistant Manuela Arrebola, who trains for the event three times a week with her peers. “We’ve gotten to know each other on a personal level and it has brought us closer. Now we have more to talk about than just work.”
Thursday’s 5K, produced by TeamFootWorks in Miami, is the final event of a three-race series. Registration is closed, with the race drawing its biggest field since it started in 1985 as the Manufacturers Hanover Corporate Challenge.
Bayfront Park is stuffed with 486 tents – “by far the most we’ve ever had,” race co-director Laurie Huseby said. “We’ve got to make sure everyone gets across the start line before the first runner finishes.
“If you lose your race number you’re not getting another one, because we just don’t have any left.”
Her husband, co-director Hans Huseby, is just elated that the race continues to thrive.
“It reaffirms what we’ve been saying for years – the Mercedes-Benz Corporate Run can do wonderful things for your employees: camaraderie, team spirit, better health for the individual and team,” he said.
“A little bit of fitness goes a long way.”
CORPORATE RUN DETOURS START 2 P.M.
The actual race time is 6:45 p.m. to 8:45 p.m., but detours and lane closures in downtown Miami will begin at 2 p.m. to prepare for the 25,000-plus expected participants who will begin arriving at 4 p.m. As the last participants pass and the Miami Police Department deems it safe, most streets will re-open to traffic between 7:30 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. Participants are encouraged to take advantage of Metrorail and Metromover.