Friday, June 21, 2013

J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge

The J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge is a 3.5 mile road race that's held throughout the world to promote charity, camraderie and fitness in the workplace.  By the time I learned of last year's Boston race it had sold out...despite having 12,000 participants.  I knew that Jeff had run it in years past and I roped him into running it again with me.  I was optimistic that I could run under 21:30 and finish among the top 200 runners.

The race took place at the unusual time of 7:15 PM on a Thursday.  I took the T into the city and met up Jeff at his office.  After admiring the view from his desk (a great look at the waterfront) we changed up and made our way to Boston Commons.  We got there pretty early so we hung out in the shade for a while, chatting up upcoming races.  We did two miles of the course as a warm up and I got a jist for the layout.  There are several sharp turns at the beginning and end but the rest is just two long straightaways.

Ready to race in honor of the mother company

After the warm up we headed up to the Fidelity tent for a massive group photo with 300+ Fidelity runners and then we went down to the starting area.  With 12,000 runners, you need to tow the line if you have any intention of running a fast time.  Once they closed the road, the fast folks raced up to the starting line where there was one poor old bastard tasked with stopping the mob.  They threw up some fences to keep us in place and we spent the next 15 minutes fidgeting our way through some goofy aerobic demonstration, touching Boston Marathon tributes and the usual pomp and circumstance.  Finally the fences were removed and it was go time.

At the gun, madness.  Someone pushed me from behind which actually helped propel me forward and get me moving faster.  I heard a cluster of bodies collapse behind me but I didn't dare look.  50 yards after the start was a sharp left turn - it was pretty tight and I heard more people take a tumble off to the side.  The field began to spread out a bit and the next two corners weren't as hairy.

With the initial turns out of the way I glanced at my watch and saw I was running at a 5:30 pace.  Okay, that's probably a little fast but I didn't feel like I was out of control so I decided to keep at it.  If I blew up later so be it.  There were lots of excited kids handing out water at the 1st mile - I had no need so I veered away from them but some jerkface made a hard cut in front of me and I almost plowed into him.

I continue to work hard into the second mile.  I had been able to keep Jeff in my sights but now lost him as more people passed me.  It wasn't due to me slowing down, they were just making up time.  Two Fidelity women went by and I thought about try to keep pace but they were moving too fast - keep it up ladies!  Finally I reached the turnaround at Kenmore Square and began the return trip.  I could see the runners still heading out on the other side of the street - so many people!  Just a sea of runners. 

I checked my watch - mile two came in at 5:52.  I was very pleased that I hadn't dropped to over six for the second mile (I think a first for me) but doubted that I'd be able to keep the pace up for much longer.  It felt really challenging now.  I grabbed a water at the last water stop as my throat was very dry now.  It helped give me a bit of focus and I latched onto a guy in a red shirt and tried to stay with him.  I forgot to look at my watch for mile three but I would have been happy to have known that it was 6:03.  Not as much of a drop off as I would have thought.  The second long straightaway was mentally draining as it just goes and goes.  Even though I recognized buildings from the warm up I still wasn't sure how much longer it was.  Finally I saw the street lights indicating that the corners were approaching and I tried to keep the pace up.

I passed a few more runners on these turns and emerged onto the last straightaway which is probably just under a 1/4 mile long.  I could see Jeff and the timing clock up ahead and the usual finish line adrenaline kicked in and helped me finish strong.  Met up with Jeff and we made our way down the finish line corridor, pocketing granola bars and enjoying yogurt popsicles.  I also grabbed a promotional cowbell which I'm sure will come in handy.

So this performance exceeded my expectations and pleased me in every way.  In the back of my mind I thought a sub 21 minute race was possible but I never thought I'd run that far under.  While unofficial, Strava now lists my 5k PR as 18:09 which is pretty great.  The two days of rest and a totally flat course were no doubt factors but I'm just glad everything came together for this one. 

After the race Jeff & I chatted with a couple other Fidelity runners, watched throngs of runners finish for a few minutes and then made our way to a greasy spoon for beer and a top notch turkey burger (Jeff's opinion might differ on that one.)  We went our separate ways at South Station and I witnessed human awfulness on the T ride back to Quincy.  Thanks for the laughs, crazy lady!  Even thought it was 10 PM, Route 93 was still a goddamn mess with construction.  What a terrible stretch of road.  But even my misadventures in escaping the city couldn't keep me down.  I was in great spirits after this one.  Big thanks to Jeff for joining me in this race - made it a lot more enjoyable.

Official time: 20:35.  87th out of 12k or so (but who's counting?)  11th among Fidelity men.  Results here.


  1. Seth, awesome job and pace at the Corporate Challenge. Good racing and catching up with you.
    I want to see that cowbell in action - maybe cheering on Amanda and other WTAC folks at Crabman?

  2. Wow, nice job! Your first mile time is my fastest mile...ever.