End of an Era: General Electric & Workforce Team Challenge

by Aaron Knobloch

One of the first races I did when I moved to the capital region was the 2004 JP Morgan Chase Corporate Challenge in Albany, New York. I had become friends with Mark McKenzie running at the GE Global Research gym and he encouraged me to participate in this big event for the General Electric Runners Club. Mark was the long time captain of the GE Workforce Team which brought together GE employees from a multitude of sites in and around the capitol region. Looking at the archives within the HMRRC, the GE team has a long history of participation and success at this race.

The 2024 Race will not only be my 20th year since participating in the race for the first time in 2004 but also my 15th year co-captaining the GE team with Judy Guzzo along with a multitude of others. This will be also the first year I will be leading the team representing GE Aerospace and racing against Judy and other current colleagues in this race. In 2021, GE announced that it will be splitting into the three separate companies: GE Healthcare, GE Vernova, and GE Aerospace which keeps the GE stock symbol. GE Healthcare, who have local employees at the former GE Research campus and the digital x-ray facility in North Greenbush spun out into their own company in January 2023. On April 2, 2024, GE Vernova which makes wind turbines and gas turbines out of the main plant in Schenectady with employees supporting at GE Research campus in Niskayuna became a separate company. Judy, who will be a GE Vernova employee when the split takes place, will no longer be a co-captain but a competitor for the GE Vernova team in 2024.

This change in how this year’s team will be organized makes me fondly reflect back to the memories of organizing the greater GE team over the past 15 years. The first year or two taking over the team our participation was small relative to the size of GE’s presence in the area. We were not amongst the top participating teams in the race but that would change with the group that took over the captainship from the legendary Mark Mckenzie. Motivated folks like David Hennel and Karl Sindel took a very active role recruiting runners and walkers from the downtown Schenectady site. Judy, Karl, David, and I also took our event to leadership and got a budget to support a partial registration fee and team t-shirts. We couldn’t get too crazy with the shirts, we have strict rules about how we display the GE monogram and what words can be on our shirt but the budget made a big difference in getting employees to participate. We quickly climbed the participation rankings becoming the largest team in any category of the race for many years in a row. In 2016, we topped out at 547 registrants which I believe may still be a record for any team at the race. For a race capped at 10,000 runners, we had 5% of all registrants.

Until the late 2010s, managing the registrations for a large team wasn’t easy. Registrations were done by hard copy and money collected by the team of captains. I would receive many manila interoffice envelopes (these don’t exist anymore) at my office and would tally up all the money collected and write a very large personal check to the race to get the team registered. Then we would receive the bibs and shirts to sort and distribute to runners across many different GE sites all prior to the race. Oftentimes we would do shirt sorting parties at Judy’s house to distribute everything prior to the race to a variety of GE sites. Logistically we would have to deal with not only the race but communications, our health ahead team, leadership, and individual runners across all these businesses.

Race day would be a long day primarily due to the scoring. The last several years Mark was captain, I would stay with him late into the evening on the steps putting together the scoring teams and writing the names and times on index cards. Prior to chip timing, every team would submit their team results on index cards which indicated who was on the team and what their time was. This was on an honor system as there was only limited timing of the finishers up to the first 50 or so. Mark felt very strongly that every person who finished should be on a team. So we would stay till darkness was setting in, filling out 20-25 cards with every finisher on it until our fingers got sore. We continued this even as the team started to grow to several hundred runners. We had a great system where those who finished would come to our meeting place on the steps and we would have a notebook with a page for every minute and lines for every second. Each person would write their name down on the appropriate page and line for their time. Then we would go through from front to back creating teams from that time ordered list. Frantically we would need to complete this before we left that evening. In the late 2010s, the race moved to online registration and chip timing which greatly eased the burden on team captains.

Beyond all that went into the organization, there have been certainly many memorable moments over the years…here are a few.

  • One year Judy and Anne Benson went for a long cooldown after the race and their gear got taken by someone thinking everyone had left. They were missing their keys and it ended up being quite a long night for them to get back home from the race.
  • Karl and David would arrange GE support for post race parties at a local bar and we would enjoy a couple beers with colleagues after the race.
  • The anticipation of seeing the results posted, wondering how the other teams did, and wondering whether I had arranged the teams properly to win the right categories.
  • Planning parties at Bombers with Dave, Karl, and Judy.
  • Boxes upon boxes of extra shirts taking up my garage and office space.
  • Judy received a call from Mark Little, head of the research center, wishing us luck after an article in the Gazette featured Judy. We always tried to get the leadership to participate in the race but were never able to get any to come out!
  • Being interviewed on live radio when GE raised the most money for the charities of choice one year.
  • My wife Diana, and I, running together on the same team and sometimes helping to bring home the winning trophy.

Thinking about the future, the days of participation trophies and top finishes may soon be a thing of the past. However, we are arranging a new competition to try to keep the comradery between the former GE businesses. There are several names being floated for the competition such as the Battle for the Meatball. Rules are to be determined but it will give us something to shoot for and keep the connections alive between us.

        2009 - Year 1 as Co-Captain with Judy Guzzo – 127 registered runners

                                         2016 – Another Record Turnout: 547 registered runners

Picture of GE Captains (Left to Right) at 2018 Race – Karl Sindel, Judy Guzzo, Dave Hennel, & Aaron Knobloch

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