This was the second year the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge has been held on the streets of Downtown Rochester, and an 18-percent increase in attendance over 2017 indicates the new location has caught on.

Gleason, a world leader in gear engineering and technology, was founded in 1865.  And pride in that longevity is what brought its employees to the starting line of the 28th J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Rochester.

We feel that as one of the oldest companies in Rochester (participating in the Corporate Challenge) is our way of giving back to the community that has supported us for so long,” said Greg Miller, IT Manager at Gleason and its team captain.  “We also use it as part of our wellness program and it gives everyone from the CEO to the assembler a chance to mingle in a non-work environment.”

And Gleason had plenty of chances to network on this overcast, but comfortable-to-party night in Downtown Rochester.

A superb crowd of 8,771 runners and walkers from 361 companies – 18-percent larger than the 2017 gathering – covered the 3.5-mile course along the city streets and Inner Loop.  They then celebrated post-race within beautiful Frontier Field, home of the Rochester Red Wings baseball team.  Expanded hospitality options for the companies included space on the field and in the dugouts, and throughout the seating bowl and suites.

It’s a different feel for the Corporate Challenge, which may not go back as far as Gleason, but has a rich history of its own. It has its roots in Highland Park (1991-2003) and the Rochester Institute of Technology (2004-16).  This is the second year the event has been Downtown and at Frontier Field, the reviews are positive, and the benefits remain.

“It is a great way to create camaraderie and a little competition between employees and departments,” said Gleason’s Miller. “As team captain, I promote the event for all levels of athletic ability.  We will have employees who will run it in under 30 minutes and employees who walk together and just enjoy the event and festivities. We may see a few customers and suppliers and share a few stories of past races and the current one.  One year we were able to enter one of our Engineers from Germany who was an extreme marathoner.  He did very well and gave our local engineers some different competition.” 

The surge in attendance to 8,771 was fueled by Wegmans.  The grocer’s 862 registered employees this year is the largest in the history of the Corporate Challenge in Rochester, breaking its own 2017 mark of 830 entrants. Paychex also had a healthy increase, from 374 to 410 entrants.  Five other companies entered 100 or more employees: Rochester Regional Health (364), University of Rochester (261), City of Rochester (147), Harris Corporation (145), and Labella Associates (100). Event owner and operator J.P. Morgan registered 77 employees.

Some significant history was made at the finish line.  The amazingly-talented Trisha Byler of DuPont successfully defended her women’s individual title, breaking the finish line tape in 21:16 (6:04 pace).  She bested runner-up Georgia Tuttle of Brown & Brown of New York (21:28) and third-place finisher Rachel Pinney from Partners + Napier (21:33).

Byler was also the first woman at the 2017 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Championship in Frankfurt, Germany last June 13.  Her 2017 Rochester title was on July 11.  With this victory, she now has three individual wins in 12 months – the first runner in the 42-year history of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series to do so.

There was a new face in the men’s winner’s circle as Matthew Wilber of Corning Federal Credit Union crossed the finish line first in 18:21 (5:14 pace).  Wilber had been the runner-up at this event in 2016.

Jonathan Pelzar, running for Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, was a strong second in 18:36 with Chad Byler of Navitar nipping at his heels in third at 18:37.

Then the party began inside Frontier Field.

Zachary Hess, team captain for award-winning architecture and engineering firm Bergmann, feels the Corporate Challenge is a perfect fit for his company’s culture.

“Bergmann participates each year because this is a great team building event,” Hess said. “We have a very active Bergmann Young Professionals group that has been leading our team for the past several years. We love the opportunity to create a party for our team after which builds camaraderie for our people.”

The diversity of entrants is one thing that makes the Corporate Challenge attractive to Bergmann.

“Entry to the Corporate Challenge is open to any Bergmann Rochester employee and many take advantage of the chance to participate,” Hess said. “We have some regular race runners who will place pretty well, and we have some walkers that will come out for the event, the camaraderie and the party. Our team will range from recent college grads to senior level executives. Also, it’s a great networking event. Just looking at the brands on the t-shirts you pass, you can tell that lots of employers in Rochester are represented at the event.”

There’s a strong community element as well, and this year there was a first-time beneficiary. Veterans Outreach Center, which provides comprehensive resources to current and former members of the U.S. Armed Forces, will receive a donation in celebration of all Corporate Challenge participants from J.P. Morgan.  In existence since 1973, Veterans Outreach Center is the oldest non-profit serving veterans in the U.S.  Services include benefit counseling, employment and job training service, wellness programs, financial and legal counseling, veterans’ treatment court, housing assistance programs and residential programs.

The 42nd year of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series takes a one-day breather before resuming on Thursday, May 24 on the banks of Lake Michigan with the 37th running in Chicago.