When the going got tough Tuesday evening, 121 SUNY Cortland faculty and staff members got going at the J.P. Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge in Liverpool, N.Y.
Despite temperatures inching towards 90 degrees and suffocating humidity, employee participation ranked 10th among the 283 organizations competing in the annual running and walking event for Central New York businesses. The turnout marked an all-time high for the College.
“I think it says something about the type of people we have working at SUNY Cortland and their commitment to health and wellness,” said Christopher Tucker, one of the lead organizers for the SUNY Cortland team and the property control manager at the College. “It was boiling out there and everyone still made the effort to participate.”
Concerned about heat-related medical risks, race organizers decided to shorten the Onondaga Lake Parkway course from 3.5 miles to two miles. They also turned off the finish line’s time clock to shift the feel from competitive race to “fun run.”
SUNY Cortland’s team adapted well to the change. Some employees blasted off with the runners in the lead pack. Others walked at a brisk pace and chatted with their co-workers, an approach that promoted fitness, but cautiously.
One thing, however, stayed consistent across the board.
“Everyone I talked to said they had a great time, even with the weather and the changes made to the race,” Tucker said.
As much as the event highlights the College’s passion for staying healthy and active, it also has taken on a social significance, Tucker said. Many participants look forward to attending largely because they get to mingle with co-workers they might not see regularly on campus.
“That’s such a big part of it,” Tucker said. “The team component.”
The 121-member team included employees from across SUNY Cortland’s campus, including College President Erik J. Bitterbaum. After their exercise was complete, team participants gathered underneath a massive party tent, swapped stories and enjoyed a delicious barbecue prepared by Murphy’s Complete Catering.
Tucker deflected most of the praise for organizing the event and passed it on to the committee that helped him. That group included staff members Kerry Mincher, Melissa Fox, Brenda Chaffee, Harland Bigelow and Tucker’s wife, Jillian.
Tucker also praised Vice President for Finance and Management William Shaut for securing the event’s financial support; Matt Murphy, the chef who prepared the food spread; and William McNamara, the executive director of dining services for Auxiliary Services Corporation, for supplying several cases of much-needed water.
Everyone played a role, he said, from the group that came up with t-shirt designs to the people who provided bus transportation.
“Honestly, this was all about strength in numbers,” Tucker said. “When more than 100 co-workers come together, no amount of heat is going to dwarf their spirit.”