The running shorts were shorter, the socks were pulled up higher, t-shirts were tucked in, running shoes had waffle soles, and Disco was all the rage during the post-race party.
The date was July 13, 1977, the night of the very first J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge® in Central Park. A total of 200 runners from 50 companies entered that event, called the Manufacturers Hanover Corporate Challenge, named for one of bank's predecessor firms.
Fast forward to 2016. That modest gathering at one race had grown to 254,501 total entrants from 6,929 companies participating at events in 13 cities in seven countries on five continents. And the Corporate Challenge has proven to be inclusive.
There are entrants of all adult ages, from all industry groups, from entry-level to CEO, nearly a 50-50 split of men and women. The starting line is a welcoming place for racers capable of putting together three consecutive sub-5-minute miles; recreational runners happy to be out for a jog with their colleagues; walkers entering a fitness regimen.
Almost all of them wear their company t-shirts, proudly running for their employer, side-by-side with partners and competitors from other firms. Pretty cool.
And calendar year 2017 brings the 41st consecutive year of operation for this celebration of corporate teamwork, camaraderie and community.
That first race in Central Park was inspired by Manufacturers Hanover's sponsorship of the New York City Marathon. Officials at the bank looked for a way to create an event solely for corporate runners, and at a distance for which even a busy executive would have time to train. It was decided to try a single Corporate Challenge® race at 3.5 miles. It proved to be a prescient, as the Corporate Challenge helped launch the running boon in the U.S.
What may be most impressive about the Corporate Challenge is its sheer consistency. Since 1977, the core principles of the event have remained unchanged. Almost all events are 3.5-miles (5.6 km) in length. It is a team event, not open to individual entrants. Companies may enter as many of their employees as capacity allows. There have been some cosmetic rule and look changes through the years, but the fundamentals remain the same as in 1977.
There is also continuity in the Series itself. We reached our current 7-continent Series when J.P. Morgan added events in two new continents in 2004, with inaugural races in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Singapore. In 2011, the Corporate Challenge expanded to China, with the addition of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Shanghai. Johannesburg and Singapore have become spectacular successes, each reaching full capacity annually.
The growth of the Corporate Challenge® is a testimony to J.P. Morgan's continuing support of health and fitness, teamwork and camaraderie in the corporate communities across the U.S. and abroad.
The Series sends a message that it is not just fiscal fitness that is important in the corporate world. Physical fitness also is important. Participating companies use the races as a platform to promote fitness and well-being in the work place. Runners find it easy to train for the 3.5-mile distance and have the extra benefit of competing with their colleagues in a relaxed and social atmosphere.
If you have run in the Series in the past, we thank you for your support and look forward to welcoming you again. If you would like to get your company involved for the first time, please look through our web site and contact officials of your local event.
The J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge® — simply a powerful idea in business and running.