Some of the 525 companies at Chicago's JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge have some fun in pre-race photos. Clockwise from top are: Hyatt Hotels, Sandbox Industries with company captain Erin Carlstrand (10703), and Zs Associates with company captain Ashley Emmons (12486). Aynsley Floyd photos.
Companies race into Memorial Day holiday
with friendly competition in Chicago
Christina Overbeck of Sargent & Lundy (top) and Todd Ptacek of General Electric win the individual titles at the 28th annual JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge in Chicago.
CHICAGO, May 21, 2009 — Framed by the twinkling Chicago skyline on a glorious evening launch to Memorial Day weekend, inter-office competition was waged up and down Columbus Drive.
John Wallis, Global Head of Marketing and Brand Strategy from Hyatt Hotels corporate office, told his 65 colleagues participating in the 28th annual JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge that he would make a donation to charity for each person who beat him.
Scott Sims, a principal at ZS Associates, had 35 red-shirted employees attempting to hunt him down on the 3.5-mile course. “Scott is one of our fastest runners,” said Karianne Paolo, a ZS manager. “This is the year for somebody to beat him, though.”
Not so fast, said Sims, who had a strategy in place.
“If I see a red shirt getting ready to go by me,” he said, “I'm sticking my foot out.”
Good natured challenges like these were the norm as a total of 17,125 runners from 525 Chicagoland companies turned out for this year's Corporate Challenge. Held each year since 1982 in the Windy City, the event raised funds and groceries for the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
Officially, the fastest runners were Todd Ptacek of General Electric and Christina Overbeck of Sargent & Lundy. They were the respective men's and women's overall winners in smart times of 17:05 and 20:03. For Ptacek it was his second consecutive victory on the out-and-back Grant Park course. Overbeck is a first-time winner.
The large majority of the competitors knew they had little to no shot of besting Ptacek or Overbeck, but they had other motivations for taking part.
For Ty Wagner, a clinical researcher for Abbott Laboratories, pride in his company got him into the city.
“We do work researching HIV medications,” Wagner said. “When you do something like that, you realize you are coming to work and doing something good. You are helping to save lives. It makes you very proud to work at a place like Abbott Labs and represent them at this race.”
Erin Carlstrand, art director at Sandbox Industries, had participated in the past Corporate Challenge with a previous employer. When she moved to Sandbox — an incubator of new businesses — last year she couldn't wait to sign her new colleagues up for the race.
“We've found that the Corporate Challenge helps us get familiar with creative companies out there we didn't know about,” Carlstrand, who signed up a Sandbox team of 17, said. “So there is a business benefit there. Internally, we don't do things like this too often. So it's fun to get out here together and enjoy each other's company.”
Hyatt's Sarah Holum registered a team of 66, including a real swift runner — second-place female finisher Vanessa McGovern (20:31). The Chicago-based hotel chain considers the Corporate Challenge its favorite special event of the year.
“Our employees love coming out,” Holum said. “We get a chance to talk to our friends at other companies, and it's a great environment, a perfect way to kick off the summer.”
Runners start their 3.5-mile trek at the 2009 JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge in Chicago.
Holum and her teammates were in one of the approximately 300 hospitality tents that were dotted throughout both sides of Grant Park. The Hyatt tent was in very close proximity to where President Obama made his acceptance speech on Election Night 2008.
“It's a historic spot,” Holum smiled.
ZS Associates' Sims has 20 years of memories with the Corporate Challenge, dating back to when a large part of the race course was on Michigan Avenue. He also recalls the year a cow nearly beat him to the finish line.
“I thought I was doing very well,” he laughed. “Then I look up and a guy in a cow costume is ahead of me in the final stretch. I said there was no way a cow was going to beat me, and we ended up together on the finish line ... just in time for somebody to take a picture of me to race past a cow.”
There were no runners in bovine costumes this time, but there was plenty of competition in the T-Shirt competition. The three winners, each of whom received a donation to charity in their company's name, were Bovis Lend Lease, Navistar, and Synovate.
Kate Maehr, Executive Director for the Greater Chicago Food Depository, thanked the participants from the finish stage for contributing mightily to the Food Depository's advance Virtual Food Drive and for bringing enough groceries to the site to require transport in two box trucks. These efforts will supplement the monetary donation the JPMorgan Chase Foundation made for each entry to the Food Depository, a first-time Corporate Challenge beneficiary.
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois maintained its stellar support of the Corporate Challenge, earning a Tiffany Award for fielding the largest team — 568 participants strong. Corner office dwellers were made proud by the efforts of Most Senior Executive winners Ilan Shalit of Consolidated Trading (21:46) and Julie Silverstein of SmithBucklin (35:02).
To honor the hard work of the 525 tireless company captains, long-time JPMorgan Corporate Challenge Series co-sponsor American Airlines donated a pair of round-trip coach tickets to anywhere American flies in the U.S. and the Caribbean to three company captains, chosen in a random drawing. The winners of the ducats were Holly Yots of Beazley, Chris Taylor of The Boston Consulting Group, and Jeff Hojnacki, of Magnetar Capital. Hojnacki is a familiar name at this event, having been a past individual champion. He ran a solid fifth in this race, finishing in 18:21.
The 33rd season of the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Series continues next Thursday, May 28, in Rochester, NY.