With this being the 40th year of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series, a lot of attention has been given to the original host, New York City. The first 3.5-mile team run was held there in Central Park on July 13, 1977.
But don't overlook Buffalo. The Corporate Challenge event in this Western New York City — at 36 years — is the second-oldest in the Series and its camaraderie is unmatched.
On a beautiful night not far from the shores of Lake Erie in this truly unique, prideful city, a total of 12,488 runners and walkers from 383 companies turned out in Delaware Park, a vast, beautiful greenspace also designed by Frederick Law Olmsted, the architect of Central Park. More than 300 tents were pitched and the post-race parties went well past the 8:58 p.m. sunset, welcoming in summer.
The turnout was the fifth-largest in Buffalo event history and will only trail New York and Chicago among the Corporate Challenge U.S. cities in terms of total participation. Pretty impressive for a market with a metro area population of approximately 250,000.
David Keenan of M&T Bank was the fastest of them all, covering the 3.5-mile course in 18:05 to win the men's individual race. It was his first title after finishing second in 2013 and 2014. He was trailed by Ridge Robinson of Bryant & Stratton College (18:27) and Kevin Smith of AVOX/Zodiac Aerospace (18:39).
Kimberly Mills was the top women's runner, earning her initial Corporate Challenge individual championship. Running for Freed Maxick, she broke the tape in 21:22. That was 16 seconds better than Kelsey Gratien of Univera Healthcare. Former champion Jennifer Koeppel (2009, 2012) of Amherst Central Schools was a strong third in 21:53.
Showing the same passion for the Corporate Challenge as it did in selecting fresh produce for its grocery stores, Wegmans had the highest participation, with a sterling turnout of 627 total entrants. Its chief rival, Top Markets, was second with 509. Other superb registration efforts were turned in by Ingram Micro (469), Kaleida Health (330), HSBC (240), Erie County Medical Center (235), Fidelis Care (212), Elderwood (198), Citi Group (152) and M&T Bank (139).
Wegmans entered an amazing 1,816 employees at the three Upstate New York events this year, and was also the largest company at the May 24 Rochester (771 entrants) and June 7 Syracuse (418) events. Tops also had a strong showing across the three Upstate cities, with 919 total employees entering.
The JPMorgan Chase Foundation made a donation on behalf of all Corporate Challenge participants in the Queen City to two education-focused beneficiaries: Say Yes Buffalo and Classroom Champions. The donation will be used by both organizations to provide thousands of scholarships and mentoring opportunities to Buffalo students.
After conducting events in seven cities over the last 31 days, it's time for a summer vacation for the 2016 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series. Our 40th year of celebrating corporate fitness and camaraderie continues July 20-21 in London.