With the sun about to set, participants at the 2013 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Frankfurt share some post-race camaraderie.
FRANKFURT, June 12, 2013 — Entering its third decade, the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Frankfurt continues to set records.
With two-time Olympic figure skating gold medalist Katarina Witt firing the starting gun, a total of 68,709 entrants from 2,782 companies took part in the 21st running of the 3.5-mile (5.6 kilometer) team race that is the largest in the world thus far in 2013, is by far the largest in the 13-city Corporate Challenge circuit, and is Europe's largest running event. This year's Frankfurt figures represented a slight increase in entries from last year, and set an all-time Series record for the number of companies participating.
One other footnote about Frankfurt's figures reflects how wide the appeal of this race is in Germany — the record number of participating companies came from a remarkable 467 cities.
“The Corporate Challenge moves people far beyond the limits of the Rhine-Main region," said Volker Bouffier, the Prime Minister of the State of Hessen who served as the patron of this year's race. "Participants experience far more than just a simple competition along the 5.6 kilometer track — team spirit, fairness and colleagueship are at the center of attention."
On this day, the Corporate Challenge transforms the home of the European Central Bank.
"In order to get a better impression of the general atmosphere, I decided to come here a little early and walk all the way from the train station," said Lars Pickardt of race beneficiary Deutsche Behindertensportjugend. "The city is vibrating. It is absolutely fantastic to see, how all the bank employees exit their offices in sports apparel to run together. Simply speaking, it is a colorful and peaceful medley.”
Dr. Karl-Georg Altenburg, CEO of J.P. Morgan Germany, Austria and Switzerland, added: “We are continuing our tradition with close to 70,000 runners. It was a crazy atmosphere on the track. We are happy. It could not have gone any better. This is a super team event. In addition, a lot of money is collected for a good cause. The excellent atmosphere will also be transferred to the business context in the offices in the next few days and therefore promotes the team spirit — everything is easier when you are having fun.”
As Altenburg suggests, the impressive numbers in Frankfurt helped ensure that once again the race's biggest winner was German disabled sports. A total of almost 250,000 Euros will be donated to German Sports Aid Foundation (Deutsche Sporthilfe) and the German Handicapped Sport Youth Foundation (Deutsche Behindertensportjugend) this year. As in past years a contribution of 1.80 Euros of each runner’s starting fee is matched by J.P. Morgan Frankfurt with the same amount.
Katarina Witt and
Dr. Karl-Georg Altenburg, CEO of J.P. Morgan Germany, Austria and Switzerland (purple shirt in center) hold an oversized check symbolizing the support of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Frankfurt to the German Handicapped Sport Youth Foundation.
This year's figures mean that in the last seven years, the Frankfurt J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge has brought in a total of more than 1.5 million Euros for sports projects targeted at young, challenged individuals.
“The Corporate Challenge is by no means regarded only as a corporate run, it is also recognized as a charity event,” said Altenburg. "This makes us extremely happy and motivates us to continue along this path. We want to maintain our commitment to young, challenged individuals."
A grateful Pickardt said funds from this year's event will have an impact on young lives.
"As the recipient of part of the donation by J.P. Morgan, all I can say is thanks a thousand times!" he said. "Due to the funds we receive from this event, we are able to stage the so-called Talent Days, in order to attract children to sports for the disabled."
The Katarina Witt Foundation, which is also involved in the support of challenged individuals, was among those receiving donations the previous year and will conduct a new project in cooperation with the race’s two beneficiaries in 2013. Witt wanted to thank runners on site personally for their support by giving the starting signal. She was impressed by what she saw.
Runners cheer as they start the 2013 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Frankfurt.
“This event is absolutely overwhelming," said the 1984 and 1988 Olympic skating gold medalist. "I will certainly take part again next year — although I am undecided in which form: maybe I will actively run again. However, at the moment I am really only a recreational athlete."
Once Witt put the huge throng into motion, the action at the front of the race was fast and furious on an ideal day for running.
Simon Stuetzel of Scholarbook GmbH and defending champion Manuel Stockert quickly went to the front.
“I ran head-to-head with my closest competitor (Manuel Stockert) and we were totally at our limit." said Stuetzel. "I managed to catch the lead just shortly before the finish. I love the track — in the center of the city, the roads are closed — it is a unique experience."
Stuetzel won in a blistering time of 16:08, well under the 16:31 recorded last year by Stockert, who finished four seconds back.
Among the women, Tinca Uphoff led a strong team from Frankfurt Goethe University with her title-winning effort of 19:07. Uphoff finished almost a minute ahead of second-place Anna Reuter of Volkswagen AG Kassel (20:05).
"The atmosphere was great," Uphoff said. "I was a little quick at the start and the last part towards the finish line therefore became longer and longer. I believe the attention that the challenge receives is positive, because it emphasizes the importance of the well-being for the entire body. The best aspect of the race is the atmosphere along the track together with the meeting among colleagues before and after the race including the barbeque."
Behind them came a long column of brightly colored runners and walkers who filled Frankfurt's historic downtown.
The crowd was made up of teams from small companies to large-scale corporations. Five teams featured more than 1,000 runners: Deutsche Bahn (1,377), Deutsche Bank (1,292), Deutsche Lufthansa (1,153), Continental (1,086) and the public authorities of the City of Frankfurt/Main (1,000).
|Tinca Uphoff (left) celebrates a victory in the women's race in 19:07, while Simon Stuetzel acknowledges cheers after a stirring win in 16:08.
“The team spirit is clearly the focus of this event," said Dirk Hartel, team captain of Fraport, which operates the Frankfurt Airport. "Forty percent of our participants are running for the first time. Our corporate sports group has completed a training program to prepare us for the run. The enormous number of runners causes a comforting chill. Our company gladly pays the starting fee for its employees. The organization is simply perfect."
The motto of the event is “The Friendly Competition,” and there were plenty of other winners. On the creative side, three companies — Weber-Stephen Deutschland GmbH, Stihl Vertriebszentrale AG, and CMC Markets Deutschland — won the T-shirt design contest based on public voting at the event's Facebook page.
The race also featured several celebrities.
The Minister of the Interior of the State of Hessen, Boris Rhein, jogged the course surrounded by his team from Wiesbaden. And, Helvetia Insurance, which sponsors numerous professional male and female athletes, invited Viktoria Rebensburg, the current Olympic Champion in giant slalom, to motivate its 70 runners.
Rebensburg ran with Nicole Fessel and Sebastian Eisenlauer (two professionals from the German cross country skiing national squad) on a non-competitive basis. They then joined the company in one of the countless barbeque post-race parties. It was, after all, clearly a day to celebrate fitness and camaraderie in Frankfurt.
The 37th season of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series resumes in a few hours as a unique two-continent double-header of races is completed in New York's Central Park. On Thursday, the second of two races in New York City's will be held, with the Series continuing next week in Syracuse (June 18) and Boston (June 20).
(For comments on JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Series features, or suggestions for feature stories, please contact Alan Tieuli at email@example.com)