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A crowd of 25,474 gets the 2015 U.S. schedule of races off to a record start at the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Grant Park. Brandon Mull of TransMarket Group (left inset) was the first finisher in 17:20, while Katelyn Draths of Northern Trust was the first female finisher in a time of 20:29.

Chicago kicks off U.S.
schedule in record fashion

CHICAGO, May 21, 2015 - The first U.S. stop of the 2015 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge® Series set a standard that will be impossible to top.

The 34th annual celebration of workplace camaraderie attracted a total of 25,474 runners and walkers from 649 companies to Grant Park on an idyllic spring night - the perfect appetizer for the Memorial Day weekend ahead.

The Windy City will have the largest single-night Corporate Challenge in the U.S. No event this year will top the 25K+ that was on hand for this. New York will have 30,000 people in Central Park in June, but over two nights.

"I personally have an overwhelming sense of pride running with the Exelon race shirt," said David Alvarez, company captain for the energy producer. "We provide electricity to 3.8 million customers in Northern Illinois and have a real impact in Chicago. So to be here representing our company during the race is really meaningful to me."

Karen Scheffler, company captain for Caterpillar, recruited 262 members of the Cat Crew to participate in the race - many commuting 170 or so miles from their Peoria headquarters. It's a bonding experience worth fighting traffic for, she said.

"We have a lot of employees who participate as walkers, and many who participate for the camaraderie and pride in the company," she said. "And the exciting view of Chicago isn't bad either."

There wasn't much traffic at the front of the pack for the race champions - both of whom were making their debuts in the Chicago winner's circle.

Brandon Mull of TransMarket Group broke the men's finish tape in 17:20, holding off a strong challenge from Joshua Neyhart of United Airlines (17:24). Brett Burdick of AMLI Residential was third in 17:35.

On the women's side, defending champion Jill Czarnik ran 11 seconds faster than her 20:57 winning time in 2014, but faced strong competition. Katelyn Draths of Northern Trust won the race in 20:29 with Chirine Njeim second in 20:44.

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois won the competition for largest team, bringing an incredible 1,077 employees to the starting line. Of course, company captain John Mikulski said, many of his colleagues didn't need gas money. "It helps to have the event take place in Grant Park, right outside our front door."

Still, it was a Herculean effort to organize a team of that size.

"Given the size of the team and the fact that it is located across five Chicago area locations, we decided to establish remote site captains in 2009 to offload some of the internal work," Mikulski said. "I enjoy how our company makes everything come together for this race.

Get IN Chicago
was the beneficiary of all the good work of the 649 company captains. J.P. Morgan will make a donation on behalf of all participants to the not-for-profit with a mission to identify, fund and rigorously evaluate evidence-based programs that lead to a sustainable reduction in violence for individuals and communities most affected by violence and poverty.

"Just like Get IN Chicago, the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge is a great example of Chicago corporations coming together for an important cause," said Dr. Toni Irving, Executive Director of Get IN Chicago. "We are proud to be recipient of funds again this year and pleased to be working with so many amazing companies."

J.P. Morgan set a standard with its team. A whopping 2,402 bankers entered - a Chicago record and one of the largest Bank teams in the 39-year history of the Corporate Challenge Series.

For some companies, like Nasdaq, this is just the start of the Corporate Challenge running season.

"Our employees LOVE this race," Tanya Smigocki, company captain for the stock market, said with emphasis. "Last year we expanded our teams to include New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Boston. We even have staff who will come up from Maryland to join the New York team."

It's right back to work for the 2015 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series following the Memorial Day weekend. Over 10,000 runners will line up at the starting line in Rochester, NY on Tuesday, May 26.

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