Members of the Staples team gather for a traditional pre-race photo at the 2010 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Boston.
Staples makes the Corporate Challenge
in Boston part of its company tradition
Several members of the 2004 Staples team fly the company banner in Boston Common.
BOSTON, April 26, 2011 — Every year following Boston's J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge, an exodus of runners and walkers gradually slips away from historic Boston Common and spills out onto the shop-filled streets of Boston's Back Bay. Thousands of fit-looking pedestrians in running shorts and warm-ups make their way to post-race meeting places at favorite restaurants and pubs. It's time for mini-parties and big cheers.
In a city of history and traditions, the post-race company party on the evening of the Corporate Challenge has become a much-anticipated Boston happening for many of the corporate teams that have made the event a sellout for 16 consecutive years. It's a tradition that Staples — which invented the office superstore concept in nearby Brighton in 1986 — has taken to heart.
"We have a tradition, started by our previous captain, Tom McCann, that our participants all enjoy," said Company Captain Bette Simollardes. "We meet in the Common, have a few minutes to chat and group up before the race and then we take a team picture. Typically hard core runners make their way to the front, other runners find colleagues that run perhaps a similar pace and walkers also group up. After the race we meet again for a celebratory cheer at a local restaurant pub. It’s a mixture of age groups and levels from junior associates to our most senior associates — all accomplishing something together and getting to know each other better."
On Thursday, June 2, the traditions and the cheer will flow again as the 28th annual Corporate Challenge is run at 7:15 p.m., then celebrated throughout the Back Bay afterward.
Staples, which has participated for years in the Boston Corporate Challenge, views the event as an ideal way to mix fitness and fun —- and make some important contributions to the lives of its team members, as well as its company. Simollardes is guiding the Staples Corporate Challenge effort for the third year as its company captain.
"I must say I have really loved the role and getting to meet so many Staples associates," she said.
By mid-April, Staples already had 124 members on its 2011 team, indicating another big year for the company at the Corporate Challenge.
"Our team is growing, partly with better communication vehicles, such as posting it on our company intranet, and through the old traditional vehicles — emailing prior participants, knowing a broad group of people who run or walk, and posting it in all the available bulletin boards," said Simollardes. "However, I believe the most significant catalyst of our growth is because our participants enjoy themselves and recruit their friends or others in their department to participate. Although some people feel comfortable flying solo and meeting new people, others like to make it a group or departmental event."
In the heart of Boston, the Common offers Staples and other teams ideal meeting places before the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge, which has reached capactiy for 16 consecutive years..
As the world's largest office products company, Staples serves customers through stores and delivery service in 26 countries on five continents. In the Boston area, that spread-out business model is reflected with retail locations and delivery operations, plus the company's headquarters in Framingham. So, the chance for employees to come together is not one to be missed.
"The camaraderie is huge!" Simollardes said. "It is a great opportunity to either meet others from across the company or bond with people that at work you are typically too busy to get to know. It does so much to promote relationship building, so from a corporate perspective it is also very beneficial. Our associates really enjoy the out-of-office event, meeting new people and having a chance to mingle on a personal level with our senior leaders. As a result of the event, we have a common bond and experience that we all can talk about."
But the benefits don't stop there, said Simollardes, who thanked Staples for its on-going support of the team's participation in the Corporate Challenge.
"Health and wellness awareness are part of our company culture, and this event ties perfectly into that in that it provides a goal for people to work toward to get fit," she said. "People who haven’t been active over the winter know they need to get out and walk or run regularly to complete the event. In doing so, many associates create a fitness habit. I know from personal experience, after participating in my first Corporate Challenge four years ago, I enjoyed the event and was encouraged to create other fitness goals."
Those goals led Simollardes, a 19-year Staples veteran, to complete her first half-marathon last year. Now, she is training for her first triathlon next month.
Others on the Staples team have similar stories, and all the stories have a similar theme - fun.
“It’s a lot of fun to get out there in the nice weather with fellow Staples associates, get some exercise, and get into Boston," said a team member. "It gets me out there running to practice at least a few times beforehand. I love running down Commonwealth Avenue with all the other runners past the beautiful brownstones. I’ve been running in the Corporate Challenge since about 1985 (with two other companies before joining Staples). It’s amazing to see the Corporate Challenge crowd of 10,000 (plus) people at the starting line…from all different companies. I always feel great afterwards and look forward to doing it every year that I can.”
Team member Mathew Gallant says he runs the Corporate Challenge because "it is a great team building and networking event as you get an opportunity to meet and interact with colleagues outside of work. I enjoy the fun atmosphere and checking out the other companies T-shirts for creativity. Some of my best memories over the years have been running at lunch with a group of colleagues to train for the race as well as the year we won a prize for our T-shirt design."
And, last year, four of Staples' runners combined their efforts to find another way to have fun at the Corporate Challenge — competing for a team title. The 2010 women's team of Arden Brust, Beth Bartnik, Emily Ganley and Lisa Scopa ran a combined time of 1:51:08 to finish sixth in the highly competitive race in the heart of America's running hub.
"I really enjoyed running in my first Corporate Challenge last year," said Brust. "I’ve been running more often this year, so I’m looking forward to bettering my time in June!"
Added Ganley: "Despite the heat last year, the event was really fun. I’m sure we will all try our best again this year and look forward to seeing if we can beat our times from last year."
Another team member perhaps summed it all up best when she said: “Every year I just try to do my best in what is an incredibly fun race. This year I'm heading there straight from the airport so hopefully all goes well!"
That sounds like a great story just waiting to be told at the post-race celebration.