Runners Take a Break from Work While Breaking Records
Endorphins were high at the 38th NIH Institute Challenge Relay on Sept. 14. More than 500 NIH staffers traded their lab coats and business attire for running gear to participate in the NIH-wide athletic event of the year on the Bethesda campus.
The relay boasted a record-breaking number of participants and teams—109 teams to be exact. K-Space Invaders dethroned last year’s winner, The PCR: Postbac Chain Relay, with a final time of 14:03. Second place went to Run DMC (Da MRSP Crew) with a close time of 14:19, and Kuka Family came in third with a final time of 14:33.
On the beautiful 70-degree morning, NIH Deputy Director for Management Dr. Alfred Johnson welcomed participants to the relay.
“We really appreciate how you take the time to not only come do this, but what you do on a regular basis in terms of trying to stay healthy,” said Johnson, addressing the crowd. “Running is certainly one of those great activities that enables your body to continue to rejuvenate itself, so we ask that you continue to participate.”
Colleen McGowan, director of the Office of Research Services, was pleased to see such an overwhelming turnout the second year back in person after the pandemic.
“We’re very excited that many of you are out here because of your commitment to wellness and also being just part of ‘Team NIH,’” said McGowan. “Representing your ICs, your labs, your office communities—this is what NIH is all about.”
Teams from across NIH brought the creativity once again with their unique names like You’re on Mute, Flossed & Furious, and Slow Fytometers.
After a high-energy warm up, the race was underway. The relay was divided into two heats, and teams consisted of five runners who each ran a loop around Bldg. 1. The last runner from each team trekked uphill between Bldgs. 1 and 2 to the finish line.
The Circulators, a group from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, had a few returning participants this year. While they classified themselves as “kind of” runners, they did prepare by running the course a few days before the relay.
“We’re ready,” declared Miranda Marvel, a postdoctoral research fellow on the Circulators.
Returning team ChloRide Like the Wind was excited to participate in their first relay post-pandemic. The group from Dr. Joe Mindell’s lab within the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke had several runners ready to leave their competitors in the wind.
The post-race cool down looked different for each runner. Some celebrated with their teams, some headed right for the water station or refueled with a banana, and others sprawled out on the grass as they caught their breath.
When one runner was asked by a fellow teammate “how it went,” they simply huffed, “I finished.”
Spectator Craig Rhodes has worked at NIH for 30 years and took some time in the afternoon to watch the relay and “relive the glory days.” Rhodes has attended many relay events—even participating many years ago—and was impressed with how the relay has improved over the years.
“I’ve been here a lot of times,” added Rhodes, “and it’s grown quite significantly.”