Downtown Rochester happy to welcome back Corporate Challenge

The J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Rochester is a success story in four acts.

First was the event founding and growth in Highland Park. It debuted there in 1991 with a modest 816 participants from 76 companies. By 2003, it was ten times that size – 8,799 participants from 348 companies – and needed more spacious accommodations.

Enter the Rochester Institute of Technology for the second act, which proudly served as the race course and post-race hospitality venue from 2004–2016, reaching capacity crowds regularly, including a Corporate Challenge local record of 10,900 total participants in 2014.

The third act featured a move to Downtown Rochester, to truly celebrate the working spirit of the oft-called Flower City. The event continued to thrive here, with hospitality in beautiful Frontier Field, through 2019.

COVID-19 interrupted the continuity, forcing the event to be held in a virtual format only in 2019–2020, but a return to Downtown is in store for the Corporate Challenge’s fourth act.

The 30th running of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge in Rochester will be held on Tuesday, June 14, with a 7 p.m. start time. Participants can expect a similar experience to earlier Corporate Challenges, with company hospitality available within Frontier Field. 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 Rochester 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.

The last time participants gathered Downtown for the Corporate Challenge was on June 4, 2019, when 7,781 runners and walkers from 319 companies took off from the North Plymouth Avenue starting line and raced through the Downtown streets before finishing on Morrie Silver Way. The largest companies in terms of entries were Paychex (388 participants), Rochester Regional Health (361), Harris Corporation (155), University of Rochester (134), and City of Rochester (104).

That huge gathering by Paychex was not surprising. The 2019 race was the 24th consecutive year that the leading payroll and human resources provider had participated in the Corporate Challenge.

“We are so proud of our longevity because we think it is reflective of our spot as one of the largest employers in Rochester,” Becky Cania, the co-Team Captain for Paychex, said at the 2019 race. “We are a company based in the suburbs, so to have something in the city, which supports the city…we love it. It’s a pride point for our employees.”

The Downtown race course also appeals to the top runners.

“I love the atmosphere of the (J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge) in Downtown Rochester,” 2019 Corporate Challenge women’s winner Trisha Byler told Wendy Mills of Spectrum TV in a pre-race interview aired live the morning of the race that year. “There’s a post-race party that is so much bigger than it ever was. The challenge is the course. It’s a little hillier and more open, so you have the elements hitting you. The team aspect of it is just amazing. I love working with my co-workers and we support each other, and we are always pointing each other out before the race and cheering for each other at the finish line. It’s so supportive.”

If you’ve been collecting Corporate Challenge bib numbers through the years in Rochester, you are familiar with this history. J.P. Morgan and its predecessor firms have owned and operated the Corporate Challenge since 1977. The event was branded the Manufacturers Hanover Corporate Challenge from 1977–1991, the Chemical Bank Corporate Challenge 1992–1995, the Chase Corporate Challenge 1996–2000, the JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge 2001–2010, and now the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge since 2011.

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.