By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer
Three months ago, Grete Waitz visited Syracuse to launch the 1997 Chase Corporate Challenge Race. She urged corporate workers to start a fitness program to prepare for the 3.5-mile race, and to live a healthy life. At 6:25pm tomorrow evening, Grete will sound the starting horn, and send a colorful sea of runners on their way.
Three months ago, Laurie heeded Grete's message. She started a jogging program, and convinced fellow workers to join her. A banker with a busy schedule, Laurie walked and jogged during her lunch break. Gradually, she increased her workout to 30 minutes. Tomorrow, she will line up for the start of her first road race.
As Laurie begins her final preparations, she reviews the safety bulletin included in her race package. Heat is foremost on her mind, so she drinks plenty of water. She avoids coffee and alcohol in the last 24 hours. She takes a day of rest from running and plans a good night's sleep. Tomorrow, she will wear light colored and loose fitting clothing. She will eat a light breakfast and lunch, and a fat-free snack in the afternoon.
With 5,386 runners representing 293 companies, the 1997 Chase Corporate Challenge will be Syracuse's largest road running event ever. In its 16th year, the Syracuse race is the only race in the Corporate Challenge Series that has grown every year. One in every 75 residents in the Metropolitan Syracuse area will be competing, giving us the best ratio of runner participation in the Series.
Since parking at the race site is limited, and the Onondaga Lake Parkway will be closed to regular traffic between 4:30pm and 8:00pm tomorrow, Laurie will share a ride to the Carousel Center, and take advantage of the free shuttle bus to the start at Griffin Field.
In preparing Laurie for a new experience, I shared with her my concern over a serious matter than can turn the race into a rage. In past years, many walkers and inexperienced runners lined up near the front of the field. When the race started, faster runners in the pack collided with the slower runners in the front, creating a dangerous situation.
The overall winner is expected to finish in under 18 minutes, twice as fast as the middle of the pack runner, and one thousand runners will finish in under 23 minutes. Therefore, any participant who has not run a 5K race in under 20 minutes must not start in the front tier of the pack. For safety and courtesy, Laurie will line up nearest to the pace sign that reflects her current fitness.
To alleviate the problem of crowding, participants will be called to the starting area beginning at 6:05pm in reverse pace order. Walkers and runners expecting a pace slower than 15 minutes per mile will be called first, and elite athletes expecting to run faster than 6 minutes per mile will be called last.
In the interest of safety, wheels and animals are prohibited on the course. Laurie will not bring her roller blades, roller skates, bicycle, baby jogger or stroller, dog, pony or llama to the race. She will also run without headphones, since they impair her response to an emergency.
The Corporate Challenge is a celebration of corporate pride. This year's men's race features another battle of engineers, among teams from Sensis, Lockheed Martin, Carrier Corporation and Niagara Mohawk. The women's team competition is a matter of health, with St. Joseph's Hospital, Crouse Irving Memorial Hospital, University Hospital, Bristol Myers and Benjamin Rush Center running for the win. The co-ed team competition is a question of intellect among Syracuse University, the Syracuse City School District and The Syracuse Newspapers.
The winning team in each category earns the honor to represent Central New York in the Series Championship in New York City on October 4. While Laurie may not travel to New York City in October, she will line up tomorrow, anxious and nervous, at the start of a new experience. She will stop at every water station to drink two cups. She will enjoy the sights and sounds of runners and spectators. And around 7:05, she will cross the finish line in the first PR of her new running life.
Kamal Jabbour will run in orange and blue, cheering on his Syracuse University teammates and his favorite banker. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains The Syracuse Running Page and receives email at firstname.lastname@example.org.