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RIT President Dr. Albert Simone and Grete Waitz recoil from the noise as Sandy Wolcott of JPMorgan Chase, Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy, and Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks fire the starting horns. Joe Rosen photos.

Rochester rolls with record entries, fast times,
a break with the weather & four beneficiaries
Official results | Photo Gallery

Series ambassador Grete Waitz gets a hug from Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy prior to the race.

ROCHESTER, May 31, 2007 – At noon on race day, JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge ambassador Grete Waitz was finishing up a live studio interview with popular radio host Bob Lonsberry of WHAM.

“This event is a tremendous investment in good,” Lonsberry said at the conclusion of the segment, referencing how more than 10,000 runners would not only be doing something healthy for themselves but also for four worthy not-for-profit organizations.

However, when Waitz got outside the studio in downtown Rochester, the mercury was at 92 degrees. It was the hottest day of the year to date in this Western New York city.

But higher forces played a part, allowing the 17th annual JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge in Rochester to go on comfortably. A burst of late-afternoon rain – the first real precipitation seen here in weeks – brought the temperature into the low 80's, and by the 7 p.m. race time it was dry, a bit breezy, and comfortable.

“We've been looking forward to this,” said Bob Ryan the President of Middle Market Banking for JPMorgan Chase in Rochester. “This is the coming out party for spring and summer in Rochester. After the winters we endure, this is a real celebration.”

Rochester sets records with 10,397 entries from 411 companies

Indeed, the business community came out in record numbers for the 3.5-mile road race and festive post-race party at Rochester Institute of Technology. A total of 10,397 runners and walkers from 411 companies covered the leafy course at RIT, and then partied on the green expanse of the “Bowl.”

The record crowd – besting the previous mark of 9,839 in 2004 – included some pretty heavy-hitters, including Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy, Monroe County Executive Maggie Brooks, and RIT President Dr. Albert Simone. The 411 companies (another new mark) included Fortune 500 companies, school districts, privately-owned retail shops, supermarkets, law firms, and dozens of other industries.

“We really tried to focus on getting people to come,” PAETEC company co-captain Gill Castle told the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle in a story published May 30. “We tell our employees, ‘You don't have to run like a deer to participate. Just being there to jog or walk is enough.”

That messaging worked for PAETEC, a telecommunications firm that had 176 participants. Another element that attracted big numbers were the beneficiary selections – Mary Cariola Center; the National Youth Sports Program at Monroe Community College; the North Star Center at RIT; and the Al Sigl Center. Each organization will receive a donation for each entry from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation.

“When you have great not-for-profit partners that do so much good in the community,” said Ryan, “it really rounds off the event nicely.”

And, of course, there was a very competitive road race. Clearly the largest race in Rochester, its individual titles are also the most coveted and two outstanding runners broke the tape first on this night.

Jeff Beck, an assistant manager at Medved Running and Walking Outfitters, successfully defended his men's title, running a swift 16:52 (27 seconds faster than his winning time in 2006). Jessie Webb, a pharmaceutical sales rep for GlaxoSmithKline, earned the women's crown in 20:08, after finishing second by a mere five seconds last spring.

If the rest of the men's field had gotten wind of Beck's workout this past Monday, it would have known he was at top form.

“I went out for eight miles,” Beck said, “and I was having a bad run. For the last mile, I just decided to pick it up to see what I could do, and I ran a 4:43. That gave me a lot of confidence coming in, knowing I had the speed in me to do something special.”

Jessie Webb of GlaxoSmithKline wins the Female title in 20:08.

Beck went through the Corporate Challenge mile in 4:45, the two-mile in 9:40, and used his confidence, speed and toughness to systematically pull away from the field (one top contender, Mark Andrews of Fleet Feet Sports, dropped back due to a sore Achilles just after the two-mile mark). He bested Jerimie Slick of Wegman's by 17 seconds with 2005 champion Dave Bradshaw of Pal-Mac School District third.

If you are an ardent follower of running, you'll be reading more about Beck in the short-term. He earned a spot on the U.S. Snowshoe team (a big sport in this part of the country) and also will be competing in the U.S. Mountain championships and the U.S. 10K Trail championships. “It keeps things interesting to do different types of competition like that,” the former three-time All-American at SUNY-Geneseo said.

Webb, the women's winner, has already made her mark globally. She was part of the four-woman GlaxoSmithKline team that won the 2006 JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Championship on Park Avenue last October. GSK bested Polizei Hessen for the coveted top prize, beating out teams from six countries on five continents.

“That was just an amazing experience,” said Webb, who ran collegiately at James Madison University. “When I started at Glaxo a couple of years ago, my colleague Christa Downey (Meyer) told me about the Corporate Challenge and I'm glad she did.”

Webb finds time for training in busy schedule

Webb is the mother of two young girls (Ellie, 3, and Samantha, 18 months), works a full-time schedule with GSK, yet still manages to train at a high level – three 5-mile runs a week at 6 a.m., two after-work speed days, and a Sunday long run. “Lots of running with the double baby-jogger,” she said.

The commitment to balance paid off on this night as Webb out-dueled Heather Webster of Pittsford Central Schools, earning a 10-second victory. The 2006 champion, Susan Yagielski of Webster Schools, was third in 20:29.

John Legere of Global Crossing (20:57) and Kathryn O'Neill of Monroe Veterinary Associates (24:09) won the men's and women's Most Senior Executive category.

This was the fourth consecutive year the Corporate Challenge was held at RIT, after 13 years at Highland Park. The campus was in full bloom as spring commencement ceremonies – with President Bill Clinton as the main speaker – had taken place a week earlier.

And if the majority of the 10,397 participants in the Corporate Challenge “graduate” to a regular exercise program, this event will truly have been a “tremendous investment in good.”

2006 in review

Rochester unveils new champions
as 9,371 participate in community event

2006 moments: The field breaks from the starting line (top), with runners charging to the finish 3.5 miles later (bottom left). Rochester Institute of Technology President Dr. Albert Simone, left, and Rochester Mayor Robert Duffy (bottom right) fire the starting horns, then jump into race.

Mayor, RIT president join the race
Official results

ROCHESTER, N.Y., June 1, 2006 – A typically long Western New York winter was drawing to a close and the traffic into Medved Running and Walking Outfitters in suburban Pittsford was beginning to pick up.

More and more people would approach sales staffer Jeffrey Beck about buying a new pair of training shoes. “Many of them would all say the same thing – ‘I'm getting ready for the Corporate Challenge',” Beck remembered.

Just months out of the SUNY-Geneseo, where the 24-year-old was a three-time Division III All-America selection in cross country, Beck had never been eligible to compete in the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge before. But he was very familiar with the 3.5-mile event.

“Growing up in (nearby) Fairport, once I started to run in high school, I volunteered to work at the starting line every year,” Beck said. “I use to think how cool it would be one day to win a race with so many people.”

That day has arrived. On a gray night with a light mist falling, Beck defeated one of Rochester 's most decorated runners – 42-year-old Scott Bagley of Abbott's Ice Cream – with a dramatic finish. The two racers swapped the lead three times in the final 600 meters before Beck prevailed with a finishing time of 17:19, four seconds quicker than Bagley.

Beck's victory was one of the highlights of the 16th annual Corporate Challenge, held for the third consecutive year on the pristine Rochester Institute of Technology campus. A near-record crowd of 9,371 participants from 376 companies took part with their efforts benefiting three worthy beneficiaries – Camp HACCAMO, Golisano Children's Hospital Pediatric Links With the Community, and the YMCA of Greater Rochester's Invest in Youth Campaign.

Track coach at Webster Central Schools wins female title

There was another first-time winner on the women's side. Sue Yagielski, a Middle School teacher and track coach at the Webster Central Schools, outkicked Jessie Webb of GlaxoSmithKline to win in 20:25. Yagielski debuted at the Corporate Challenge in 2005, finishing sixth overall in “23 minutes something,” she said. “This was definitely a big improvement.”

The 31-year-old Yagielski was a cross country and track standout at St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, but then got caught up in work after graduation and her training fell off. She summoned up the determination, however, to train for and finish the Philadelphia Marathon last November and that got her thinking about getting back into serious racing shape.

“I really have no idea where I'm at as a runner right now,” she said. “I didn't even know I had a chance to win this race until the last ½ mile or so when I heard a spectator yell at me, ‘Go, you're the second woman!' I saw the leader ahead of me and I just kicked after her.

“It's quite a thrill to win this race, and I bet my teammates will tell the kids in school all about it tomorrow,” Yagielski laughed.

Beck also smiled when told he probably should be nominated to be “Employee of the Month” at his running store after this performance.

“We love it when people come into the store right before the Corporate Challenge,” Beck said. “It just adds to the running community here and it gets people out to do something smart and healthy with their colleagues. It's a great concept.”

All segments of Rochester business community represented

The huge crowd at RIT drew from all segments of the business community, including Rochester 's #1 worker – Mayor Robert Duffy. He fired the starting horn with RIT President Dr. Albert Simone and then both jumped off the stage and into the masses for the competition.

“What a great example of community spirit,” said Mayor Duffy. “And we have over 160 city employees here, which really makes me proud.”

“The tremendous turnout is gratifying,” said Bob Ryan, President of Middle Market Banking for JPMorgan Chase in Rochester, “because Rochester has really embraced this event in its own way.”

Sue Yagielski of Webster Central Schools wins the female title in 20:25.

John Legere of Global Crossing and Sharon Napier of Partners & Napier were the Most Senior Executive winners. For Legere, the Rochester title will now sit on his mantle along with MSE titles earned in New Jersey and New York City. Napier is a multiple winner in the top exec category in Rochester.

Highland Hospital, Livonia Central School District and Monroe County Water Authority were the winners of the creative T-Shirt competition, each earning $500 to donate to the charity of their choice from JPMorgan Chase. And chances are very good all our winners will feel like celebrities in the coming days. The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle devoted a week's worth of coverage to the Corporate Challenge, and all four major television broadcast outlets in the city were out in force on race night.

“It really is phenomenal how much attention this event gets,” said Ryan. “Who knew it would grow to be this popular when we started with barely 700 runners 16 years ago?”

And who knew the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge could host over 70,000 participants in one day. About six hours before the Rochester race took off, the Frankfurt, Germany JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge was held with the largest number of participants of any footrace in the world in 2006 - 62,390.

That's a lot of new training shoes being broken in. And, back in Rochester, with hundreds of company hospitality tents set up, with catered feasts inside, the impact on the city economy was substantial. It's no wonder Mayor Duffy was smiling on the start stage.

“This event shows the spirit of the city,” said Mayor Duffy. “It's great that JPMorgan Chase puts it on every year.”


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