|2012 Chicago Championship qualifiers
|Joe Herington, Ryan Martin, Todd Ptacek, David Wheeler
EAST BANK CLUB
|Shanon Beelendorf, Nancy Fudacz, Sarah Gottlieb, Maureen Wagner
Aaron Harding, Jason Ream, Annette Reschke, Jennifer Schultz
CHICAGO, May 2, 2012 — For Chicago's East Bank Club, participating in the JPMorgan Chase & Co. Corporate Challenge seemed a natural fit that — until a couple of years ago — somehow had just never happened.
Internationally recognized as a cathedral of fitness, the East Bank Club features more than 450,000 square feet on four levels that spans two city blocks in Chicago’s River North neighborhood. The club offers the largest cardiovascular fitness room in the world, with more than 400 pieces of the latest equipment. And, it has a staff of more than 600 dedicated to helping members achieve fitness goals.
Among them is Sarah Gottlieb, the club's registered dietitian.
"I had many clients who came to see me early 2010 and were talking about the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge," Gottlieb said. "I looked into it knowing that the EBC didn’t participate in the race. I approached the club executives and drew up a plan on why I think we should participate. The first year it was barebones but since then we now have a tent and food with a party after the race."
They also have a women's team title, won in only their second year at Chicago's popular Corporate Challenge, which is devoted to promoting health and building camaraderie in the workplace.
On May 24, EBC, along with men's champion General Electric, will represent Chicago at the 29th annual Series Championship, a gathering that brings together the best 39 corporate teams from across the world's leading corporate running series. The men's, women's and mixed team champions from each city will square off in a 3.5-mile Championship that will be run just prior to the start of the regularly scheduled JPMorgan Chase & Co. Corporate Challenge in Chicago's Grant Park.
East Bank Club's championship women's team, from left: Maureen Wagner, Sarah Gottlieb, Nancy Fudacz and Shanon Beelendorf.
Gottlieb will join Shanon Beelendorf, Nancy Fudacz, and Maureen Wagner on EBC's team at the Championship. They combined their efforts last year to easily defeat former Chicago women's team champion CNA by almost six minutes to win the local crown and qualify for the Series Championship.
"I am so excited for this race, as are the rest of the employees of the East Bank Club!" said Gottlieb.
EBC punched its ticket to the 29th Championship with an effort that featured four times separated by just over a minute. Beelendorf led the way in 22:14, followed closely by Wagner (22:18), Fudacz (22:36) and Gottlieb (23:22).
It was no accident the four women finished so close together.
"We have such a diverse group — two who excel in long distances and two who excel in short distances, so we balance one another out," said Gottlieb. "EBC offered a running boot camp so we often did speed workouts together. We all started the race together and had the plan to run together as long as we possibly could. We used each other for inspiration."
Their combined time of 1:30:30 is the fifth-fastest seeded time among women's teams coming to the Championship. It trails only teams from Frankfurt, Boston, Johannesburg and San Francisco.
That is a significant accomplishment for a team only two years into its Corporate Challenge experience, but EBC is a business that not only attracts members interested in improving their health and fitness, but also highly-motivated employees focused on the same goals. The four members of EBC's close-knit, winning women's team are clearly examples of that.
Beelendorf is a fitness supervisor and certified power plate instructor at the East Bank Club. A four-time all-conference and all-state athlete in track and field at nearby Sterling, Illinois, she ran on a track scholarship at Tulane University, graduating in 2008.
Wagner is the Fitness and Wellness Manager at East Bank Club. Growing up in Orland Park, Illinois, she said she loved to be physically active for as long as she can remember. Although she’s done many other sports, running has always been a big component in her life, with 5Ks being her favorite distance "because you have to race out of your comfort zone for most of the race."
Chicago's Grant Park course will host runners from around the world before the start of its regularly scheduled race.
Chicago's Fudacz is the Director of Performance Training at East Bank Club and feels very fortunate to work with runners, cyclists and triathletes that are like minded to her. An endurance specialist, she completed many marathons, ultra marathons, triathlons and Ironmans, including this year's heat-slowed Boston Marathon.
And, Gottlieb, from Port Washington, Wisconsin, started running when she was a freshman in high school where she ran the mile and the 2-mile relay for Port Washington High School. She continues to love running, particularly endurance races.
"It makes me feel good and it is my 'me time,'” she said.
So, how will the EBC team do when they line up against the best corporate running squads in the world?
"Our expectations this year are to run our hardest and the best we can," said Gottlieb. "Nancy just had a biking accident three weeks ago, so we are just thrilled that she is well enough to run as part of our team."
They are also happy that runners from across the world are coming to their city.
"Chicago is a fabulous city that we all love to call home right now," Gottlieb said. "The Grant Park and the Lake Shore path are one of the most beautiful places to run — between the Chicago skyline and Lake Michigan — and we hope that the runners from other cities across the world enjoy it just as much as we do."
And, no matter what the results are on paper from the Championship race, sharing — whether it is their city's beautiful running courses or introducing others to the joys of running and fitness — makes this team click.
After making the effort to persuade EBC to participate in the Corporate Challenge two years ago, Gottlieb recounted thoughts to which her teammates no doubt relate well.
"There were many employees who had never run a race before and they were so excited to see all the people and participate in a race," she said of EBC's first Corporate Challenge event in 2010. "I love running and racing and was hoping that employees who hadn’t participated in races or didn’t run could see the satisfaction and fun that comes along with it.
"One of the food shop workers, Danielle, ran her first race ever last year," Gottlieb added. "She hesitantly told me her estimated time was going to be 2 hours. I told her she would be much faster than that! She ended up finishing in 32 minutes and was thrilled with her time. She was asking me when to sign up for 2012 pretty much the day after the 2011 race! She joined the running boot camp and has encouraged many of her co-workers in the food shop to sign up as well. This year her goal is to break 25 minutes."
And, that's how victories happen in running, and in life.