Morale Booster Races Back
Challenge Relay Returns After 2-Year Absence
The 37th NIH Institute Challenge Relay (and vendor fair) made a triumphant return on Sept. 21 after a 2-year pandemic hiatus.
Eighty teams registered (up 10 from 2019’s 70 teams), proof of “not only how popular this event is, but also how important it is for morale and how much it was needed for everyone involved,” said David Browne, event organizer and co-president of the NIH Recreation & Welfare Association.
Two-time defending champions Worktime’s Over yielded their crown to The PCR: Postbac Chain Relay. This year’s winners blazed across the finish line with a final time of 14:59, with second-place finishers Follow the LDDR one second behind in a down-to-the-wire battle. My Gel Runs Faster Than Yours took third, and Worktime’s Over won their heat but ultimately finished fourth overall.
The race was split into 2 heats this year. Five-member teams with a variety of gender representation ran the half-mile loop around Bldg. 1. Runners started on Center Drive, then turned right to ascend South Drive, and finished on a downhill over Memorial and Center. The final runner on each team had another brief uphill climb at the end, turning into the driveway between Bldgs. 1 and 2 for the grand finish.
NIH Police directed traffic to keep runners safe, but one type of unforeseen obstacle was left behind by the campus geese. “The goose poop [on the road] was an extra variable,” joked Michael C. of team Engine X.
Dr. Lawrence Tabak, performing the duties of NIH director, and Colleen McGowan, ORS director, provided opening remarks for the event.
“NIH employees understand the importance of staying active and having fun while doing so,” Tabak said.
He also recognized the competitive nature of some of the runners. “No pressure, but I’ve seen some of the teams here practicing on weekends,” he quipped.
“We like competition!” McGowan agreed.
As always, team names and costumes were the highlight of the event, with standouts such as The Golden Girls (in brightly colored wigs), On Your Marmoset…Go! (wearing monkey-ear headbands) and Smooth Operators (clad in surgical scrubs).
This year’s winning team had representatives from 5 ICs: team captain Nicole Hsiao-Sánchez of NICHD, and members Madalyn Jones (NIAID), Andrew Cook (NIDDK), Marcel De Jesús (NIAAA) and Will Rich (NCI). The team practiced together for several weeks leading up to the event, said Hsiao-Sánchez, “finish[ing] our respective experiments at our labs, and still show[ing] up to practice after a long day of work.
“As young scientists in training, our team epitomized the spirit of collaboration that is the foundation of great science.”