Denis O'Sullivan (black long sleeve shirt at left) and Fireman's Fund teammate Claude Harrison (in red vest) start the 2007 JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge in San Francisco. Reflecting the growth in the San Francisco event, Fireman's Fund has entered a team with 103 participants for the Sept 17 race. First to sign up was Harrison. O'Sullivan, meanwhile, is pictured wearing a shirt promoting "Into the Fire," a Fireman's Fund-produced documentary broadcast on A&E.
Environmentally-conscious Fireman's Fund
fuels growth trend at San Francisco
Fireman's Fund Company Captain Glenn Hoffman poses with Grete Waitz during her visit to the company.
SAN FRANCISCO, August 13, 2008 - When nine-time New York City Marathon champion Grete Waitz visited the headquarters of Fireman's Fund in June of 2007, she may not have realized the impact her appearance would have on the Bay Area insurance company.
Waitz, the ambassador for the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Series, stopped by the Fireman's Fund to promote the values of health in the workplace and encourage participation in the Corporate Challenge.
"Her visit was a very helpful thing last year," said Company Captain Glenn Hoffman. "It gave us a shot in the arm."
That shot in the arm is being reflected in the numbers on Fireman's Fund's team this year. Entrants are up dramatically, from 69 to 103. So is the enthusiasm for the 24th running of the event, to be held on an ultra-scenic course in the shadows of the Golden Gate Bridge at Crissy Field at 6:45 p.m. on Sept. 17.
"It's my third year in a row trying to make this a participatory event and not just a competitive race," said Hoffman, a Senior Business Analyst in IT services at Fireman's Fund. "It's working. We have more walkers and first-time entrants this year and they're excited about being involved."
The growth at Fireman's Fund reflects a larger growth pattern at San Francisco. This is an event that in recent years has been increasingly embraced by the Bay Area business community. In 2007, in fact, 5,340 participants from 233 companies participated. It was San Francisco 's largest crowd for this event since August 1990, up nearly 24 percent over 2006 and capping a trend of solid growth since a decision to move the event from Aquatic Park near Fisherman's Wharf in 2002.
For Hoffman and his Fireman's Fund teammates, however, it's not just about numbers. He shares the basic philosophy of the event - to encourage fitness in the corporate work place.
"I've been busy promoting that people should get outside and be active," he said. "Our headquarters is between two open space preserves and we hand out trail maps and encourage people to join us in walks or runs on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays."
As the numbers suggest, the effort is working.
Hoffman and Fireman's Fund also share a concern for the environment, mirroring the Teaming Up for a Greener Tomorrow campaign that is a focus of the world's largest corporate running series in 2008. This year, said Hoffman, Fireman's Fund will transport its participants to Crissy Field in two busses, saving gas and lowering carbon emissions.
Among those runners will be a Female team that finished 17th last year, and a Male squad that was 18th.
"I think the women are going to give the men a good run again this year," said Hoffman. "We really have all kinds of entrants on our team - beginners and walkers to marathoners and ultra-marathoners. Our number one female runner, Lucia Lake, just finished in the top 2 percent of the half-marathon of the San Francisco Marathon.
"Running with people and then just hanging around with them after the race, is a great way to get to know them," said Hoffman.
That includes Waitz, the most famous female distance runner in history.
"We were really excited about her coming to talk to us," said Hoffman, "and we wanted to do something for her. So, we put together a lot of ancient photos of her - all that we could find - and did a multi-media presentation for her. Then, we gave her the CD."
No doubt, Waitz, enjoyed the show and the gift - almost as much as Fireman's Fund enjoyed her visit.