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Since its inception in 1993, the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge in Frankfurt has grown from 527 entrants to 67,270 in 2007.
Thousands of German companies embrace goals
of Corporate Challenge to fuel Frankfurt growth
Members of SAP's team gather for a 2007 pre-race photo in Frankfurt.
FRANKFURT, May 13, 2008 - It has become a running phenomenon with a uniquely German flavor. When the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge is held in the heart of the Europe's financial capital on June 11, upwards of 70,000 entrants are expected to gather to run a 3.5-mile course that winds in front of ornate buildings, historic treasures, and gleaming company headquarters.
Afterward, the beer gardens will flow and the “wurst” barbecues will send their pungent scents skyward as German companies celebrate into the spring night.
Behind the staggering numbers of what has grown to be the world's largest road race are literally thousands of stories of individual German companies who have embraced the Corporate Challenge's concept of encouraging fitness in the workplace in a way that promotes camaraderie in an out-of-the-office setting.
In mid-February, more than 1,000 Company Captains from leading businesses gathered for a pre-race informational seminar. As race day approaches, those Company Captains and more than a thousand others are getting their teams ready to run – helping with training and dealing with the details that go into such a large-scale event, such as arranging transportation, meeting places, designing shirts, ordering food, and more.
“This is such a big event and people like big events,” said Silvia Otto, Company Captain for software maker SAP. “It is important to attend.”
And, Germans do just that, making the trip to Frankfurt from all corners of the country. Many arrive by bus, then head to meeting places to team up for a night of running and fun.
“During our first years in the Corporate Challenge we were coming by car,” said Otto of her SAP team. “But for several years now, we have been coming by bus from Walldorf. Our team meets in the area of the “Alten Oper” in Frankfurt. We have free company shirts for our team and ask for a small donation to support social projects in our area.”
Otto has been SAP's Company Captain since 1999 and a member of the team before that. So, she has seen the event grow before her eyes.
The first Frankfurt JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge was held in 1993 when 527 participants from 57 companies entered. It has grown virtually every year since. In 2002, it attracted the most participants of any city in the six-country, five-continent racing series when 51,031 entered. That put it ahead of even New York and London, where the popularity of the Corporate Challenge had led to races on multiple nights.
In 2005, Frankfurt passed another milestone when it surpassed 2,000 companies (2,018) entered. And, in 2007, it attracted 67,270 participants from 2,446 companies to establish Series records and keep its title as the world's largest road race.
“Many of my colleagues like the atmosphere in Frankfurt,” said Otto, who adds that SAP also enters teams in the Corporate Challenge series stops in Singapore and San Francisco. “They enjoy running through Frankfurt and meeting many people.”
Sometimes, however, Otto's colleagues run so fast they probably don't get much of a chance to appreciate the course sites or chat with other runners during the actual race. In 2006, SAP's Male team finished a competitive third with Rainer Nerding, Dirk Debertin, Peter John and Gernot Helferich averaging just over 18 minutes.
Fast times are certainly another part of the tradition at Frankfurt. Perennial powerhouse Roche Diagnostics has won multiple titles in the international Series championship held each fall in New York, and Polizei Hessen broke through last year to capture its first Female Series team trophy.
But, no matter how fast you run, one thing is certain at Frankfurt. You will soon be joined by thousands and thousands of your "best running friends” from other companies across Germany.