The 2010 JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge in San Francisco produced images of triump and camaraderie. In the main photo above, Jonathan Hunt of Salesforce.com raises his arms in triumph as he nears the finish line. In top inset photo, Nicole Garroutte also is a happy finisher. In bottom inset, Pixar Animation teammates Edward Robbins (4540) and Enrico Casarosa
share a moment of triumph near the finish.
San Francisco companies mark return
to Embarcadero with surge in numbers
Laura Alber of Williams-Sonoma conducts a pre-race interview.
SAN FRANCISCO, August 4, 2010 - Laura Alber looked around from the bayside starting area of the 26th running of the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge in San Francisco. To her left, a deep fly-ball down the Embarcadero, was AT&T Park, home of the National League contending Giants. Straight ahead were the high-rises of downtown.
"This course is great because it's right in our backyard," said the CEO of Williams-Sonoma, the noted specialty retailer of home furnishings and gourmet cookware. "We run this course in training and we have 70 employees on our team this year."
With corporate offices located throughout San Francisco, including the original "Ice House" at the base of Telegraph Hill, Williams-Sonoma shared a story with many companies who gathered at Piers 30 & 32 in the largest numbers seen in the Bay Area for years for a Corporate Challenge. The crowd of 6,732 runners and walkers from 257 San Francisco companies was 25 percent larger than last year's, and was the largest Corporate Challenge crowd in the Bay Area since 1990.
On a chilly evening in a city famous for its "winter-like" weather in the summer, the runners and walkers spilled out from the pier, took an immediate left turn and headed on a 3.5-mile jaunt that would reward them with beautiful views of AT&T Park, China Basin, the Bay Bridge, and Mission Bay. The race was moved from Crissy Field, where it had been held from 2002-2009, because of the Doyle Drive construction project near the Golden Gate Bridge. The move marked a return to the roots of San Francisco's Corporate Challenge, which from 1983-1990, was conducted on the Embarcadero.
On this night, a familiar name from a familiar team toured the new course faster than anyone. Crosby Freeman defended his San Francisco men's title, speeding home in 17:00 minutes, some 47 seconds faster than runner-up, James Nielsen of Ooyala.
"The course was great," said Freeman. "It was out-and-back and that's easier in some ways than a double loop course like last year's because you know exactly where you can push."
With the Bay Bridge as a backdrop, some of the 6,732 runners start the 2010 JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge in San Francisco.
Google, which won the San Francisco team title last year and then finished second overall in the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Championship at Johannesburg, South Africa, placed an impressive seven runners in the night's top 34 runners. The winning teams in each division at San Francisco will participate in the 2011 Championship in Singapore on a spring date (April/May) to be announced shortly. Please check back for the Championship date and official results from San Francisco.
Among the women, Meredith Kessler of RBC Capital Markets was just as dominant as Freeman. She finished the wind-swept course in 19:58, well ahead of Shaluinn Fullove of Google in 20:52.
But the real story of the night was companies coming together on a new course that for many was a short jog from their workplaces.
Genentech led the parade with 535 entrants. Other large teams included Salesforce.com (365), host JPMorgan Chase (325), Blackrock (280) VMware (256), Autodesk (164), Pacific Gas & Electric (134), Lucasfilm (128), Wells Fargo (109) and SAP (100).
John Deshong of Bechtel (above) and Biomarin Pharmaceutical's Cora Versaggi were members of two of the 257 Bay Area company teams that helped produce a surge in entrants in 2010.
Biomarin Pharmaceutical was another team with a large squad with 67 participants. One reason, said company captain, Cora Versaggi, is the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge's effort to reach out to local charities in each of its 12 cities. In San Francisco, the beneficiary was the YMCA of San Francisco’s Kids to Camp Fund, which sends at-risk children to Camp Jones Gulch, a spectacular 1,000 acre natural treasure in the Santa Cruz Mountains.
"Biomarin is looking to find cures for rare diseases and to help people," said Versaggi. "The Corporate Challenge also seeks to reach out and help people, so we feel very comfortable that this event is in line with our company's goals to help others."
For John Deshong, Manager of Tax at Bechtel, the chance to build a spirit of teamwork among his 23-member team was a motivating factor for running the event his second year in a row.
"We're an engineering, construction company and teamwork is very important in what we do," said Deshong, who was speaking not far from his Beale Street headquarters.
"I think it's a lot of fun to do a team race like this and share activities outside of the office," Deshong added. "It mirrors and builds on what we do at work."
Some 30 minutes, 50 seconds later, Alber would finish - well. She was in the top 17% of female finishers. Perhaps even more satisfying, however, was the fact that she was only the 13th female finisher on her team. Williams-Sonoma did, indeed, have some talented runners who competed well on a beautiful new course that was just a jog from their offices.
Meanwhile, for Alber and her Williams-Sonoma team, it was time to put their practice and their talents to the test.
"I've been running six days a week for the past three months," said Alber. "I was just bitten by the running bug and the more I run, the more I want to run. And, it's so good to see 70 people on our team. It's important because we care about our talent. They are so important to us."
And, lest anyone think this was just a "feel-good" exercise in showing up and going through the motions, Alber was quick to correct them.
"This," she said, "is about finishing - well. It is important. We've got a group of fast runners on our team. I can't keep up with them and wouldn't try. But I do feel like I've got a target on my back tonight."