Katarina Janosikova completes the fastest women's race of the 2009 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge series by finishing in 19:44. (Joe Vericker/PhotoBureau)
Series-leading women's time highlights
big gathering of companies in Central Park
Results | Photo Gallery
Jeff Rios of Davis Langdon breaks the tape held by Thelma Ferguson of JPMorgan Chase & Co. to win the men's title in 17:29.
NEW YORK, June 11, 2009 — Katarina Janosikova is one of the best female runners in all of New York City 's five boroughs, but she felt somewhat disoriented on the starting line of the 33rd annual J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge®.
“I run a lot of races in Central Park,” the Slovakian native and current resident of Astoria, Queens said, “but they usually start in the other direction.”
It didn't take long for Janosikova, running for her employer, Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, to adjust. She took off heading north on West Drive and finished on the 72nd Street Transverse with the fastest women's time in the 2009 JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Series. Her outstanding time of 19:44 over the 3.5-mile course was the highlight of the second night of the Corporate Challenge, which featured a capacity crowd of 15,000 entrants from 465 companies.
Janosikova bested Celene Menschel of Fortress Investment Group (20:41) by nearly a minute, and that wasn't much of a surprise to running insiders. Janosikova is having a fine year on the roads, having posted a 2:42:56 finish in the 2008 New York City Marathon, the top spot for all New York City women and 18th overall in the division.
Still, she was surprised that she had the best Corporate Challenge Series time.
“Those women from Johannesburg are much faster than me,” she said modestly, even though her time easily topped the 20:18 posted by Tebogo Masehla of Transnet Rail Engineering on March 5.
Janosikova prepped in Slovakia, and worked in the U.S. during the summer to earn funds for her tuition. She became captivated by the size of road races here and jumped at the opportunity after graduation to take a position in New York as an analyst for Sumitomo. And she has enjoyed steady improvement in the Corporate Challenge, finishing third in 2007 and second last year.
The men's champion, Jeff Rios of Davis Langdon, did not have a J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge pedigree. The engineer and 11 of his colleagues were first-time participants, one of 300 new companies that filled the Central Park course over two nights.
“We're a relatively small company here in the city, with only 20 employees,” Rios, an engineer for Davis Langdon, said. “But we thought we would take a chance at getting in this year, and I'm glad we did. I run for the Manhattan Track Club and one of my teammates, Sean Swift of J.P. Morgan, won on Wednesday night. So I knew I had a chance.”
Surrounded by the green of Central Park, members of Wind-Up Entertainment pose for a group photo. The team was part of the largest group of companies to enter the New York J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge since back-to-back nights were established in 2004. On Wednesday 433 companies were on hand and on Thursday 465 firms gathered in Central Park for the races.
Rios notched a winning time of 17:29, holding off Matthew Forys of BlackRock (17:37) and The Running Company's Aidan Walsh (17:45). It was a come-for-behind victory for the former Lafayette College standout.
“A couple of fast guys took it out quite hard and had a 10-meter lead on me at the mile,” Rios said. “But I caught them at a mile and one-half and was able to hold them off, even though I don't feel I have much of a kick.”
Like Janosikova, Rios was being modest. While at Lafayette, he was the Leopards' record holder in the 3K steeplechase, posting a 9:08:87 in 1999. His short-term goal now is to reach peak fitness in order to run a strong time at the 2010 Chicago Marathon.
While Janosikova and Rios burned up the course and will be the talk of running blogs throughout the city, the Corporate Challenge also celebrates the performance of each of the participants. The event's mission of encouraging full-time workers to find a healthy balance in their lives is stronger than ever. The 465 companies on this night marked the most in Central Park since the Corporate Challenge began a back-to-back format in 2004.
“There is no other race like this one,” said Thelma Ferguson, Market Manager for the Metro New York market for JPMorgan Chase & Co. “This is the only race that celebrates team spirit, camaraderie and benefits a great cause.”
The cause was the Central Park Conservancy, with the JPMorgan Chase Foundation making a donation for each entry. The firm also provided a dollar-for-dollar match to every individual and company that joined the Conservancy.
“The Corporate Challenge is a great opportunity to remind everybody that participates that this is their park. We just take care of it for them,” said Doug Blonsky, President of the Central Park Conservancy.
Runners bolt from the starting line, leading a capacity crowd of 15,000 on a 3.5-mile course through Central Park.
Taking care of the creativity on this night were the three winning companies in the T-Shirt competition — Anchin, Block & Anchin; FOJP Service Corporation; and NYU Information Technology Services.
Suzanne Heskin, a graphic designer at Anchin, celebrated the Central Park location by preparing a team shirt with photo sensitive ink that reacts to sunlight. The trees in the design turn a darker green in sunny conditions. One problem on this night: The skies were a steel gray and rain fell intermittently.
“That's OK, though,” she said. “It still makes us happy to be out here and running with pride in these shirts, letting folks know that the environment is important to us.”
John Legere of Global Crossing — a multiple time champion in four eastern cities in Corporate Challenge history — won the men's Most Senior Executive title in 21:08. Larson Campbell of law firm Bryan Cave was the women's MSE champ in 27:57.
With a record number of companies on hand, it was also appropriate that American Airlines saluted the unsung heroes — the company captains. In a random drawing, Gerry Aquino of Brencourt Advisors, Catherine Glover of Ogilvy New York, and Lennie Ortiz from Donald J. Fager & Associates won a pair of round-trip tickets to wherever American services in the U.S. and Caribbean.
The J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge has now been held over parts of four decades in Central Park, beginning on the night of the great New York blackout, July 13, 1977. With hundreds of new companies in tow, the start of the fifth decade in 2010 might be the best yet.