The J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge is a true San Francisco treat, with another sell-out crowd flocking to the China Basin starting line for the 34th running.
The J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge has had a home in in San Francisco since 1983, and it has never been healthier.
A sold-out crowd of 10,500 runners and walkers from 363 companies took part, turning the China Basin and the Embarcadero into a shorts and Dri-Fit t-shirt celebration of the full-time workforce.
Well, considering the typical Bay Area winds at sunset for the 7 p.m. race start, perhaps long-sleeve Dri-Fit t-shirts, but no one was complaining.
The company teams that filled the McCovey Cove staging area adjacent to AT&T Park included multinational companies, leading high-tech firms, Universities, and entrepreneurial small businesses. Their sold-out attendance continued a pleasant 2018 Corporate Challenge trend: Nine of the 11 events held to date in this year’s Series have either reached a full capacity of entrants or increased participation from last year.
Okta, a quintessential San Francisco technology company which provides secure identity management, was in a celebratory mood as it donned its Corporate Challenge runner numbers.
“We’re in the final stages of the OktaFIT Corporate Challenge – a program designed to get our employees out of the office and moving,” said Okta’s team captain Natasha Vo. “As a company, we had a goal for our employees to move 250,000 miles as a company during a six-month period. We just exceeded that goal with 270,000 total miles.”
That dedication to company fitness is nothing new at Okta, Vo proudly pointed out.
“Our co-founders, Todd McKinnon and Frederic Kerrest, are both large proponents of fitness and wellness, and it’s a philosophy we weave into our employee wellness programs,” Vo said. “OktaFIT, encourages fitness and holistic mind and body health. Fitness and wellness is a part of our core and it’s something we’ll always be passionate about.”
Peter Bowden, a Managing Director at global professional services company Accenture, has been passionate about the Corporate Challenge since the late 1980’s.
“My father recruited me to participate as a volunteer with his running club at an original Corporate Challenge almost 30 years ago in Albany, New York,” Bowden said. “Since, I've organized teams in each of the locations I've worked in with Accenture, including New York, Boston and now San Francisco.”
With all that experience, Bowden is well equipped to discuss what he feels the Corporate Challenge benefits are for Accenture.
“We see it as both a tangible and intangible benefit,” Bowden said. “Accenture has a comprehensive Wellness program and since we already offer discounts on gym memberships, provide online workout resources, and sponsor local company athletic teams, covering the entry costs for several local races each year is another way to encourage more employees to get and stay active, set goals and work towards achieving them, and help out a good cause.
“We feel it is an important event to be visible and enjoy the friendly competition with our clients and competitors. We pride ourselves on having one of the largest teams and always aim to stand out with our Accenture branded athletic wear!”
Accenture and Okta were both among the largest companies in this year’s Corporate Challenge, based on total entries. The complete Top 10 were: Salesforce (940 total entrants), VMware (318), Genentech (287), BioMarin Pharmaceutical (275), Visa (251), First Republic Bank (201), Infinera (185), Accenture (147), Okta (141), and Cooley (120).
Helen Vita, a Senior Executive Assistant in the Legal Department at Cypress Semiconductor Corporation, says her company uses the Corporate Challenge to promote fitness among its workforce, but also to simply have collaborative fun.
“The J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge has always enjoyed a following and solid participation by Cypress employees,” Vita, the Cypress team captain, said. “This year, we have assembled our biggest team yet, composed of 53 eager veteran and novice runners. We promoted this event to employees through on-site flyers and emails. We included the team in apparel and team logo selection, encouraged them to incorporate running into their daily schedule, and provided them with informative articles about running, hydration, and stretching.”
Vita related how there was plenty of music, karaoke and energy bars on the Cypress bus to McCovey Cove. “And after the run, we’re gathering for pizza and beer to celebrate our team as champions!”
Speaking of champions, the Warriors Community Foundation served as the beneficiary partner of the Corporate Challenge for the second consecutive year. The Foundation extends the local impact of the defending back-to-back NBA Champion Golden State Warriors and continues a longstanding tradition of community involvement. The benefitting charities from this year’s partnership will be 826 Valencia and the Boys & Girls Club of San Francisco.
On hand representing the Warriors Community Foundation were two of their first-round picks, representing different eras. Adonal Foyle was selected in 1997 and played 10 seasons with the club, one of the longest-tenured Warriors ever. Jacob Evans was the defending champions first-round pick this past June and will begin his debut NBA regular season next month.
Foyle and Evans were on the finishing tape to greet the fastest runners, who both turned in outstanding efforts.
Mara Olson, representing The University of California, San Francisco, won the women’s race, covering the 3.5-mile course in a sparkling time of 19:27. That allowed her to hold off runner-up Kayla Knapp of Salesforce (19:53) and third-place finisher Stephanie Pancoast of Airbnb (19:59). It was Olson’ first Corporate Challenge victory.
The men’s race featured a replication of 2017 at the very front of the pack.
Matthew Leach of Google successfully defended his title, clocking a 17:01, to just nip the 2017 runner-up, Chris Chavez of UBS (17:05). Leach is having quite a year, having also been the first male to cross the finish line at the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Championship in Boston on June 21.
Chavez is one of the more decorated runners in the history of the San Francisco Corporate Challenge, having won this race three consecutive years, 2014-16.
Darren Fahy, running for The Palisades Group, was a solid third in 17:13.
The J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series journeys over the Pacific Ocean next, as its 42nd year continues with the eighth annual running in Shanghai. It is the only Series event in China and anticipates a capacity crowd of 8,000 entrants.