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Nearly 70,000 participants get set to race the 17th annual J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge at Frankfurt, making the race the largest in the world to date in 2009. Men's champion Raphael Schafer (left inset) ran 15:59, and women's winner Jenny Schulz (right inset) ran 19:10 to record the fastest times in their categories this year.
Once again, Frankfurt sets the standard
for size and speed in the Corporate Challenge
Results | Photo Gallery
The post-race celebrations begin in Frankfurt in a great setting and with widespread camaraderie.
FRANKFURT, June 17, 2009 — The bar has been set for all other races in 2009, both in size and speed.
The 17th annual J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Frankfurt featured a total of 69,042 registered runners from 2,708 companies throughout Germany. It is the largest road race of any distance thus far this year and is in a good position to hold that title.
For perspective, the largest U.S. race in 2008 was the Peachtree 10K in Atlanta, Georgia with approximately 55,000 official participants. There is one other event in the world — the Sydney, Australia City to Surf — that has a chance to top the Frankfurt numbers this year. City to Surf had 70,597 finishers in 2008. The 2009 race date is August 9.
The Corporate Challenge — a picturesque, 3.5-mile (5.6K) path that weaves through Frankfurt 's busiest city streets and residential neighborhoods — officially earned the 2008 “largest race” crown with 73,719 entrants. Though the numbers dropped approximately 6-percent this year, it was an outstanding turnout that generated a charitable donation of over 200,000 Euros to German Sport Aid Foundation (Deutsche Sporthilfe).
“We will use this generous donation for the sponsoring of various projects for young handicapped athletes,” said Michael Igner of German Sports Aid. “I am proud and thankful for being able to function as a partner of this event.”
One of the companies was a record-breaker. Commerzbank fielded a staggering 2,475 participants, the largest single team for any company in the 33-year history of the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Series. It was virtually double the size of any other team in this race, not that the gatherings of Deutsche Lufthansa (1,285), Deutsche Bank (1,281), Deutsche Bahn (1,1013) and Sanofi-Aventis (978) were any less impressive.
“It is a great event every year,” said Dr. Karl Altenburg, CEO Germany/Switzerland/Austria for J.P. Morgan. “We do not feel the financial crisis when we are here. The running experience as a group is good, it enables us to clear our mind and come to different thoughts. It is important to maintain the fun as a team and to celebrate with the colleagues afterwards.”
More records were set on the race course, by a pair of familiar faces.
Brightly colored spectators, some with balloons, added to the festive atmosphere of "The Friendly Competition" in Frankfurt.
Raphael Schäfer, running for the Ministry of Interior and Sport, opened up a substantial lead by the first mile and won going away with a time of 15:59. That is easily the fastest men's individual time in the 2009 JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Series, topping the 16:46 turned in by Hermans Pedi of Transnet Rail Engineering in Johannesburg on March 5.
“This is the best experience I have had in my running career so far — even during my time as a professional athlete,” enthused Schäfer, who also won this race in 2008, clocking an even swifter 15:53. “I have rarely experienced such enormous emotion during a race. I am really surprised of my victory, as I was ill until recently and have only trained on a minimal level. Sometimes less preparation leads to a greater success.”
Schäfer easily topped runner-up Christophe Chayriguet of Bongrain Deutschland, who turned in a strong 16:40. Dirk Busch from DZ Bank was just behind at 16:51.
Jenny Schulz of Deutsche Bundesbank also was returning to the winner's circle. After triumphing in 2008 with a time of 19:48, she was incredible on this night, logging a 19:10 to beat the formidable Birgitt Bohn of Alinea Financial Translations by almost a minute (20:08). Schulz is now the fastest Corporate Challenge woman of 2009, having surpassed the 19:44 run on June 11 in New York City by Katarina Janosikova of Sumitomo Mitsui Bank.
“I started fast and tried to keep up the tempo,” explained Schulz. “I enjoy this race distance, it's perfect for me.”
Schulz then quickly segued into the other appealing element of the Corporate Challenge. “Now,” she said. “I'm looking forward to celebrating with my colleagues in our building for barbecue and music.”
The evening was perfect for partying. After several days of rain and gray, the race day sky was blue with warm, comfortable racing temperatures.
The big winner in Frankfurt was race beneficiary was the German Sport Aid Foundation, which received a charitable donation of over 200,000 Euros to help young, handicapped athletes.
The throng of 2,708 companies numbered 119 more than 2008. They travelled to Frankfurt from more than 300 German cities. Nicknamed “The Friendly Competition,” the Corporate Challenge is celebrated for developing cohesion, trust and communication in the workplace.
“My colleagues get into contact across departmental boundaries,” said Dr. Thomas Frank, team captain for Merck, the large pharmaceutical company, based in Darmstadt. “I definitely have found that participating in the Corporate Challenge makes the workflow of day-to-day business easier. It's great to see more and more colleagues greet each other in the cafeteria and offices on a friendlier basis because of this race.”
Angela Sossenheimer, who works in procurement and production planning for Bayer CropScience, shared the feeling.
“We have a mix of top-runners, beginners and those running together in departments interlinked through various business processes,” Sossenheimer said. “We have runners from four different branches offices in Germany. Normally, these people only know each other via phone. Here, we can meet face-to-face.”
And virtually everyone that participates usually does a double-take at the scope of the race.
“The sheer number of runners, the enormous dimension of the event, makes it special,” said Uwe Lindemann, a software developer for Fresenius. “All the runners and companies benefit from this setting and deliver a better performance.”
The Prime Minister of Hessen, Roland Koch, understands the importance of the Corporate Challenge. That is why he once again served as the race “official starter,” sending the throng off with the starting horn at precisely 7:30 p.m. The take-off was broadcast live by Hessischer Rundfunk (HR TV) and approximately 80 credentialed electronic and print journalists were on hand.
“In my opinion there is almost nobody in our region that is not familiar with this event,” said Prime Minister Koch. “It has developed into an ongoing festivity for the city of Frankfurt. The fascination lies in the fact that large corporations and small companies as well as ministries, communities and other institutions participate together.”
Three companies raised the creative quotient of the race. Frankfurter Goethehaus, Invenio Engineering Services and traffiQ-Lokale were the winners of the T-Shirt competition and each will receive a donation from J.P. Morgan to designate to a charity of their choice.
Frankfurt was the seventh Corporate Challenge in the 2009 JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Series, which continues next Tuesday in Syracuse, New York.