Legal & General has fashioned a strong record in London and at the Championship with a group that includes, from left: Nick Hodges, Val Churchill, Viv Mitchell, Pippa Major, Ken Lee, Anne Davidson, and Stuart Major..
English country trails help Legal & General
run to success in London, New York
This is one in a series of stories profiling notable individuals and companies from the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge.
Phil Wicks wins London on July 10 by 90 seconds. Wicks was fifth in the 2007 Series Championship in 16:17.
LONDON, September 4, 2008 – The winding trails of England's famed countryside have served as the inspirational setting that has helped launch successes from world record holders Roger Bannister to Steve Ovett. On a smaller scale, the countryside also has been the setting for one of the emerging success stories of the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge.
England 's Legal & General has been a force in the world's top corporate running series since winning its first team title at London in 1999. In the past three years, it has placed among the top five teams in at least one category at the Series Championship on New York City 's Park Avenue. That was capped by a strong third-place finish by its Male team in 2007 when Phil Wicks, one of the top runners on the worldwide circuit, finished a competitive fifth overall.
Wicks again will lead a Legal & General Male team that will be joined by the company's Female team for another run at the top this year when the 26th running of the Series Championship is held in New York on Saturday, Oct. 4.
But, while their talent will have transported them to the urban beauty of Park Avenue in October, Legal & General's runners' roots are ground in a far different setting.
“The running team really appears to be thriving right now as we are not only blessed with some very talented individuals, but also have large numbers running regularly at lunchtimes,” said Stuart Major, who has been a part of the team since 1993 when a running colleague from JPMorgan, Martin Wood, told him about the series. “We are fortunate that one of our larger offices is based in Surrey in the middle of the countryside, offering perfect running trails for the staff based there. The running club is very active in organising a monthly lunchtime race and an annual inter-department relay.”
The result has been that the financial services company has now competed in 16 Corporate Challenges in London and will be representing England on Park Avenue for the sixth time in October.
“It wasn't until 1999 that we first won the Mixed category (in London) and participated in the Championship in New York,” said Major. “That was a very special experience for us because we were always so impressed by the standard of competition that we felt really privileged to be considered one of the best corporate running teams in the world.”
They have certainly lived up to that billing since, and should do so again this year despite having to substitute for two members of their Male team who can't make it to New York.
Anchoring Legal & General again will be Wicks, who won London this year in 16 minutes, 17 seconds, the third fastest time in the Series, and was fifth on Park Avenue in 2007, also in 16:17. At London, Wicks also enjoyed the added bonus of seeing girlfriend Emily Adams win the Female title in 19:51.
Wicks (fifth from left in front row of 2007 Championship start) once again will face formidable competition on Park Avenue.
“Phil is a tremendous talent,” said Major, who noted that Wicks joined Legal & General 2-3 years ago and works in the Bulk Purchase Annuities area. “He took up running only about six years ago, so is a relative novice and has been making big improvements every year. He is currently one of the UK 's leading distance runners, having represented Great Britain in the World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh early this year.
“Unfortunately, he suffered an injury following that race and has missed most of the summer. It was particularly surprising that he performed so well in the Corporate Challenge (at London ) again, given the amount of training he has missed. Perhaps not surprising that he won, but that he was only a few seconds slower than last year's time ( 16:11 ).”
Major certainly had a good view of just how impressive the 24-year-old Wicks' performance was. Major finished second at London, but was some 90 seconds behind, giving Wicks the largest winning margin in the Series this year.
At Park Avenue in 2007, Wicks ran with the leaders from South Africa, before falling back to fifth. He is looking forward to the challenge of running against the best in the world again.
“Phil always runs very confidently and aggressively regardless of whom he is up against as he has great belief in himself,” said Major. “He was very disappointed to have been beaten last year so I know he wants to make amends for that. The Africans are elite athletes and have some impressive track times that are quicker than Phil's so they will need to be respected. That will not deter Phil though. Personally, I think he is a little short of form to win, but I'm certain he will learn from the experience last year and run more tactically this year.”
Nick Hodges runs for Legal & General in the 2007 Championship on Park Avenue.
Behind Wicks is a team with a load of talent on its own. At London, for instance, Legal & General swept the first three male places on July 10, with Wicks ( 16:17 ), Major ( 17:47 ) and Nick Hodges ( 17:47 ) finishing well ahead of the field. Legal & General's Female team – featuring Viv Mitchell, Madelaine Lee-Smith, Ceara Joyce and Major's wife, Pippa - finished second at London.
It is also a team with a love of running and the Corporate Challenge.
“Probably my proudest moment in the Corporate Challenge series was winning the London race in 2001 at my ninth attempt after finishing 2nd twice before,” said Major, a Project Manager who has been with Legal & General for 20 years. “I have run in all of the London events since 1993 and always make it one of my priority races for the summer as I enjoy it so much.
“Pippa is my wife and has worked at the company for about 12 years. She has run in the Championship on three occasions. Robbie James is one of the stalwarts of the men's team. He has worked at Legal & General for 20 years and has run in the Championship on five occasions. Two of our other regulars who have run in the Championship are Viv Mitchell and Anne Davidson. Anne was our fastest female this year, but unfortunately we could not include her in a qualifying team because she works for our IT department which was outsourced in June. Ken Lee has been our captain, organizer, team manager etc. for over a decade and has travelled with us on three occasions to the Championship. He retires next year and we will miss his dedication and hard work for the team.”
That type of talent, and camaraderie, is the kind of success story that goes to the heart of the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge, as well as the beauty of the English countryside.