Raphael Schaefer leads the Ministry of the Interior and Sports of Saarland in its try for a Mixed team title at the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Championship.
German squads vie for Mixed team title
as international field points to New York
This is one in a series of stories profiling notable individuals and companies from the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge.
Germany's Roche Diagnostics will try for its 8th Mixed team title at the Championship.
NEW YORK, September 25, 2008 The JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Championship annually attracts the world's best corporate running teams to New York's famed Park Avenue for what has evolved into a true international showcase of a powerfully simple concept to promote fitness and camaraderie in the workplace.
This year's 26th running of the Series-ending classic is scheduled for 9 a.m. on October 4. With teams from six countries on five continents, it will add to the legacy of an event that literally attracts teams from around the globe.
So it is fitting that what is shaping up as one of the fiercest battles in the team competition will feature companies spread out across a country, in this case, Germany.
On one hand, powerhouse Roche Diagnostics, which has won the Mixed team title seven times on Park Avenue, is fielding a team that is healthy and loaded. On the other hand, a Corporate Challenge newcomer from a small section of Germany near the French border is coming to New York after defeating Roche in a highly competitive battle in Frankfurt, where 73,719 participated in the world's largest road race.
The Ministry of the Interior and Sports of Saarland won in its first Corporate Challenge effort in Frankfurt, shocking Roche and serving notice it will be a contender for the Mixed team title at the Championship. Saarland 's time of 1:15:36 bettered Roche by half a minute. The Saarland time also leads all Mixed teams in 2008, with Roche second and Chicago 's General Electric third in 1:18:59.
As good as the Mixed team battle may be, team titles in the other two divisions also are expected to be hotly contested.
In the Male division, four-time defending champion Transnet Rail Engineering returns to face stiff challenges from General Electric Chicago, which has 2008's best time in the division with a 1:08:07, and London's Legal & General, which features individual title-contender Phil Wicks and ran 1:10:40 in winning at Battersea Park in July.
Transnet also is expected to contend in the Female division, where its team comes to New York with the second fastest time in 2008 a 1:23:55 posted at Johannesburg. But, they will have to turn back the defending champions Polizei Hessen of Frankfurt to add to Transnet's growing collection of Championship Tiffany trophies. The German team, which ended a two-year reign by GlaxoSmithKline in 2007, has the year's best Female team time of 1:22:01. The third best time in the division is owned by Chicago 's CNA, 1:28:15.
When the world's best corporate runners gather each year on Park Avenue for the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Championship, a great race is assured.
The Mixed division battle between Roche and Saarland features some of the most talented runners in the field, but it almost did not happen at all.
Saarland Company Captain Werner Doerrenbaecher had entered his team twice in a competition in the German town of Dillingen, winning both times. Then, he happened to pick up a magazine featuring a story about the Frankfurt Corporate Challenge. Doerrenbaecher began adding up what his team might be able to do at the 3.5-mile Corporate Challenge distance and realized it had a chance to win. At the last moment, he got approval from the Minister of the Interior and Sports of the State of Saarland to enter, and the rest is history as they literally surprised the powerhouse Roche team at Frankfurt.
After that victory, there will be no surprises at New York, where Roche wants a second shot at the newcomers.
We take Roche very seriously, said Doerrenbaecher. They have a lot of experience on the New York course. But, it is a fair competition and I hope that our teams will represent Germany in the best way. Our motivation is good and we are looking forward to Manhattan.
Saarland is anchored by Raphael Schaefer, a 27-year-old who finished fifth in the 2008 German 10,000-meter championships in 29:23 and has a 5,000-meter best of 13:50. He also easily ran to the individual title at Frankfurt, clocking 16:04 to win by 23 seconds. An inspector for the Saarland ministry, he said he hopes to finish in the top three at New York and challenge the domination enjoyed by African runners here in recent years.
Perhaps throwing the edge to Roche, however, is the fact that two of Saarland 's runners on the winning Frankfurt team can't make it to New York. As a result, Schaefer and Frankfurt teammate Maika Sossna, a special agent who deals with hostage situations and bank holdups, will be joined by two runners off of Saarland 's B team. However, that team finished a competitive fourth at Frankfurt, so the addition of Ludger Leist and Nicole Frank doesn't figure to take too much away from Saarland 's title chances.
Meanwhile, Roche, which was denied its 10th Mixed team title at Frankfurt, is healthier than it has been for some time.
The anchors of the team Matthias Koerner and Katja Potthof are running as well as ever, with Potthof recovered from a back injury that had slowed her and Koerner breaking 17 minutes (16:48) at Frankfurt in June. Teammate Nadine Bucci, who ran two marathons prior to June's Frankfurt race, is coming into New York much more rested. And Christian Hoerauf ran 17:29 at Frankfurt to show his fitness.
As always, it figures to a most entertaining and international showcase when the world's best corporate runners get together on Park Avenue in October.