Boston streets are awash with Corporate Challenge enthusiasm

It’s a scene that has been repeated in the heart of Boston nearly every year since 1984, when the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge debuted in The Hub -- hundreds of companies and their employees descending on the compact, historic streets of the Back Bay, walking en masse to the Boston Common to take part in one of the most unique afterwork events of the year.

“Every Corporate Challenge is memorable. We wear our firm name and logo proudly as we walk together from our office, through the streets of Boston, to the starting line,” said Brett Gordon, Managing Director, HarbourVest Partners, an independent, global private markets firm. “While some race to set personal records, most jog or walk and just enjoy the experience. Our fast runners will wait for the balance of the team at the finish line, cheering on and supporting other runners and our teammates. We then all go out post-race to celebrate our collective accomplishments and enjoy each other’s company. It is a great day!”

Thanks to the enthusiasm of Gordon – a long-time participant – and other companies like HarbourVest, the Corporate Challenge is back on solid footing. The 38th edition of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Boston displayed a healthy sign of recovery after the two-year COVID-19 hiatus (2020-21). Run on a picture-perfect night with temperatures in the high 60’s, the 3.5-mile run/walk attracted a crowd of 6,067 entrants from 274 companies. This represents a whopping 116% increase in the total number of entries and a 51% increase in the number of participating companies from the 2022 event in the Back Bay (2,812 entrants from 182 companies).

Paving the way for that explosive growth were the 10 largest companies in terms of employee entrants: Takeda Pharmaceuticals (153 entrants), Fidelity Investments (114), Liberty Mutual Insurance (90), Santander Bank (86), Wellington Management (85), Putnam Investments (81), Sarepta Therapeutics (75), Vertex Pharmaceuticals (70), Deloitte (67), and Forrester (63).

And this show of support brought immense pride to event owner and operator J.P. Morgan.

“I can certainly relate to all those companies walking to the starting line,” said Dan Curtin, Managing Director, Market Manager of J.P. Morgan Private Bank in New England. “It’s one of my favorite days of the year, to come over to the Boston Common and see all our clients, competitors and the entire workforce gathering for a special night. It’s wonderful that it is back, growing, and showing promise for the future. It is a sign of our commitment to Boston and the region.”

Companies of all sizes and industries took part, including Cambridge-based biotech venture capital firm Atlas Venture.

“Atlas Venture has participated in the Corporate Challenge many times over,” said Kristen Margeson, Atlas Venture’s team captain. “We love the opportunity to do something active and fun with our colleagues, in a way that lets us cheer one another on and create a shared experience.”

That shared experience also regularly attracts the employees from The Langham, Boston, a 5-star hotel housed in the former Federal Reserve Bank.

“The Langham, Boston has been participating in the Corporate Challenge for about 20 years,” said team captain Rachelle Boudreau. “Events like this are the perfect occasion to rally our employees from all departments for an opportunity to bond outside of the workplace. With so many different departments, the Corporate Challenge provides a rare opportunity for our employees to come together as one while also raising funds for a good cause.”

That cause Boudreau mentioned is The Fifty Years Fund. The JPMorgan Chase Foundation donated in celebration of all participants to the initiative led by WCVB Channel 5 to commemorate 50 years as a Boston news and community leader, and in partnership with the United Way of Massachusetts Bay. The Fifty Years Fund creates education and career pathways for marginalized youth and young adults who are disconnected from school and work.

In addition to the camaraderie and community, there was keen competition on the 3.5-mile Back Bay race course – a straight shot down and back on Commonwealth Avenue, with a turnaround in Kenmore Square, a stone’s throw from Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox.

At the front of the pack wire-to-wire were the men’s and women’s individual champs, Louis Serafini, representing Tracksmith, and Raytheon’s Jaime Lord.

Serafini earned his tape break convincingly with a stunning time of 16:31 (4:43 mile pace). That is the second-fastest male time in the entire 2023 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series, trailing only the 16:24 clocked by Phil Lambert of DL Trading at the May 18 Chicago race.

Lord’s winning time of 20:23 (5:50 mile pace) was impressive also. She now ranks 17th among all Corporate Challenge Series women in 2023, with nine of the women ahead of her having competed in Frankfurt, which featured a very deep women’s field. Lord also continues the tradition of Raytheon dominance in Boston. No company has won more men’s or women’s individual titles on this course than the aerospace and defense manufacturer.

The 47th year of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge has now officially passed the halfway point, with eight of the scheduled 15 races globally in the books. The Series resumes on July 5-6 with events on back-to-back nights at London’s beautiful Battersea Park along the River Thames.