The new Civic District starting line was one of the highlights of the 2017 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Singapore.

The 14th annual J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Singapore featured a new, historic starting line, a capacity crowd, and a famous Olympian running alongside the beneficiary.

Now 14 years in, the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge is one of Singapore’s most coveted events for the business community.  And it continues to evolve.

A capacity crowd of 14,301 participants from 324 companies took part this year, enjoying a scenic new 3.5-mile (5.6km) race route from the National Gallery to the F1 Pit Building.  After a rain delay, Mr. Baey Yam Keng, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, flagged the runners off from the new starting line on St. Andrew’s Road.

“The J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge is a commitment to the corporate community in Singapore, bringing together executives and colleagues for an exciting evening of teamwork and healthy competition,” said Edmund Lee, Senior Country Officer for J.P. Morgan Singapore. “We are delighted to have the race flag off in the Civic District, a national heritage site, which is widely viewed as the birthplace of modern Singapore.”

The site proved to be a draw. StarHub – Singapore’s first fully-integrated info-communications company -- was the largest company with 552 entrants.  Deloitte & Touch had 504, SAP 320 and AON 300.  Other impressive gatherings included: BNP Paribas (272), Visa (250), Cisco Systems (216), ABN AMRO (196), Standard Chartered (166) and AIG (154).

“The SAP contingent has grown through the years from 60 to this year’s 320,” said Irene Chui, SAP’s company captain. “This has become an annual employee engagement program for us and we proudly run with our corporate jersey bearing the slogan ‘Run Simple’ demonstrating the values which make us a great place to work.”

Using data from Bloomberg Markets, 130 of the entered firms are listed local and multinational firms with a combined total market capitalization of US$5.9 trillion.  But the Corporate Challenge also attracts small business and entrepreneurial companies as it sets a leadership tone in workplace fitness.

Excellent crowds are the norm rather than the exception in Singapore.  Since joining the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series in 2004, the Lion City has reached a full capacity of entrants 10 of 14 years, including the last seven.  Event owner and operator J.P. Morgan sets a good leadership tone – this year bringing 1,143 of its employees to the starting line.A winning tone was set by Fraser Thompson of AlphaBeta and Jasmine Teo of Bloomberg, the individual men’s and women’s winners.  Both are first-time Corporate Challenge champions in Singapore.

Thompson, who had good reason at home to celebrate, ran a 17:50 to hold off second-place finisher Hua Qun Soh of PwC (18:19). Michael Durante, representing UBS, was third in 18:45

“I’ve got a four-month old son, so I haven’t been sleeping much and didn’t know what to expect,” Thompson smiled. “But the support, atmosphere and weather were great and I’m really happy with my run.  It’s a lot better than I hoped.”

Teo also had personal motivation from a special life event.  She was a solid fourth-place finisher in both 2015 and 2016, and she shaved more than a half-minute off her 2016 time this year to break the women’s finish tape.  Teo’s 21:53 topped excellent efforts from runner-up Claire Chapman of BP Singapore (22:48) and bronze medalist Celine Fadnes of Watson, Farley & Williams (23:24).

“I’ve been really busy with work and planning my wedding, so this small achievement means a lot to me,” Teo said. “The atmosphere was really good.  Everyone bonded at the start line and the rain actually hyped us up for the run, which also provided a form of adrenaline for me.”

J.P. Morgan commemorated the effort of the capacity crowd by making a charitable donation to the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS), one of the oldest and largest non-governmental organizations catering to the needs of persons with intellectual disability in Singapore.  The MINDS mission is to provide equal opportunities for education to children with intellectual disabilities so they can ultimately be integrated as contributing and responsible citizens to society.

MINDS was represented on the race course by more than 20 persons with intellectual disability, accompanied by Olympian C. Kunalan, widely regarded as one of Singapore’s all-time greatest athletes.

“We are grateful for the support by J.P. Morgan,” said Keh Eng Song, the CEO for MINDS. “The Corporate Challenge was a great opportunity for MINDS and I’m glad we were able to have a team of participants.  It was special for the beneficiaries participating in the Special Olympics (Singapore) next month to meet with Mr. C. Kunalan and for him to share his experiences with them.”

Kunalan logged a 10.38 100m in the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, a national record that stood for 33 years.  He was happy for the opportunity to participate in the Corporate Challenge and bring attention to the work of MINDS.

“I was very pleased to be running with the athletes from MINDS,” Kunalan said. “They really inspired me with their determination. I can’t wait to see a few of them beat their personal best in the Special Olympics!”

Not all 14,301 entrants set record times on this night, but they were winners nonetheless by putting themselves first and getting to the starting line.  There will be a hop in the step of the Singapore workforce Friday morning.

“Improving employee health makes for happier staff, improved workplace productivity and better organizational decisions made,” said Chow Phee Chat, Director, Marketing Communications and Corporate Affairs for Nestle Singapore.

The 41st season of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series continues Thursday, May 25 with its first United States stop of the year, at Chicago’s Grant Park.