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Buffalo gets the gold star for hospitality at the Corporate Challenge

The first year Ariel Lin worked on the Corporate Challenge was in 2012 overseeing the races in Western and Central New York.

And her first impressions of Buffalo could be summed up in one word.

Community.

“I just felt like everyone was on the same playing field and they were all part of something together,” said Lin, now the Global Head of the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series. “You removed any titles, any company divisions. It was the biggest corporate outing of the year, but you wouldn’t know the CEO from an entry-level worker.”

It’s one of the intangibles that keeps Buffalo in a special place in the series and one of the reasons why so many people and companies return to the annual event at Delaware Park.

Registration has officially opened for the J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge Series with the 39th consecutive race in Buffalo scheduled for June 13.

Buffalo is coming off a banner year with the 14,145 entrants in 2018 setting a city record. The event easily is the largest in terms of entries in the region, passing Rochester (8,771) and Syracuse (6,754).

In fact, Buffalo is the third-largest U.S. event in the series, trailing only New York City (30,000 over two nights) and Chicago (27,777).

And one of the things that J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge folks always point out, with pride, is that Buffalo was the originator of the post-race party.

“Buffalo wins the gold star because they were truly the originators of post-race hospitality,” Lin said. “They were the first city to introduce this in 1987 when it was just over 2,300 participants and 175 companies. Of course it’s a running event, but the post-race hospitality is now part of the fabric of the event. It’s a chance for networking, to celebrate with food and beverage. Buffalo was the one that kicked that off for us and it’s become a staple for us.”

While part of the event is to promote health and wellness with participants running or walking the 3.5-mile course, there is an important business aspect of this as well. And part of it lies in that key word – networking.

That’s perhaps one of the reasons why the post-race party has become a staple of the Corporate Challenge experience. Many of the traditional business barriers are broken down for the night. Titles don’t mean anything on the race course and everyone can be on equal footing when they’re milling about the tents in their shorts, sneakers and sweat-stained T-shirts.

“It really is about being inclusive,” Lin said. “It’s not just about your elite runners. You’re coming out after work, going with your colleagues to run, or jog, or walk. Or even to just come out and network and cheer for your employees. It’s an opportunity for everyone to feel welcomed, to feel part of it and involved. Inclusivity is the key word. That’s why it’s been a success.”

Last hurrah for Shoes for the Shelter

On April 7, runners will line up on Delavan Avenue near the Koessler Athletic Center for the 20th annual Shoes for the Shelter 5K.

But the 20th race will be the last for the event sponsored by Canisius College.

“I just felt that it’s run its course,” said race director and Canisius Associate Athlete Director John Maddock. “I wanted to finish on a strong note, so the 20th anniversary seemed like a good time.”

The race originally used a course in Forest Lawn Cemetery, but the cemetery decided in 2013 that it no longer wanted races to use its roads.

“I never really got an answer as to why, but I respect that it’s a place of rest and peace and they didn’t want 5Ks through there, even though we never played music or anything like that,” Maddock said.

But the race lost something when it had to create a new course. In 2012, the last year the race went through the rolling hills of Forest Lawn, there were 520 finishers. Two years ago, the race had just 249 finishers.

“You have to have something unique or else you’re just another 5K,” Maddock said.

They did achieve some uniqueness with the shoes. Each year, participants are encouraged to donate used shoes that the school donates to the St. Vincent de Paul Society. Since they started counting, the race has collected 38,586 pairs of shoes with the hopes of going out with more than 40,000 pairs donated.

“I always took pride in that,” Maddock said. “Community outreach is a big part of what we want our student-athletes to engage in, and they really embraced this part of it.”

Race Calendar

Wednesday, April 3

  • Flatliner Series No. 1, 3 miles, 6:15 p.m., Chestnut Ridge Park

Saturday, April 6

  • Health Fair 5K and 1-Mile Family Fun Run, 9 a.m., North Tonawanda Middle School, 1500 Vanderbilt Ave., North Tonawanda
  • Feel the Spirit 5K, 11 a.m., Infant of Prague Church, 921 Cleveland Drive, Cheektowaga

Sunday, April 7

  • 20th Annual Canisius College Shoes for the Shelter, 5K, 10 a.m., Canisius College

Wednesday, April 10

  • Flatliner Series No. 2, 3 miles, 6:15 p.m., Chestnut Ridge Park

Saturday, April 13

  • Friends of Night People Putting Hunger on the Run 5K, 9:30 a.m., Beaver Island State Park
  • Run Forest Run 5K, 10 a.m., Forest Elementary School, 250 N. Forest Road, Amherst

Sunday, April 14

  • Purple Ribbon Warrior 5K, 10 a.m., Say Cheese Pizza Co., 1771 Love Road, Grand Island

Wednesday, April 17

  • Flatliner Series No. 3, 3 miles, 6:15 p.m., Chestnut Ridge Park

Saturday, April 20

  • Bunny Hop, 5K, 10:30 a.m., American Legion Post No. 362, 1 Legion Drive, East Aurora

Wednesday, April 24

  • Flatliner Series No. 4, 3 Miles, 6:15 p.m., Chestnut Ridge Park

Saturday, April 27

  • Appleseed 5K, 10 a.m., Welch Field, Elm Street and 3rd Street, Westfield
  • UB Dental School Run for Smiles, 10 a.m., UB South Campus
  • Envirun, 5K, 10:30 a.m., Whirlpool State Park
  • The 716 Mile, track mile, 11 a.m., UB Stadium Track

Sunday, April 28

  • 23rd Annual BuffaloRunners 6-Hour Distance Classic, 6-Hour Ultra, 8 a.m., North of the Northtown Center, 1615 Amherst Manor Drive, Amherst
  • WNY Maple Festival SAPS Race, 10K, 5K and 5K walk, 9 a.m., Franklinville Central School, 31 N. Main St., Franklinville
  • 1891 Run, 5K, 9 a.m., 1891 Fredonia Opera House, 9 Church St., Fredonia
  • Niagara Power 5K Run/Walk, 10 a.m., Gallagher Center, Niagara University
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