The Viacom employees’ identical black racing shirts bore a lightning bolt back-dropping a three-word statement of intent: Run the Night. In the clear and humid May evening they did exactly that, dashing through 3.5 miles of hills and springtime trees in Manhattan’s Central Park, a 150-member collective scattered amid 15,000 workers from 329 companies bounding through the 42nd annual J.P. Morgan Corporate Challenge.
Leading Team Viacom’s women’s group with a time of 25:42 was Alyssa Curci, a senior manager of vendor management in the company’s Media and Technology Services group.
“The energy was amazing,” Curci, who was participating in her first Corporate Challenge, recalled. “Everybody was excited to be there.”
Curci, who swam competitively at Division 1 Lehigh University, took up running after moving to New York City. She now runs three to five miles at least two days per week along the running paths that trace the rivers surrounding Manhattan.
As someone who joined Viacom just the month before the race, Curci appreciated elements of the challenge beyond the opportunity for an employer-sanctioned workout.
“I’m trying to meet a lot of the employees in Viacom, so this is a really nice opportunity,” Curci recalled. “When you’re the new person somewhere, it can be very intimidating, and you want to be a part of the group and a part of the family, and the fact that anyone who wanted to participate was allowed to was great. It’s an inviting culture, which is something that I really value about Viacom. It’s why I joined the company.”
That McGraw finished near the top of the standings is little surprise – he is a committed athlete who placed first in the ITU World Triathlon in Bermuda earlier this year and will compete in triathlons in Philadelphia and New York City as a City Coach athlete over the coming two weekends. He will also compete in the USA Triathlon AG Nationals in Cleveland in August, race as an Elite-license-carrying Pro at the Ironman 70.3 in Lake Placid in September, and start as part of the Local Elite group in November’s New York City Marathon.
A former Upper West Side resident who has trained extensively in the park, McGraw can appreciate that J.P. Morgan makes a substantial contribution to the Central Park Conservancy – the private, non-profit organization that raises 75 percent of the park’s annual budget – on behalf of all Corporate Challenge participants.
“Central Park is the hub of activity in the city if you’re going on a run, bike, or just a walk,” said McGraw, a senior director in Nickelodeon Partnerships. “It’s kind of the place to go if you live in Manhattan, so it’s nice to support that. It’s always nice to escape the city a little bit and see some green.”
This year, McGraw had extra incentive to rush to the finish line – his wife, Jordi Lippe-McGraw, was due to give birth that week. Turns out that he had plenty of time – Wilder McGraw was born five days later. “He waited for the race,” McGraw joked.
The event, on May 30, corresponded with Manhattanhenge – the twice-yearly phenomenon so named because the sun rises and sets in exact alignment with Manhattan’s east-west street grid – and finishers watched the sun drop enormous and crimson over the island’s west side as they walked to the after-party at The Ribbon bar on the Upper West Side.
Coordinating and supporting Corporate Challenge participation is a small part of Viacom’s comprehensive commitment to encouraging healthy lifestyles among its employees. Additional elements include annual health and wellness festivals, biometrics screenings and flu shot administration, workout facilities at select offices, and more.