It was the 30th running of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in London, and Mother Nature decided to bring a little symmetry to the night.
In an occurrence that is very rare for England's capital — even in the heart of summer — temperatures pushed over 30 degrees Celsius in the hours before the race. While welcome for sunbathing or other leisure activities outside of the office, it can make exercise a bit daunting.
But a sell-out crowd of 14,598 employees representing 414 companies made their way to beautiful Battersea Park for the Corporate Challenge. Welcoming breezes and shade from the gorgeous canopy of trees on the park's Central Avenue proved to be a relished finishing item. The masses were bathed in sweat and accomplishment after completing London's first and most-popular corporate run.
The celebratory 30th running also marked the 10th consecutive year that the Corporate Challenge has been held with full capacity crowds. It proved once again that corporate fitness and camaraderie is not a fad. In its 40th year of racing worldwide, the Corporate Challenge Series has sold out seven of its 10 races thus far in 2016 and is playing to 95-percent capacity in total.
J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series owner and operator J.P. Morgan showed its commitment to the event by bringing 1,166 staff members across the River Thames to the starting line, including Ann Doherty, Regional Sales Executive, Investor Services. Doherty made the opening remarks and then held the finish-line tapes with local sponsor Nuffield Health's Craig Among all other businesses, HSBC had the largest number of entrants, with an impressive 849. Citi and PwC each delivered 400 employees to the starting line, with Ernst & Young (342), UBS (274) and RBS (249) also having outstanding showings.
An event of this scope deserves Olympic royalty, so it was appropriate that one of J.P. Morgan's special guests was the gifted rower Sir Matthew Pinsent, a 10-time World Champion and 4-time Olympic gold medalist. Pinsent saw all runners off from the start stage and presented the first-place awards to the top runners.
Meeting Pinsent on the stage were the fittest workers of the evening — Matt Gunby of Mondrian Investment Partners and King Street's Stephanie Davis.
Gunby, a first-time Corporate Challenge winner, earned the men's division title with a strong, 5.6km time of 17:18. He fought off runner-up Tamas Kovacs of Mergermarket Group (17:22) and two-time champion Andrew Greenleaf of Julius Baer (17:29).
Davis won a women's duel between the two 2015 Corporate Challenge champions. Davis, who triumphed on Thursday last year, sped past the Wednesday winner, HSBC's Lara Bromilow, breaking the tape in 19:50. Bromilow's second-place effort clocked 20:43 with Ruth Purbrook of Lloyds earning the bronze in 21:58.
Impressively with the warm conditions, Davis matched her exact winning time of 2015.
Age UK returned for its second year as the beneficiary partner of the Corporate Challenge. It will receive a private donation from the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, and all entrants have the option to make a private donation to allow Age UK to provide older people with vital companionship, advice and support. Its CEO, Tom Wright, laced them up and ran in the race with his colleagues.
A second night of racing in Battersea is on tap tomorrow, with 14,099 runners and walkers from 357 companies registered.