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Fit and Fun: Corporate Challenge race winners extol the joys of running

The female runners from Upstate who won first place in the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge‘s Syracuse division say they run for fun and for fitness. Winning is nice, too.

Mandy Brown, Meghan Dwyer, Ellen Furnari and Christina Phelan had a collective time of 1:36:08 in the 3.5-mile race, beating the second-place women‘s team, from Crouse Hospital, by more than 3¼ minutes. Brown left Upstate after the race, so Jenna Fronce will take her spot on the team when it competes at the international level next year.

The annual race attracted 7,864 runners, joggers and walkers in 2015, including 96 who work at Upstate. It‘s held in June at Onondaga Lake Park in Liverpool and benefits different local charities. This year it was Honor Flight Syracuse, the organization that flies local war veterans to see military memorials in Washington, D.C.

Here‘s more about the Upstate runners:

Mandy Brown

Mandy Brown

Registered nurse Mandy Brown

Age: 33

Time: 23:00 minutes

Why she runs: “Because I can! For my health, and to be a good example for my children.”

Her start: “I started running when I was in fifth grade at our elementary district track meets. I did not like racing, though, so after that I just ran for fun. When I joined the Army was when I started racing for times again. “

Best running memory: “I have digestive tract paralysis, gastroparesis, and I registered for the Nationwide Children's Hospital Marathon in Columbus, Ohio. I struggled with symptoms restricting me to a liquid diet for almost three years and was only planning to just finish the race, as I loved high-fiving the patient champions at every mile. I ended up having a great race and qualifying for Boston. It was an amazing day that I will never forget.”


Meghan Dwyer

Meghan Dwyer

Occupational therapist Meghan Dwyer

Age: 27

Time: 24:57 minutes

Why she runs: “My running helps me maintain a healthy lifestyle.”

Her start: “I played lacrosse at Mercyhurst College.  Following graduation, I took up running in order to stay healthy.”

Her advice: “Everyone should take up running, because it has a positive impact on not only physical health, but mental health as well.  If running a mile seems impossible, try intervals of walking and running (run two minutes, walk one minute, repeatedly throughout the mile) until activity tolerance improves, and you'll be churning out miles in no time. Anyone can do it.”

Jenna Fronce

Jenna Fronce

Registered nurse Jenna Fronce

Age: 24

Time: 26:19 minutes

Why she runs: “I run mainly to stay in shape. I do have a love for running and feel the best afterwards versus any other workout I‘ve ever participated in.”

Her start: “I began running in ninth grade while training for field hockey, when I realized that even though I wasn‘t in shape at all, running came naturally easy for me. I tried out for varsity track later that year and qualified for sectionals every season.”

Her advice: "I always hear people say, 'I don't have the body to run.' That is so far from the truth. I've had runners who appear to be overweight pass me at the finish line."

Ellen Furnari

Ellen Furnari

Administrative assistant Ellen Furnari

Age: 29

Time: 25:42 minutes

Why she runs: “It‘s fun and allows me to be a part of a community of supportive, smart and fun folks.”

Her start: “I started running when I was 16. Before that, running was something that I did up and down the field with a field hockey or lacrosse stick in my hand or on the basketball court. I never seemed to feel tired, though, so I decided to join the track team instead of basketball that winter.”

Her advice: “I wouldn‘t recommend registering for a marathon on a whim. However, if you put in the effort, take your time and stick to a plan -- and maybe you have to walk/run in the beginning -- that is OK -- you will absolutely see a positive change. Remember, though: A lot about running is simply being comfortable with being uncomfortable.”

Christina Phelan

Christina Phelan

Pharmacist Christina Phelan 

Age: 30

Time: 22:29 minutes

Why she runs: “It keeps me sane! It is my way to de-stress and also enjoy the outdoors. I love it when I can wake up and get my run in early before work, too. It starts the day out right.”

Her start: High school

Her advice: "Getting out the door is the hardest part! Once you've started, you probably won't regret it. Plus, it's a good excuse to eat a cookie or two."

Biggest misconception non-runners have about running: “That you have to be fast, and be able to run for miles. Everyone has to start somewhere.”

Layout 1This article appears in the fall 2015 issue of Upstate Health magazine.