Largest Corporate Challenge in U.S. returns for 39th year in Grant Park

No city in the United States does the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge bigger and better than Chicago.

When the Corporate Challenge last was held in Chicago on May 23, 2019, a crowd of 28,309 runners and walkers from 687 companies took part. It was the largest Corporate Challenge ever held in the United States, dating back to the onset of the worldwide Series in 1977.

Now, the 39th running of the Corporate Challenge will be held on Thursday, June 9 at Grant Park with a 6:50 p.m. starting horn for the 3.5-mile team road race. Appropriate safety precautions due to the COVID-19 pandemic limited the Corporate Challenge to virtual participation in 2020 and 2021, but all participation this year will be in person and participants can expect a similar experience to earlier Corporate Challenges, with company hospitality available within Grant Park.

The emphasis will be on safety, with the Corporate Challenge following local health guidelines to deliver peace of mind and a world-class road racing experience.

There will be a historic element as well. For the first time at a J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge, participants in Chicago may register as non-binary and be eligible for scoring in the mixed team division. Mixed teams shall include no more than two participants registering under the same gender – for example, two female and two non-binary teammates, or one male, one non-binary and two females.

When participants last gathered on the Columbus Drive starting line, the largest participating companies were Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois (1,220 total participants), CDW (435), United Airlines (418), TransUnion (377), and Molex (317).

The big companies are good to have, but the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge draws so well because of its all-inclusive nature. It is suitable for runners and walkers, large corporations and start-ups, long-time friends in the office and new acquaintances, entry-level workers and seasoned employees. As such, it draws a thorough cross-section of a company’s workforce. One example in 2019 was Exelon, one of the nation’s largest innovation, generation, and delivery companies.

“Exelon is made up of several operating companies, so we have runners from ComEd, our nuclear plants, and the Exelon corporate headquarters,” said David Alvarez, Team Captain and Senior Project Manager for ComEd in 2019, said on race night. “Our team consists primarily of engineers and also analysts, executives, nuclear operators, attorneys and many others who all share a passion for competition, running, or simply the good vibes from an event like this.”

The good vibes at the front of the pack were felt by the 2019 individual winners – Kristina Aubert from Northwestern Medicine and Brett Lustgarten of Cboe Global Markets.

Both were first-time winners at the Corporate Challenge and broke the tape some distance ahead of their closest competitors. Aubert’s winning time was 19:10 (5:29 pace over the 3.5-mile course) and she ended the reign of Livongo Health’s Chirine Njeim, who finished second in 20:31. Njeim had won the previous three Corporate Challenges in Chicago. The bronze went to Julia Buford of AECOM, with a time of 21:00.

Lustgarten clocked a 17:24 (4:58) pace and was immediately trailed by Duncan Perrillat from the Middleby Corporation in 17:40. Robert Rose, representing Wolverine Execution Services, authored a 17:41 time for third.

And now, after two years of safety and social distance, participants can discover that the Corporate Challenge is a wonderful way to integrate yourself in a new business community, as Accenture’s Cindy Woods found out in 2019.

“This was my first year running the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge as I recently moved to Chicago from Dallas,” Woods, one of 80 Accenture participants in 2019, said on race night. “I love running so I am excited to share one of my hobbies with my work colleagues. It’s also a terrific opportunity to meet new people with the same passion. It is always nice to be able to take a break from the office and get out and do life together in a fun way.”

The J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series is deep in the planning stages of hosting events in 15 locations in eight countries in 2022. The Series is enjoying expansion this year, with new events scheduled to be held later in the year in Buenos Aires, Dallas-Fort Worth and Philadelphia. Buenos Aires will mark the Corporate Challenge’s first visit to South America, giving the Series a presence on all six inhabited continents.

The Series hosted 251,299 participants from 7,581 companies in the last full year of racing in 2019. The 2020 J.P. Morgan  Corporate Challenge Virtual Event was the largest remote running event in the world.