Chicago enjoys its Corporate Challenge in-person reunion

It’s another 3.5 miles closer to normal.

More than three years after the last J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge entrant crossed the finish line at Grant Park, Chicago’s favorite after-work road race is back.

The 39th running of the Corporate Challenge – and the first since May 23, 2019 – took place on a comfortable night in The Loop, with 9,555 entrants from 279 companies enjoying an event that had become a staple of the Chicagoland business community.

Brought to Chicago for the first time in 1982, the Corporate Challenge had been conducted every year through 2019, before taking a sensible two-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The event was held virtually in 2020 and 2021, and that whet the appetite for the in-person return.

Corporate Challenge owner and operator JPMorgan Chase showed its pride for the return by showing up in huge numbers. Precisely 1,302 employees registered, making it the largest entrant.

Second was CDW, a provider of technology products and services for business, government and education, with 242 entrants. And it was with a sense of eagerness that they all gathered on the Columbus Drive starting line.

“CDW is excited to participate in this year’s Corporate Challenge. We’ve entered a team into this event for over a decade, but our group is especially eager this year after the event’s two-year hiatus,” said Autumn Householder, Senior Manager, Benefits. “The Corporate Challenge presents an ideal opportunity to spend time with coworkers outside of the office and enjoy an evening that’s centered around teamwork and camaraderie. It’s always a fun, engaging and rewarding event for our coworkers.

“The Corporate Challenge is a highly anticipated event for many CDW coworkers,” Householder continued. “We build awareness about the registration process through email and our internal channels but getting people to participate has traditionally not been difficult. Our group enjoys showing its company pride with our Team CDW t-shirts. We’re excited to celebrate with our fellow participants.”

In addition to CDW and JPMorgan Chase, the largest participating companies were United Airlines (183 entrants), Molex (154), Brookfield Properties (153), CME Group (153), Chicago Citadel (150), Wintrust Financial (140), University of Chicago (137), Fresenius (130), and PwC (128).

Steven Tamaroglio, the team captain for United Airlines, noted his colleagues were thrilled to have the Corporate Challenge back in Chicago and bring the global company together.

“It is an annual tradition for United Airlines to participate in the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge,” Tamaroglio said. “We are a global company spread out around the world so getting together in one place doesn’t happen every day. The Corporate Challenge is a great opportunity come together as one United family to be together.” 

The post-race party in Grant Park also allowed United to celebrate the work that was done during the pandemic, and the bright future ahead.

“Over the last two years, there have been so many examples of team members doing the extraordinary – in the air, on the ground in our airports and throughout the community,” Tamaroglio said. “Good leads the way here at United and we are so proud of our co-workers around the globe who are welcoming many customers back to the skies for the first time this summer. We can’t wait to see all of them on board as travel resumes and we get back to doing what we do best – connecting people and uniting the world.”

The evening felt familiar for Molex team captain Cathy Maly.

“Molex has participated in the Corporate Challenge for at least 20 years and each year attendance had continued to grow until the pandemic,” Maly said. “In 2020 we had over 300 participants (317), so we were very happy to see it back in person this year.”

It has not been uncommon these past few months at Molex, a manufacturer of electronic, electrical, and fiber optic connectivity systems, to see its large fitness center buzzing with employees.

“This is one of the first events that we have participated in for a very long time,” Maly said. “We have a wonderful fitness center in our corporate headquarters that is fully staffed, and it organized a class to get people ready to run or walk.”

Racing preparation certainly paid off for the fastest runners on this night.  The individual winners were Brett Davidson, representing RSM Chicago, with a time of 17:05 (4:53 pace) in the men’s division, and Rachel Pottle, representing Thompson Flanagan/NFP with a time of 21:18 (6:05 pace) in the women’s division.

And all participants had their efforts celebrated by the JPMorgan Chase Foundation, which donated on their behalf to Breakthrough, a non-profit organization located in Garfield Park that partners with over 8,000 residents to address and provide resources for housing, education, violence prevention, food access, healthcare, and economic opportunity. Throughout Breakthrough, staff, residents, volunteers, and donors are partnering to bring about a safe, stable, engaged Garfield Park.

For the first time in Chicago, the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge welcomed non-binary entrants. Those specific entrants are listed in the Series Leaderboard and are eligible to score in their company’s mixed team results.

In the last full year of racing, 2019, the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series featured 251,299 entrants from 7,581 companies. This year, the Series will include three expansion markets – Buenos Aires, Dallas-Fort Worth and Philadelphia. Now in its 46th year and back on its feet after COVID, the Corporate Challenge is ready to spread its appeal wider than ever before.

Next week, the Series moves to Upstate New York for two milestone events – the 30th running in Rochester on Tuesday, June 14, and the 40th running in Buffalo on Thursday, June 16.