Johannesburg celebrates return of the Corporate Challenge

For the first time in 28 months, the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge hosted an in-person event, and Johannesburg proved to be the perfect host. A crowd of 5,817 runners and walkers from 182 companies registered in the first of 15 Corporate Challenge Series events in 2022. July 13, 1977 may be the most important date in J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge history, but March 31, 2022 is not far behind.

The Corporate Challenge was founded at that 1977 event in New York’s Central Park. It hosted 200 runners from 50 companies and launched a workplace sensation that operated continually for 43 consecutive years – through November 14, 2019 in Shanghai.

Then came the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, and the Corporate Challenge Series took a sensible absence for two years while the world looked out for each other and collectively endured the worst health crisis in generations. It persevered with Virtual racing, and the Series’ enduring popularity generated 107,610 participants.

But there is no replacement for running this event in-person and celebrating workplace camaraderie, and now the Corporate Challenge is officially back.

On a beautiful, warm final night of March at Johannesburg’s Wanderers Club, the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge hosted its first event in more than 28 months. A total of 5,817 runners and walkers from 182 companies registered for the 3.5-mile (5.6km) team event, proving that South Africa is more than ready for a return to normal.

The crowd size may have lagged the last visit to Johannesburg – 14,000 entrants from 343 companies registered for the March 28, 2019 race – but the scope of this event was planned to  ensure the safest possible environment for all participants and for companies to begin the acclimation to a more typical workplace environment.

So far, so good.

Johannesburg’s business community embraced the return. The 10 largest companies in terms of entries were: Rand Merchant Bank (300 entrants); Liberty (298); Discovery Vitality RSA (295); EY (268); Anglo American (220); PwC (199); Rand Water (158); Implats (144); Transaction Capital (126); and Momentum (124).

Atop the leaderboard are the fastest runners at the Wanderers Club on this night – Edward Mothibi, representing Implats, a producer of platinum group metals, and Lene Swart from financial services firm FirstRand.

Mothibi earned the men’s team title, hitting the finish line in an impressive time of 17:13, ahead of Implats colleagues Ntekele Moshwetsi (18:01) and Samuel Matsepe (18:52) in second and third.

“I was happy about my race, I’ve used it for speed work for my next Comrades Marathon,” Mothibi said. “I was glad to see talent coming through and to be back on the road with live races.”

FirstRand’s Swart earned the women’s crown with a time of 22:41, besting runner-up Simone JVR of Schindlers Attorneys (22:55) and third place Jaunmari Matthee of Anglo American (25:01).

“I was so happy about my time,” Swart enthused. “Especially after the hard lockdown, this was a good base for my preparation for the rest of the season.”

For the ninth consecutive year – including the Virtual events in 2020-21 – the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge served as a benefit and awareness-builder for the Laureus Sport for Good Foundation. The Foundation’s overarching goal is to use sport as a tool for social change, to help young people overcome the limitations imposed by challenging social issues including poverty, homelessness, war, violence, drug abuse, discrimination and AIDS.

The first-place men’s, women’s and mixed teams at the Johannesburg event will be invited to participate in the 2023 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Championship, site and date to be determined.

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-19, the Corporate Challenge is ready to spread its appeal wider than ever before.

The next stop in the Series will be for two nights of racing in New York City (June 1-2).