I bought my walking shoes in January, when we announced the launch of The Independent Weekly’s Corporate Challenge 5K Run/Walk. I had great intentions of jumping right into my training program so I could shed those holiday pounds, figuring it would also help me deal with the stress of building a new house. So far my new shoes have been worn mostly for moving boxes out of storage lockers and my construction project has given me every excuse I need not to exercise. But The Corporate Challenge is only a month away, and I decided last week that training had to move up on my list of priorities.

In 2007 I completed the Camellia Crossing 5K in less than 40 minutes (obviously I’m not a runner), so I set a new goal of 38 minutes. I knew it would take some work. Since one of the benefits of participation in The Corporate Challenge is a training program hosted by The City Club, I joined one of the walking groups  — there are sessions for runners as well — and quickly realized I’d be hard-pressed just to match my previous time at my current fitness level. I’m using The Corporate Challenge to do what it is designed to do: provide some incentive to get healthier and have fun while doing it.

The Independent Weekly’s Corporate Challenge is slated for Friday, May 9, from 1 p.m. ’til dusk, with the 5K starting at 4 p.m. More than 45 businesses have signed up so far with 800 runners and walkers representing companies ranging in size from hundreds of employees to as few a three on staff. There are several incentives to participate. A healthier workforce increases productivity and helps hold down health care and insurance costs (which benefits us in our personal lives as well). You get a team full of co-workers who become training buddies, making it easier to meet your own personal goals for fitness.

On race day, there’s the Friday afternoon office party with food, beverage and music by Roddie Romero and the Hub City Allstars. You can tour The Wellness Village and test the latest fitness equipment, grab a quick massage or visit with local leaders in Acadiana’s health care community. The City Club is also offering a one-month free membership to all who sign up as well as a schedule of training programs between now and race day, which is sponsored by Dwight Andrus Insurance. And a portion of each registration fee ($30 until April 1) will be donated to The Lafayette Community Health Care Clinic.

While there will certainly be some elite runners who finish the course in 15 minutes, this event isn’t just about speed. It’s also about a lifestyle change that helps us become a healthier community and have fun doing it. There will be prizes for those who run in costume and for ‘centipede’ teams that compete with five or more people tied together. The UL Steel Drum Band will provide music at Gator Alley, where you can win a prize for exhibiting the best style in a gator crawl. You can pop your best moves to hits from the ’80s in The Quick Dance Contest along the course. If you have an old cell phone that you don’t need any more, try your hand at The Cell Phone Toss, sponsored by AT&T, which will recycle the phones and send them to soldiers in the Middle East through its Cell Phones for Soldiers program. There will be a prize for the fastest CEO and also for the CEO with the best excuse. The race starts and finishes at Elysian Fields Park in River Ranch and winds through the neighborhood, where many residents are planning porch parties to help make the course more festive. The day’s activities will all be captured on video and compiled for post-race projection at the main stage after the race. Who said fitness had to be boring? Certainly not here in South Louisiana!

There is still plenty of time for your company to sign up too. For more information or to register your company’s roster, visit our Web site at www.indevents.com.

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