‘Worktime’s Over’ Wings It, Wins Relay
The atmosphere seemed different at the 35th NIH Institute Relay. Teams didn’t appear to be quite as competitive as in years past, though there was plenty of team spirit.
One thing was certain: there would be a new winner. Reigning two-time champ Charm City NeuRUNS, whose members used to train together intensively for months, was not among the 98 teams in the running.
This year, many teams didn’t train at all; some even cobbled together teams in the days or even hours before racetime. Some admitted they were just winging it, which is true of this year’s winners, Worktime’s Over, a bunch of workaholics who barely made it out of the lab to run.
“We actually frown upon any effort that’s not completely dedicated to a productive work environment, so we meshed well as a team,” said the team’s Andrew Gravunder, a research engineer in the Clinical Center’s rehabilitation medicine department (RMD). “In fact, [teammate] Amanda Guth showed up 5 minutes before our heat because she was so busy with work...I didn’t even meet Erin (Heald) or Cameron (Fick) until a day before the race.
“NIH puts on such a great event every year to bond the community,” Gravunder added. “It’s just a disappointment that we lost 15 minutes of worktime.”
This was the second year the relay took place behind Bldg. 10, where each runner raced the 500-meter course around the 10H parking lot before passing the baton to 1 of 5 teammates. David Browne, co-president of NIH’s Recreation & Welfare Association, said teams usually register weeks in advance, but this year nearly half the teams signed up within days of the event.
“We just signed up yesterday and have been training all morning,” said CC department of perioperative medicine lab chief Dr. Andrew Mannes of team Smooth Operators.
“I hadn’t worked out in more than a year,” said an NHLBI runner who asked to remain anonymous. “I should’ve saved my energy. The uphill at the end was killer; I was walking by that point.”
Added Scott Tompkins of OER’s Happy Feeters, “I was anticipating walking but nobody else was…I haven’t run in years!”
Others had trained, a little. “We’ve been leisurely jogging around the Rockledge circle for a month to train and stay in shape,” said Patrice Nickens, medical officer with NHLBI’s Heart Failure and Arrhythmias Branch, from team Power & Rhythm.
Dilraj Singh, an IT specialist with Need for Speed, said, “We’re excited to represent CSR and…” Before he could finish the thought, he realized his team was in the next heat and rushed off to the starting line.
“The relay was a good excuse to get on the main campus,” said Dan Gowetski, staff scientist with a Vaccine Research Center lab based in Gaithersburg, who ran with the mAbericks (mAb stands for monoclonal antibodies).
“I’m just going to jog and enjoy,” said Jenny Serra, an NHGRI postdoc from Barcelona who ran with the Twinbrook Trotters.
“It was too short,” lamented Benson Maloba, the newest member of NIAID’s long-running team Pox Jox. “In Kenya, we like to run long distances.”
Each team was required to have 5 members, including members of both genders, but organizers made some exceptions. Blaise Delahoussaye, an OD accounting tech who is deaf and blind, participated solo with the assistance of a colleague.
“I really enjoyed myself,” said Delahoussaye, who last ran the relay in 2005. “David [Rice] did a superb job holding my arm to run together. No matter without sight, I felt great and inspired to be a part of the NIH community. Thanks for keeping this event continually for so long.”
Larry Jones of NHLBI’s Running with the Jones ran one member short. Their fifth member forgot to bring his running clothes.
“I love seeing employees working together and everyone getting an opportunity to take a break and enjoy themselves,” said Chris Gaines, program manager with ORS’s Division of Amenities and Transportation Services, who has worked at NIH for 25 years and overseen 25 relays.
“It was an individual victory for me; I chased everyone on the last lap,” said Chris Grant, a Georgetown graduate student who ran with NCI’s Unincredibles. “But I’m proud of the whole team. I’m going to start training tomorrow for next year.”