Thoroughfares generally reserved for commuting into and around Downtown were transformed into a unique race course for the 27th J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Rochester.

It’s a new era for the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in this Upstate New York city.

The event had a successful 13-year run in Highland Park (1991-2003) before moving out to Henrietta for another 13 years on the campus of Rochester Institute of Technology (2004-16).  For the 27th running, a bold move was executed to hold the race completely in Downtown Rochester with post-race hospitality at beautiful Frontier Field, home of the Rochester Red Wings baseball club.

An impressive crowd of 7,440 runners and walkers from 305 companies signed up for the 3.5-mile road race, with 108 of the companies enjoying hospitality in Frontier Field that included reserved seating, a post-race concert and fireworks.

Did it work out.  Well, the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle, the region’s largest newspaper, didn’t equivocate.  Its front page headline the morning following the race read, in all caps, CORPORATE CHALLENGE A CITY SUCCESS.

Leila Mantilla said her colleagues at LaBella Associates had been talking about the event “for months,” because the move put the race course in proximity to the firm’s High Falls address.

“I think having Frontier Field (for hospitality) is a big asset,” Mantilla told James Johnson of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. “It was really cool to see people I know all around here representing their companies.”

Grocery chain Wegmans led the way in participation with a whopping 830 total entrants, the largest ever in Rochester.  Paychex and Rochester Health also had outstanding turnouts with 374 and 371 employees registered, respectively.  University of Rochester (176), Harris Corporation (141) and LaBella (100) all hit the three-figure mark.

“I was actually a little surprised to have so many people in the summer,” Wegmans company captain Kristen Deisering told Victoria Freile of the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. “It’s like a little reunion for everyone.  All our stores come together for this fun team-building event where you get to know colleagues outside the store or the office.”

Becky Cania helped organize the Paychex team and noted that many of her colleagues were pleased the event moved Downtown.

“A lot of employees have said they’re excited that it’s back in Rochester,” Cania said. “There’s just something about running it on city streets.”

And the running itself was exemplary. 

The first-place men’s finisher was the 2016 defending champion, Matthew Pierce, representing EagleView.  Pierce had a winning time of 18:19 (5:14 pace), with runner-up Andrew Foxenberg of Aloi Materials Handling crossing the line in 18:23.

Trisha Byler of DuPont won the women’s individual title, breaking the tape in 20:25 (5:50 pace).  She beat out the second-place finisher, Ashley Nevol of Corning, with her final stride.  Nevol’s finish time was also 20:25, with their actual finish difference less than one-tenth of a second.

Byler was also the women’s individual champion at the 2017 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Championship, held on June 13 in Frankfurt, Germany.  There Byler beat out the fastest women from Corporate Challenge races in seven U.S. cities, Australia, China, England, Germany, Singapore and South Africa.

The participants also took pride in that the event will have a positive effect in the city beyond the race course.  J.P. Morgan donated on behalf of all entrants to Hillside Work-Scholarship Connection (HWSC) and the Catholic Family Center (CFC) Adult Mentoring program. Both HWSC and CFC are priority projects of the One Community Plan, a blueprint led by the Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council to support the efforts of the Rochester-Monroe Anti-Poverty Initiative. The Prosperity Fund of the United Way will administer the donation from this year’s Corporate Challenge to these programs.

It’s summer vacation time in the Northern Hemisphere for the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series.  Racing will resume in San Francisco on Thursday, September 7 for the 33rd annual running of the event in the City by the Bay.