San Francisco

San Francisco’s Corporate Challenge continues its encouraging reinvention

Ten years ago, while Krishna Narayanaswamy was founding Netskope, a global cybersecurity leader, he understood the importance of a work/life balance and strived to make it part of the company culture.

“We instituted the practice of doing Friday lunchtime runs, followed by a catered lunch,” Narayanaswamy, the firm’s Chief Technology Officer, remembered. “Then I was looking for a race that would help our team bond outside of work and at the same time work towards a personal goal.”

And that’s where the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge San Francisco joins the story. A decade later, both Netskope and the Corporate Challenge are thriving.

The 37th edition of the 3.5-mile (5.6km) Corporate Challenge in San Francisco’s Mission Bay attracted a crowd of 5,361 entrants from 217 companies. That represents an increase of 32% in the total number of entries and a 43% increase in the number of participating companies from 2022, a wonderful rally after the event was sidelined by COVID in 2020-21.

“In 2013 we had nine runners/walkers in our team,” Narayanaswamy said. “But since then, we have grown as a company and proportionally in our representation at the Corporate Challenge as well to 72 participants this year. It is an annual tradition at Netskope. For us it not only helps our team members cultivate a healthy lifestyle, but it builds the team spirit outside of work-related projects. This has become even more important since the pandemic forced us into a hybrid work environment.”

The Corporate Challenge, in many ways, mirrors the resilience and innovation of San Francisco. Since the first race at Justin Herman Plaza in 1983, the event has survived an earthquake, challenging financial conditions, and a pandemic, adjusting each time with strategic location moves and logistical adjustments that made it attractive to the participating companies. And with the race now being conducted adjacent to the gleaming Chase Center (with post-race hospitality inside the arena) in the rapidly growing China Basin, you can see the promise of more growth.

Event owner and operator JPMorgan Chase had the largest collection of registered employees on this night with 835 total entrants. Visa had an impressive 403 followed by VMware (141), Cooley (126), Exelixis (122), QuantumScape (100), Genentech (86), Dolby (74), Accenture (73), BioMarin Pharmaceutical (73).

“Our commitment as a firm to the Bay Area has never wavered and continuing our ownership of the Corporate Challenge is a big part of that,” said Peter Engel, Global Chairman, West Region, Investment Banking, J.P. Morgan. “It is an absolute honor every September to have hundreds of companies heed our call to come out and celebrate a night of healthy competition and camaraderie. I can think of no better way to show our pride in being part of this incredible, resilient Bay Area workforce.”

The participants also made a difference for event beneficiary Eat. Learn. Play, with J.P. Morgan donating in celebration of all participants. Founded by Stephen and Ayesha Curry in 2019, Eat. Learn. Play. launched with a focus on improving the lives of kids and families in Oakland, the Bay Area, and across the country. Rooted in three of the most vital pillars for a healthy childhood – nutrition, education, and physical activity – Eat. Learn. Play. is working to ensure that every child in Oakland has access to the nutritious food they need to thrive; resources to learn and read; and safe places and equitable opportunities to play.

Stephen Curry, four-time NBA Champion and JPMorgan Chase partner, kicked off the event along with Ron “Boss” Everline along with Eat. Learn. Play.’s President and CEO Chris Helfrich. Cheering on the entrants from the start stage and pre-race hosted a reception for a number of Bay Area small business owners, emphasizing the important role entrepreneurship will play in an evolving urban economy.

The Eat. Learn. Play. connection motivated Vir Biotechnology, a commercial-stage immunology company, to field a team of 49 employees, easily among the 20 largest businesses in the race.

“Giving back to our communities is a very important part of our core values,” said Riddhi Trivedi-St Clair, Sr. Director, Corporate Communications for Vir. “The J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge allows #Virites to come together in support of a worthy cause. The fact that – even as a relatively small company – Vir assembled one of the largest teams in this year’s event reflects the passion and energy #TeamVir brings to every challenge.”

The energy of the top runners – pushed along by brilliant racing conditions along the 3.5-mile Embarcadero and China Basin race course – was quite evident, with winners Faith Reynolds and Paddy O’Leary looking particularly impressive.

Reynolds, representing consulting powerhouse Accenture, was the 2022 runner-up at this race with a time of 19:53. She shaved 21 seconds off that time this year to break the tape in 16:29 to win the female division. Her time tied for the fifth fastest among all females in the 2023 Series.

O’Leary, an oncology scientist at UCSF, won the male division with an eye-popping time of 16:29. That was the second fastest male effort in the 2023 Series, topped only by the 16:26 submitted by Phil Lambert of DL Trading in Chicago on May 18.

The efforts by Reynolds and O’Leary were championship worthy, so it was only appropriate that they were greeted at the finish line by Gary Payton II, a current member of the Golden State Warriors and a key contributor to their 2022 NBA title.

The 47th year of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series continues to move along at an accelerated clip. Including San Francisco, Series entries through 10 events total 173,476 (17,348 average attendance) compared to 100,771 (10,078) from the same 10 events in 2022. That’s a 72% rise and the Series has already exceeded its total 2022 attendance of 111,269 registered entrants. It also has surpassed the total number of registered companies (5,498 to date this year compared to 3,956 through the entire 2022 Series).

The next 2023 J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge chapter unfolds on Thursday, October 5 in Philadelphia.