By Dr Kamal Jabbour, Contributing Writer
The first Tuesday in August ushers the return of the Chase Bank Corporate Challenge to Syracuse. When the starter's gun fires at 6:25pm tomorrow, a sea of runners will embark on the 3.5-mile trek up and down the Onondaga Lake Parkway.
With over 6,800 runners from 280 companies, the 1998 Corporate Challenge will be by far Syracuse's largest road running event ever. In its 17th year, the Syracuse race is the only race in the series that has grown every year, including a 25 percent growth over last year.
This year's is the first Corporate Challenge for over one quarter of the participants. Walkers and joggers in real life, many weekend warriors will enter the Corporate Challenge out of corporate pride, lacking the necessary preparation to safely complete the race.
The heat and humidity of early August evenings must be foremost on the minds of runners and organizers. Veteran runner Bob Petrillo, of the Syracuse YMCA, advises runners to drink two glasses of water first thing in the morning to replenish body fluids lost overnight through secretion and excretion.
Throughout the day, runners should drink a glass of water every hour. An hour before the run, two glasses will ensure proper hydration. Three water stops on the course provide fluid replacement during the race.
Water is Petrillo's drink of choice. Sports drinks contain too much salt and must be diluted for effective hydration. Petrillo advises runners to stay away from alcohol two days before the race through four hours after the race. He advises against drinking caffeinated drinks in the hours leading to the race.
Proper rest and nutrition can also help. Runners should plan for a good night's sleep, a light breakfast, a low fat lunch and a fat-free afternoon snack.
Light-colored, loose-fitting, light-weight clothing helps to keep the body cool. The dress code in effect on the Parkway consists of shorts, singlets and sun screens.
Parking at the race site is limited, and the Onondaga Lake Parkway closes to regular traffic between 4:30pm and 8:00pm tomorrow. Race director Dave Oja advises runners and spectators to ride the free shuttle bus from Carousel Center to the start at Griffin Field. The shuttle bus runs between 4:30pm and 6pm, and between 7:15pm and 9pm.
For the thousand participants partaking in the Corporate Challenge for the first time, the goal is to finish the run feeling good. At any pace, newcomers are guaranteed a personal record. It is best to enjoy the race at a comfortable pace, and leave room for future improvement.
In past years, many walkers and joggers lined up near the front of the field. When the race started, racers in the pack collided with walkers in the front, creating a dangerous situation. To alleviate this problem, race organizers will call participants to the starting area starting at 6:00pm in reverse pace order. Walkers and joggers expecting a pace slower than 15 minutes per mile will be called first, and elite racers expecting to run 5 minutes per mile will be called last.
The winner is expected to finish in under 18 minutes, twice as fast as the middle of the pack runner. 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.
The Corporate Challenge is a celebration of corporate pride. There are no individual results, and the individual awards are limited to the top handful of runners. Team awards are based on an honor system, requiring team captains to submit their teams' results. The winning teams in the men's, women's and mixed categories earn the honor to represent Central New York in the Series Championship in New York City on October 3.
The safe conduct of a run of this magnitude requires hundreds of volunteers. No prior experience is necessary. On-the-job training, a free lunch and a T-shirt are gladly provided. If you are not running tomorrow, just stop at the volunteer check-in tent and offer to help.
Kamal Jabbour will run in orange and blue tomorrow, expecting to finish around 24 minutes. His RUNNING Column appears in The Post-Standard on Mondays. He maintains The Syracuse Running Page and receives email at firstname.lastname@example.org.