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Vol. LX, No. 21
October 17, 2008
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Challenge Relay Celebrates Its 25th Run

On the front page...

On May 24, 1978, at approximately high noon, the “NIMH Shrinks” took 11 minutes and 59 seconds to race around Bldg. 1 and into NIH lore as the first team to finish the inaugural Institute Challenge Relay. More than 30 years and several thousand miles later, the relay marked its 25th run on Sept. 18, 2008.

“It was then, and is still today, held to encourage friendly competition,” explains an early NIH Health’s Angels Jogging Club member, Jerry Moore. Now an NIH regulations officer in the Office of Management Assessment, he helped organize the first race.

Continued...


  Never know who’ll compete in the Challenge Relay. Dr. David Robinson (l) is chased by Buddy the Elf.  
  Never know who’ll compete in the Challenge Relay. Dr. David Robinson (l) is chased by Buddy the Elf.  
It has become an annual institutional ceremony, oftentimes peppered with sprinters in costume. The relay was conceived in the mid-1970s by Dr. Peter Pentchev of Health’s Angels and nurtured in the years that followed by club members with funding help from the NIH Recreation & Welfare Association. According to Moore, Pentchev “was the driving force behind the relay for many years.”

Hundreds participated in the initial 2-heat race, including a shorts-and-T-shirt-clad NIH director Dr. Donald Fredrickson along with 314 other runners in 63 teams.

On a 1987 winning team are Challenge Relay veterans Jerry Moore (l), Dr. Alison Wichman (second from r) and Phil Snoy (r) NIH deputy director Dr. Raynard Kington (c) is shown at the 2008 relay with early NIH Health’s Angels and race enthusiasts (from l) Wichman, Randy Schools, Moore and Snoy
Then and now. At left, on a 1987 winning team are Challenge Relay veterans Jerry Moore (l), Dr. Alison Wichman (second from r) and Phil Snoy (r). At right, NIH deputy director Dr. Raynard Kington (c) is shown at the 2008 relay with early NIH Health’s Angels and race enthusiasts (from l) Wichman, Randy Schools, Moore and Snoy.
2008 NIH Relay Top 50 Finishers
Place
Team
Time
1
Proud Snail Hunters 13:58
2
Host Busters 14:12
3
Goal G 14:12
4
Running Buffers 14:36
5
Notorious M.I.B.

15:02
6
Blair Swift Project 15:06
7
Catch Me If You Can(cer) 15:12
8
Racey Ears 15:22
9
Wurtz Possible Runners 15:27
10
Runners of Interest (ROI) 15:29
Team Pentivirus: One Virus You Won’t Catch
15:29
12
A lot of Mass, Not a Lot of Acceleration 15:44
13
Figgly Wiggly 15:45
14
B4 Fitness 16:16
15
CD Five Runners 16:21
16
Smokin’ Out Cancer 16:24
17
Running For Regeneration 16:49
18
The Performance Enhancers 16:50
19
Overly Exhausted Runners (OER) 16:51
20
LCBG Speeders 16:52
21
Supersonic Pancakes 17:01
22
Kiss Meiosis 17:02
23
Flavisting 17:05
24
We Are Not the Machine 17:06
25
B. SPOREty anthRACE US 17:16
26
The Limping Nodes 17:21
27
The Lost Mouse 17:29
28
Stop, Codon! 17:30
29
Rapidovirus 17:34
30
Poxjox 17:36
31
Scintilla of Redoubt 17:37
32
Intolerant and Dangerous 17:38
33
All Ears, No Legs 17:42
34
Headed to the ER 17:44
35
Gottesman’s Gang 17:51
36
NIAID Clinic 8 Velocity Raptors 18:00
37
NINR U up for the challenge? 18:05
38
Bone to Run 18:07
39
Immobilized Cube Creatures 18:11
40
Gone with the Wint 18:17
41
Opportunistic Fun Guy Plus 18:20
42
Demystified 18:26
43
Eye Aie Aie 18:28
44
Fast Stats 18:29
45
e-transporters 18:30
46
Wu’s Chromatin Crew 18:35
47
Eyeribba, Eyeribba 18:44
48
Paper Tigers 18:50
49
Team MRI: Mission Run Improbable 18:54
50
OER Division of Loan Relayment 18:56

“It was fun putting the event together at the beginning as a way to celebrate running at NIH and as a sort of rite of spring on the campus,” Moore recalls. “I’ve always loved the way people from all walks of life here have mixed and mingled at the event…It’s been a nice fun way to help bring the NIH community together each year. I loved holding the event in May, but I’m slowly getting used to it being in September.”

With mascot garden gnome on the scene, members of NCI’s Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Biology (from l) Nancy Cruz, Stephen Kales, Vidya Vedham, Gene Garcia and Naeha Quasba form team “Gene Gnomes.”
With mascot garden gnome on the scene, members of NCI’s Laboratory of Cellular and Molecular Biology (from l) Nancy Cruz, Stephen Kales, Vidya Vedham, Gene Garcia and Naeha Quasba form team “Gene Gnomes.”

To say the event caught on is an understatement. By the early 1980s, the relay had become so popular that organizers could accommodate only the first 80 teams to sign up. A record 118 teams registered in 2006. A large part of the fun is creating a novel team name. In the first year, for example, the top women’s team was the “NIMH End-Orphans.” Given the overall winning team, the relay was clearly good for Mental Health. Among this year’s 80-some teams were “Poxjox,” “Headed to the ER,” “Eyeribba Eyeribba” and “Do Not Resuscitate.”

NCI’s Larry Chloupek ran his entire half-mile lap using crutches. The crowd received him with a warm ovation.
NCI’s Larry Chloupek ran his entire half-mile lap using crutches. The crowd received him with a warm ovation.

By 1982, organizers required a $2.50 entry fee to help defray costs. Basic race divisions emerged: male, female and mixed. As organizers, who were also runners, aged—er, gained more experience—master categories (runners over age 40 in each division) were added. In the early era, an after-work shindig was held at the FAES House to continue the camaraderie and watch videotapes of the day’s race and bygone relays.

CIT Deputy Director Al Whitley (sixth from r) joins team “Do Not Resuscitate” and its cheering squad for a pre-race pic. Teammate “Buddy the Elf” a.k.a. John Schoeb (fourth from r) also offered plenty of feel-good advice to boost his group’s morale.
CIT Deputy Director Al Whitley (sixth from r) joins team “Do Not Resuscitate” and its cheering squad for a pre-race pic. Teammate “Buddy the Elf” a.k.a. John Schoeb (fourth from r) also offered plenty of feel-good advice to boost his group’s morale.

“I remember all of the fun, all of the crazy team names, all of the enthusiasm and being fortunate to run on numerous winning teams,” says Moore, laughing. “Two teams are special to me: ‘Anne Then’ and ‘Running on Empty.’ I coined ‘Anne Then’ for our team of 4 guys and one woman, Anne [Ballard] Thomas, an avid runner who won with NIMH End-Orphans in the first relay and served then as NIH communications officer. Anne ran the first leg of the relay for us and was dead last—unfortunately—after her lap. However, we ‘sucked it up,’ took the baton from her and proceeded to craft an exciting second-place finish. It was then the highest finish for a mixed team. Several of us had won several relays and decided it would be fun and a real challenge to enter a mixed team to see if we could still win. We were very pleased to finish so well.

“‘Running on Empty’ in 1992 was one of my later teams consisting of 5 guys who had run—and won—several relays,” Moore continues. “I coined the name in honor of the Jackson Browne tune that had inspired our super NIH team at the 1979 Runners’ World 24-Hour Relay at Fort Meade, and as a sort of spoof of the fact that gradually we were all beginning to slow down. We were, in racing parlance, sort of ‘running on empty.’ To our amazement—and I think the amazement of some of the overconfident and boastful young studs who had put together some fast teams for the relay—we prevailed. We came home as the winners one more time. Needless to say, we had a blast at the post-relay party.”

First place winners are “Proud Snail Hunters” (from l) Christiam Camacho, Greg Schuler, Kathi Canese, Patricia Zerfas and Marc Gwadz. The team completed the 2.5-mile course in 13:58.

Left, from top:
First place winners are “Proud Snail Hunters” (from l) Christiam Camacho, Greg Schuler, Kathi Canese, Patricia Zerfas and Marc Gwadz. The team completed the 2.5-mile course in 13:58.

Finishing in 14:12 to tie for second place are “Host Busters” (from l) Michael Gridd, Erika Lamb, Jered Wendte, Michael Kovacs and Yunuen Hernandez, who raced in the first heat and had time to change clothes;

and “Goal G” (from l) Anne Nutt, Rachid Sougrat, Thierry Fort, Gwenahel Reveau and Jennifer Gillette.

Bottom:
Capturing the newly coined Last but Not Least Award are (from l) Sheree Monroe, Al D’Amico, Carol Kosh, Adam Levy and Edie Smith of team “To Run OER Not to Run.”

Finishing in 14:12 to tie for second place are “Host Busters” (from l) Michael Gridd, Erika Lamb, Jered Wendte, Michael Kovacs and Yunuen Hernandez, who raced in the first heat and had time to change clothes
Goal G” (from l) Anne Nutt, Rachid Sougrat, Thierry Fort, Gwenahel Reveau and Jennifer Gillette
Capturing the newly coined Last but Not Least Award are (from l) Sheree Monroe, Al D’Amico, Carol Kosh, Adam Levy and Edie Smith of team “To Run OER Not to Run.”

Around 1987 or so, the plaque on which winners’ names are engraved was renamed the Al Lewis Memorial Trophy to honor the beloved fallen cofounder and past president of Health’s Angels who Moore remembers as a “true inspirational leader of both the Health’s Angels and the relay. Al Lewis was an unbelievable person. He was someone everybody loved and respected.” In another testament to the warm regard the running community has built here, a group of more than 15 volunteers known as Art’s Army memorializes another cofounder of the relay, the late longtime NICHD budget officer Art Fried, who died in 2005. Coordinated by NICHD’s George Gaines, the Army provides safety at road intersections during the race.

Moore, R&W President Randy Schools, and another Angel, Dr. Alison Wichman of NHLBI, are among the few acknowledged participants from the first relay who also took part in the 25th. After the 1995 race, campus construction and other obstacles led to a 5-year hiatus. The relay was resurrected in September 2002. By then, all teams were required to be a mix of males and females.

So a half-mile course run by each of five teammates in 25 races with roughly 80 teams each year comes to about 5,000 total miles—a distance more than halfway from here to the Beijing Olympics. Okay, no competition. After all, NIH’s relay is (mostly) all in fun, despite the teams who bring their own timers, cheerleaders and photographers.

“Team captains, volunteers, Health’s Angels and NIH Police, we appreciate the time and effort that you gave to the 25th running of the institute relay,” concluded Schools, in an email wrap-up of the event. “To all of the volunteers who made it happen…[and] to the many runners, thanks for taking time to have fun with us. We enjoy not only your participation, but [also] your creativity…It’s fun to see so many smiles—keep them on ’til the 26th running in 2009.” NIHRecord Icon

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