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Another huge field of Buffalo runners expected for J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge

When Don Sellon walks up to the starting line for the 36th running of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge, he’ll be reminded how far Buffalo’s business scene has come since his inaugural run.

“We’re seeing a lot of great development and things that are going on today that I never would have imagined with the development of the waterfront and the energy in the city,” said Sellon, the employee communications manager at Moog Inc., an industrial company headquartered in East Aurora.

“When it seemed like improvement in the economy was passing Western New York and Buffalo by . . . On this day you just had an amazing appreciation of all the amazing companies that are in Buffalo.”

Sellon is one of 12,488 people taking part in the race Thursday evening in Delaware Park. He’s the captain of a Moog team that’s been very successful in recent years and is a veteran when it comes to the race. He’s been Moog’s captain for more than 25 years. He doesn’t run as fast as he did the first time, but he hasn’t lost his passion.

“I remember all those years ago, walking around and all the tents started to pop up,” Sellon said. “Just seeing the numbers of companies just made you have a greater appreciation of what a great town we live in.”

The event is the second oldest of 14 of its kind around the world, including races as far as Singapore, Johannesburg and Sydney.

That doesn’t mean it’s without local flare. Every year the bank donates some of the proceeds to a Buffalo charity, with Say Yes Buffalo and Classroom Champions being the beneficiaries this year. Both are active in improving the condition of Buffalo’s inner-city schools.

The course is 3.5 miles, beginning at the corner of Amherst and Nottingham and ending on Ring Road in Delaware Park. Although the more enthusiastic athletes run it competitively, many more walk, enjoying some of the city’s nicest views.

Once the race is over, the real fun begins for the more casual racers. Most teams hold an after-party for their employees, with some inviting people down even if they don’t run or walk the course. The event allows coworkers at all levels to spend time with each other outside a business setting.

“From the top down, everybody interacts with each other and has a good time,” said Elizabeth DeMarco, captain of Multisorb Technologies’ team. “When I first started here I got pushed into starting to coordinate it. I don’t think I’d ever give it up.”

Of the 383 companies in attendance, the grocery stores reign supreme. Wegmans has the most entries with 627, with Tops Markets right behind them with 509. Ingram Micro, Kaleida Health and HSBC round out the top five.

“We are competitive to a degree,” said Andrew Brocato, Tops’ director of community and public relations. He’s been involved with the race for the past 10 years, with Tops’ ties with the Corporate Challenge going back 20 years.

“For us it’s more about getting our associates involved in the heart of Western New York and at a great event they can all participate in.”

The race begins at 6:45 p.m. Those attending are encouraged to utilize the shuttle system that runs from the Grant Street parking lot to the starting line, since parking in Delaware Park will be very limited.