Africa is considered by anthropologists the oldest inhabited continent on Earth, so it's logical that Johannesburg, South Africa annually serves as the first stop on the world's largest corporate road racing Series.
The 41st year of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge® Series opened on this comfortable night at the historic Wanderers Club. It was the 14th running of the Johannesburg event and featured a sold-out crowd of 13,500 runners and walkers from 268 companies..
The first and only Corporate Challenge ever held on the Dark Continent, the event has reached a full capacity of entrants each year since its 2004 debut.
"South Africans love the outdoors and being healthy, and getting out onto the streets of Johannesburg in the evening for this race," said Wendy Theron, company captain for Investec, an Asset Management firm. "It is a real treat. This race is all about the people; it's well-organized and challenging enough to make you feel accomplished at the end of it."
Theron is clearly a strong ambassador for the Corporate Challenge. She helped organize a massive Investec team, 752 employees strong, the largest in the event. Other large teams included Standard Bank (700 entries), Liberty (567), KPMG (450), Deloitte (400), PwC (400), Dimension Data (300), Ernst & Young (300), Smollan (300), and TC Corporate Support (295).
The companies, large and small, first compete in a 5.6km (3.5-mile) road race, then celebrate their achievement in hospitality tents within the Wanderers Club. GoodLuck, South Africa's most exciting live electronic band, capped the festivities with a high-energy concert.
"It's a great event to bring the company together and promote wellness for our staff," said Travis Johnston, company captain of Investment Management firm Stanlib. "Having all the staff in the tent after the race, talking about the route and comparing times with one another is always a good laugh. And the concert is looked forward to by many."
The competition on the Johannesburg course is annually some of the very best, and this year proved no different.
Coolboy Ngamole of Sibanye Gold, who was the first-place individual male at the 2016 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Championship in New York's Central Park, broke the men's finish tape here in 18:10. He bested his colleague and the 2016 Johannesburg champion, Olebogeng Masire, who clocked a solid 18:47.
Tebogo Masehla, a seven-time South Africa national champion at various distances, won her second consecutive Corporate Challenge women's individual title, crossing the Wanderers Club finish line in 22:46. The Passenger Rail Agency employee beat out a strong second-place finish from Thandi Sehohle of KPMG (23:42).
For the fourth consecutive year, J.P. Morgan donated on behalf of all Corporate Challenge participants to the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. Supporting 22 projects in over 80 communities in nationwide, the Laureus Sport Foundation uses the power of sport to address social challenges and effect positive social change. Since its inception, the Foundation has raised over R80 million for projects and programs which have improved the lives of more than 100,000 young people.
The camaraderie generated at the Corporate Challenge is another benefit for the participating companies.
"Our company enters because team cohesion and synergy is part of our values," said Amos Baepi of Redefine, a property management company. "This event has kept work moral at an all-time high."
Sandra Lodder, captain of the Johannesburg Stock Exchange team, says she and her colleagues have been at almost all of the 14 Corporate Challenges at the Wanderers Club. She concurs that the team-building opportunity can't be beat.
"Our staff is committed to wellness," Lodder said "We all look for a good exercise, (but) the post-race event is our favorite part. We look forward to entertainment and mingling."
The J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series began in 1977 with a single race in New York City. The Series continues its 41st year with the 14th annual J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Singapore on Thursday, April 27.