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As the 2012 San Francisco JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge starts, runners stretch back toward AT&T Park.  With the largest crowd ever in the event participating, the race featured three "wave" starts for runners/walkers of different speeds.

Big teams and small boost San Francisco
to largest crowd in 28-year history

Rev. Stephen Privett, the University of San Francisco president, (right) smiles as he starts the 2012 JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge in San Francisco.

SAN FRANCISCO, September 12, 2012 — A year ago, Suzy Kisylia had just started a program to encourage faculty and staff at the University of San Francisco to run. Unfortunately, she said, the program came too late to enter a team in the 2011 JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge in San Francisco.

"We weren't about to miss it this year," she said.

She wasn't alone in the sentiment. As Kisylia and her team gathered in the shadows of AT&T Park on a gorgeous night for running, they were part of the largest field in the 28-year history of the San Francisco Corporate Challenge — a capacity crowd of 10,000 participants from 333 companies.

"We are thrilled that San Francisco has become a full-capacity event," said Rod Reed, Vice Chairman of Investment Banking, J.P. Morgan. "They are running on the most beautiful course in the worldwide Corporate Challenge series. We have a lot to be proud of tonight living and working in the Bay Area."

The sold-out crowd for the 3.5-mile run included large teams, small teams and teams entering the event for the first time ever — such as USF, which was boosted by the entry of the Rev. Stephen A. Privett, S.J., 27th president of the university.

"I'm walking. I'm too old to run!" the 69-year-old Privett said with a smile, adding that he was happy to see USF participating. "This is about health. It's about community. It's about all the kinds of things that you get from doing something together as an organization. It has positive benefits all the way around."

Kisylia and her 77 teammates were clearly excited to be a part of the event, and have their president on hand.

"We were really looking forward to participating in the Challenge," she said. "The Corporate Challenge run is a perfect fit with the Jesuit Catholic ideal of educating the whole person — not just the mind and spirit, but also the body. We believe in engaging with and supporting the greater community — this event is an example of community working together for the common good.  It's a great cause. I can't believe there are 10,000 people competing in this event. It is a blast!"

Don Bausley, Market Manager for Chase's Bay Area Retail Branch Banking, and Sherilyn Adams, Executive Director of race beneficiary Larkin Street Youth Services, react with smiles as Crosby Freeman of Google wins in 17:08.

Another first-time team in the record-setting crowd that topped last year's record participation of 8,747 was Square, whose products include square credit card readers. A small team of 13 entrants, they were led by Vanessa Slavich, who competed in the London Corporate Challenge in 2008, and literally has come a long way since.

"Back then 3.5 miles seemed daunting, but now I'm training for my first marathon (the Nike Women's Marathon) and I'm excited to lead the team," said Slavich.

"In the past three years, Square has grown from a small start-up to nearly 400 people," Slavich added. "As we have grown we have formed many different extracurricular groups for people to participate in, and our twice-weekly running club is one of the best, so we're all very excited to be a part of this race and show our spirit. This is a great team bonding exercise and for a great cause. We know we will have a lot of fun, so we are hoping this will entice more people to join us next year."

Tamara Pitts (8810) and Jessica Rosenberg of Mindjet share a smile as they leave the start area at AT&T Park.

One team on the other end of the size spectrum from Square was Salesforce.com. Last year, it had the second largest team in the event, and accepted the challenge of trying to be No. 1. Salesforce succeeded, big-time, going from 510 participants in 2011 to 896 this year, easily the largest in a record-setting crowd.

There were many other winners on a night when temperatures gradually cooled from daytime highs in the low 70s to readings in the 60s, with little wind. The ideal running conditions led to fast times for individual champions Crosby Freeman of Google and Brooke Wells of Twitter.

For Freeman, who won in 17:08, it was the third victory here in four years. He edged Chris Mocko of Square (17:14) and Kyle Shackleton of KPMG (17:17). Wells, meanwhile, recorded an excellent time of 19:27 to hold off a spirited challenge from Salesforce.com's Ana Morales, who also broke 20 minutes with a time 19:51. In third for the women was former race champion Shaluinn Fullove of Google (21:07).

Another big winner of the race was Larkin Street Youth Services, which returned for the second year as the race beneficiary.

Founded in1984, Larkin Street Youth Services is an internationally-recognized leader that provides housing, medical, social and educational services to at-risk, homeless and runaway youth. The JPMorgan Chase Foundation will make a donation to Larkin Street and it will be used to provide these young people with the support and guidance they need to obtain self-sustaining employment, along with physical and emotional wellbeing.

"Larkin Street is a great organization and every participant in tonight's race can take pride that they are providing tangible help to the city's youth," said J.P. Morgan's Reed. "The donation will be specifically used by Larkin Street to buy college text books for its students. We can't wait for the day when Larkin Street alumni are out here on the Corporate Challenge race course with us."

It was a cause that also resonated with many in the sold-out field.

"The Corporate Challenge is for a noble cause — Larkin Street Youth Services helps people who are right in our backyard," said Panteha Karimi of Oracle. "It's a great way to give while having fun and staying fit."

Julia Baron Kniesche, a Fraud Investigation & Dispute Services manager at Ernst & Young, perhaps summed up the record-setting night best.

"I absolutely love this run," she said. "Getting such a large group of professionals together at the same time to do something they mutually enjoy, you can just feel the energy and determination, and having a philanthropic undertone just adds to the joy we can all take from participating."

With San Francisco's record-setting race, the 2012 JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Series has now attracted a total of 238,784 total participants this calendar year and is on track to top 250,000 entrants for the first time in its 36-year history.

Two events remain in 2012 - Shanghai on October 18 and Sydney on November 14.

Amid a sea of finishers, Meliza Cervantes of VMWare (6768) raises her arms in triumph at the 2012 JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge in San Francisco.

(For comments on JPMorgan Chase Corporate Challenge Series features, or suggestions for feature stories, please contact Alan Tieuli at series-info@jpmorganchasecc.com).

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