The business of running: Hormel employees work on staying fit
Published 4:33 am Wednesday, March 20, 2013
—This feature originally appeared in Progress 2013. Get a copy at the Austin Daily Herald office, 310 Second St. NE.
In a gang of fit business types, Greg Baskin considers himself the old-timer.
But at 56 years old, he has been running for about 18 years, and doesn’t act like an old-timer — he still comfortably knocks off four- to five-mile runs at an eight-and-a-half-minute per-mile clip. And almost every weekday just before noon, he and a handful of other Hormel Foods corporate employees meet for a run — inclement weather and interruptions be damned.
“The one thing about this running group is, we will run 365 days a year, and we do not let the weather stop us. We’ve been out in some very bad storms in the winter time that we probably shouldn’t have been,” says Baskin, the director of Hormel’s specialty products division, with a laugh. “Sometimes we’re maybe not the most intelligent people running in some of that weather, but somehow you just work your way through it.”
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Hormel employees in Austin have been running together in one form or another since roughly 1991, Baskin says, when the company carved out a trail behind its corporate office. Since then, employees have been transferred, others have retired, but a core of dedicated runners remains, a group that now includes Baskin, Hormel’s Corporate Manager of Business Development Jeff Grev, and one of their biggest motivators, Brent Brehmer.
“His philosophy is nothing stops us,” Baskin says of Brehmer, once a collegiate runner from Fargo, N.D., who now works in food safety. “You can’t say ‘no,’ or he will come after you.”
Many in the group, like Nicole Shute, also compete in road races and even triathlons.
“I joined the group about a year ago, and started getting into long-distance running three years ago to help with my training for triathlons,” Shute said.
And while Baskin says they all have a passion for running, the atmosphere is light-hearted, and they all enjoy each others’ company.
“The whole purpose of this is to go out and have fun and clear your mind,” he says. “Then come back more energized and be able to attack the afternoon.”
But often the run not only refreshes, it’s a time to get work done.
“It’s not only fun, but you can bounce ideas off other people,” Baskin says. “And it’s surprising how much business gets done during the run.”
Because of that, and because there probably always will be an excuse not to swap the suit for running shorts, the group has another mantra.
“You need to treat it like another meeting,” Grev says. “If you get it on a schedule, you’re much more likely to get it in.”
And that’s something with which Hormel is completely on board, they say.
When Hormel began planning for the multi-million dollar corporate expansion it finished last summer, the designers actually asked for the group’s input. The result is a small kitchenette off the east end of the expansion where the sweaty runners can cool off and grab a bite to eat without disturbing other workers in the new cafeteria.
The company also allows the group to take more than an hour for lunch, as the run itself takes 35 to 45 minutes, and that doesn’t include time to cool down, eat and shower.
“Hormel is pretty flexible,” Baskin says, “and I think at the end of the day, they really want healthy employees.”