It’s one of the iconic images of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series – the wave of humanity running the streets in Frankfurt, Germany.  This 2017 crowd numbered exactly 63,776 entrants from 2,419 companies.

They came from throughout Germany, 428 cities in all.

They came in 296 buses.  On trains.  Many flew.  And all for a very good reason.  The 25th running of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Frankfurt, one of the largest road races in the world.

A total of 63,776 total entrants from 2,419 companies took part in the 3.5-mile (5.6km) road race through the streets of one of Europe’s most prominent financial centers.  The focal point of the staging area was Frankfurt’s historic Old Opera Plaza.  The size of the event is only surpassed by the level of genuine camaraderie shared by the business community.

And this year, to celebrate a quarter century as part of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series, Frankfurt also hosted the world’s best full-time working runners.  The J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Championship was hosted on the same evening, bringing the fastest 39 teams and 156 entrants from 13 cities and seven countries.  That group took off 30 minutes before the start of the Frankfurt race.

On this milestone year for the Frankfurt race, it’s important to note than only 527 entrants took part in the debut Corporate Challenge here.  The long-term success of this race is a credit to the hard-working company captains who saw the value in the Corporate Challenge mission of teamwork, camaraderie and community.

Approximately 14-percent of this year’s total participation came from 10 German companies – all long-time supporters of the Corporate Challenge.  Those champions of workplace fitness included Lufthansa (1,389 entrants), Deutsche Bahn (1,339), Sanofi-Aventis (1,262), Continental AG (1,196), Deutsche Bank (1,064), Stadtverwaltung Frankfurt am Main (806), Evonik Industries (549), KfW Bankengruppe (541), Deutsche Börse Group (479), and Commerzbank (467).

Lufthansa – the largest German airline – is captained by Wolfram Sickenberger.  He’s been organizing the airline’s Corporate Challenge team for 20 years and is part of a team of four that plans Lufthansa’s participation.  Bringing his colleagues together is a labor of love for Sickenberger.

“Our planning team has been working together for a long time,” Sickenberger said. “We will meet to discuss the Corporate Challenge after the workday and on the weekend, even during lunchbreaks.  It’s a wonderful experience because Lufthansa is so enthusiastic about the Corporate Challenge.”

Sickenberger is a marathoner who regularly runs in the Kelsterbacher Wald.  But his greatest pride in putting together the Lufthansa team is how it brings the workforce together.

“Our employees get to know each other, get in touch with each other, create a contact that makes life much easier,” Sickenberger said. “It’s an enrichment when a voice on the phone suddenly gets a face.  Suddenly, Mr. Muller from the Controlling department becomes Felix from Controlling.  This is the beauty of the Corporate Challenge – the aircraft mechanic, the controller, the people on the board, they all come together and have a great time, with all ages represented.”

Also represented in Frankfurt are some of the fastest individual runners in the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series, and this year was no exception.Nico Sonnenberg, representing Bright Solutions, won the men’s division with a time of 16:41.  He held off two stellar challenges from Marcus Lorbach of BNP Paribas (16:42) and Polizei Bayern’s Mario Wernsdörfer (16:44).  Those are the three fastest times ran by any man in the 2017 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series.

Tinka Uphoff of Bundesanstalt fur Finanzdienstleistungsaufsicht (Federal Financial Services Agency) was overpowering in the women’s division, breaking the finish tape in 18:47.  That is easily the fastest women’s time in the 2017 Series.  The runner-up, Anna Starostzik from VW Werk Kassel, logged a 19:38, which would have been good enough to win any other race in the Series thus far.  Monika Fischer of Allianz was third in 20:29.

J.P. Morgan, owner and operator of the Corporate Challenge, donated approximately 255,000 Euro to German Sportslife and German Disabled Sport Youth.  This is the 11th consecutive year that the Corporate Challenge has promoted disability sport in Germany, with more than 2.5 million Euro donated in that time.

The funds support the nationwide TalentTage program, where young people with disabilities receive exposure to a variety of sports.  It also aids the Jugend-Lander Cup, an annual sports festival, and a talent development program with TSV Bayer 04 in Leverkusen.  With the latter, young talents with disabilities receive specialized coaching to meet their dream goal of participating in the Paralympic Games.

The Frankfurt celebration of teamwork and corporate fitness is not only the largest event in the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series, but generally one of biggest in the world.  Nico Sonnenberg and Tinka Uphoff were the swiftest in a gathering of 63,766, all running to benefit young, handicapped German athletes.

“Working together with German Sportslife and German Disabled Sport Youth, we can give young people with disability a perspective in sports or help them engage in sporting activities,” said Dorothee Blessing, J.P. Morgan’s Regional Director for Germany/Austria Switzerland.  “It’s brilliant that so many people take part in the Corporate Challenge each year and make such a difference.”

After a transatlantic flight, the 41st year of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series resumes on Thursday, June 15 in Buffalo, New York.  A crowd of over 12,500 will come together to benefit the Buffalo Public Schools.