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Workforce Challenge will bring thousands of Capital Region runners out tonight


Some 8,000 runners and walkers will descend on Albany's Empire State Plaza for the CDPHP Workforce Team Challenge tonight.  

Founded in 1980, the race is a May tradition in Albany. Natalia Burkart is CDPHP's director of communication strategy. 

"We at CDPHP have now been the title sponsor of the workforce team challenge for 16 years, we are very proud of this partnership with the Hudson Mohawk Road Runners Club. And of course, we work very closely with the city of Albany and the Albany police department to put on a really fun and safe race every year. I think that actually in the past few years, this race has had even more importance, as you know, folks have gone to a hybrid or maybe fully remote workforce. And this is an occasion to get folks back together to engage in that healthy and friendly competition. And then after the race is over, a chance to you know, head downtown and grab a bite to eat and, you know, throw some much needed funds to downtown Albany," Burkart said. 

Race director Todd Mesick says it’s the area's largest running competition. "This year, we have a total of about 8,400 registered participants, with about 7,700 in person and 700 virtual runners representing over 411 teams. The teams are comprised of the various organizations are together does work for the race starts, starts on Madison Avenue, just off the Empire State Plaza. And the Empire State Plaza serves as the nucleus for the event for lack of a better term. That's where all sponsors tents are, our DJ or MC are off on the plaza. The race kicks off at 6:25 and is a 3.5 mile race up Madison Avenue through Washington Park and back down Madison Avenue. And the winners will come across and for the men in about 70 minutes and the women about 20 minutes. And we'll take all the participants about a little over an hour to get through the course," said Mesick. 

Burkart says this year's race is benefiting two charitable organizations. "Wizards Wardrobe in Albany's South End. It's a literacy program for students in elementary school, who need some extra help and assistance with reading. And they have incredible success with this program and helping kids read either on or above grade level. The other charity is called Reeling for Recovery. And it is an outdoor program for at risk youth who may be struggling with some social, emotional or substance use issues or have been impacted by them,” Burkart said. 

Mesick says the race is getting closer each year to its pre-COVID cap of 10,000 participants. State and city police will be on hand and road closures begin at 4. "From Madison Avenue at Eagle Street, all the way up to Lake Avenue, Madison and through the park, as well as Washington Avenue. So there are several road closures. And there's also no parking allowed on Madison Avenue or in the park from 4 till 8," said Mescick, who adds local residents have been notified; no parking and road closure signs have been posted.

Burkart welcomes those who'd like to head down to the plaza to see the runners in action. "We love spectators and folks cheering us on. So there are spots right on the plaza that you can look down on Madison Avenue and see the race take off and also finish. But just be sure to be mindful of the parking restrictions, and also get down there early so you can get a good spot," said Burkart.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.