Jeff Walker, right, with teammates from Fidelity Investments at the 2010 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Boston. Walker, who took up running at age 39, will be a member of Fidelity's team at the Series Championship in Singapore in April.
Strong Female team effort inspires
Fidelity's Male team to Championship run
BOSTON, January 19, 2011 — Outside of the conference room at Fidelity Investments in Boston, several feet of snow blanketed the ground. Inside, however, Kevin Gravina and Eric Khatchadourian were talking about the very different weather conditions they expected to encounter half a world away in the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Championship in Singapore in April.
"We're not sure what will be the bigger challenge, the humidity or the jet lag from the (18+-hour) flight," said Khatchadourian. "We'll prepare for the heat and humidity in Singapore as best we can in Boston. Maybe we'll throw on a couple of sweat suits and go out for some runs."
"The humidity makes for a tougher run than we'd otherwise have," added Gravina. "Considering the weather here, maybe we'll hit the treadmill for a couple of days."
Gravina and Khatchadourian are part of a Fidelity team that used a dominating performance at the Boston Corporate Challenge to earn a trip to the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Championship, which will be held in Asia for the first time in its 28 years when it is run in Singapore on April 21.
Joining Fidelity in Singapore from Boston will be Puma North America, winner of the Female division, and mixed team champion Marathon Sports. They will compete against the first-place teams from the other 11 cities in the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Series. And, befitting the running hub that is Boston, its representatives in the Series Championship are all ranked among the top half-dozen corporate teams in the world in their divisions.
Fidelity, rated as the sixth fastest Male team overall and second fastest American team, earned its trip by wresting the Male title from perennial power Raytheon by a margin of five minutes. It was the culmination of a months-long effort by Vice President of Electronic Marketing Doug McLucas, whose inspiration began at the 2010 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Championship in Johannesburg. At that race, Fidelity's Female team placed third overall and was the first American team.
|2011 Boston Championship qualifiers
|Kevin Gravina, Timothy Kaijala, Eric Khatchadourian, Jeff Walker
PUMA NORTH AMERICA
|Elaine Canchola, Jennifer Lee, Kyle MacQueen, Jenna Pearlstein
|William Crabtree, Mary Heitkamp, Kristen Iworski, Colin Lyons
"I think the women's team going to Johannesburg was a huge motivating factor (for McLucas)," said Gravina. "It was really incredible to us. He pumped us up and organized us so that we knew each other well before the race (in Boston). He had us believing we could win. When we got to the starting line, we all lined up with each other at the front and that gave us a boost."
The effort paid off in spades.
Not only did Fidelity win the Male title, all four of its runners at Boston — Gravina, Khatchadourian, McLucas and Tim Kaijala — broke 20 minutes and finished ahead of the first runner from second-place Raytheon. As a bonus, another Fidelity runner, Melissa Nash, raced away with the individual women's title in 20 minutes flat.
It was an exclamation point for a long-standing tradition of strong and supportive performances from Fidelity at the Boston Corporate Challenge.
For starters, with 243 participants, Fidelity was the largest team at the 2010 Boston Corporate Challenge. In Boston, where running is as much of a passion as scrod or chowder, and where the city's famous marathon sold out in less than a day, that level of participation has a foot up from many other cities. But, Fidelity carries that passion a few steps farther.
"Fidelity supports this event in a big way," said Gravina. "We have a lot of people who like to participate in these kinds of activities. That's a key. They get excited about things like the Women's team winning the race here last year and finishing third at Johannesburg. It was published on the office website and people talked about it in the office a lot."
Now, it's the turn of the Men's team.
Gravina, the team captain, is Director of Finance in Fidelity's Asset Allocation Division. A rugby player while at Brown, he has been with Fidelity for more than four years since graduating from MIT Sloan in 2006 and has run three marathons, including Boston twice.
Khatchadourian was the first finisher for Fidelity at Boston with a time of 18:29. A Quantitative Research Associate on the emerging markets debt team, he ran on the MIT varsity cross country and track teams.
Members of Fidelity's team gather for a pre-race photo at the 2010 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Boston. Fidelity not only had the largest team at the event with 243 entrants, but also won the Men's team title after winning the Women's team title in 2009.
Kaijala, a Private Client Specialist with Fidelity, has the distinction of holding the most male Indoor Ivy League Championship 1st place finishes (seven) in the history of the league. He also is the school record holder in the 1000m (2:23.12) and distance medley relay at the University of Pennsylvania.
The final member of the team going to Singapore is Jeff Walker, who is the Director of Software Engineering Development Management at Fidelity. Walker, replacing McLucas who is running the Boston Marathon, also in April, was a soccer player who said he never ran in high school or college.
"I started running as my “mid-life crisis” at age 39," said Walker, "and have since run 11 marathons, including five Boston Marathons. Lately I’ve taken up competing in triathlons, helping to organize local fun runs and races, and running road races with my 11 and 12 year old sons. My next big goal is to complete a full Ironman triathlon (swim 2.4 miles, bike 112, run 26.2) before I turn 50 in three years."
It is obviously a talented team, but they know they will be competing against the best corporate running teams in the world at the Series Championship in Singapore. They also know they will have a tough act to follow with the stellar performance of their Women's team in the 2010 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Championship at Johannesburg.
"I don't know if winning is within our reach," said Gravina. "It would be phenomenal to finish in the top three."
That, not coincidently, was the finish of last year's Fidelity Women's team.
But, beyond that, there are also personal goals.
"I couldn't imagine before 2010 (when the Women's team made it to the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Championship in Johannesburg) that I would be competing with my colleagues in a running event in Singapore," said Khatchadourian. "It's really special and will probably be one of the top running highlights I'll ever have."