Following the start at FMO’s office with an ice cream and loud Greek Sirtaki music of our Greek bus, this years’ race started with a luxuous trip by coach to Compiegne, where we enjoyed a great team diner in the local restaurant. After a very short terrace visit in a warm, lazy summer night, which contributed to a holiday atmosphere, we left for our hotel (giving up some nice, lively downtown bars). At the start Team B managed to make a photo together with famous Dutch athlete (and Roparun ambassador) Nelli Cooman (Dutch ex-world champion 60 m Indoor), who remembered us almost 48 hours later at the Finish at the Coolsingel. After a nice pasta meal, the FMO team started Saturday 14:38 hours in Paris, as 25th of the 275 Paris teams.
A few hours later, we ran in the middle of a very dark French night, all alone, with only some barking dogs in the country side. With only one team ahead of us, we were the second team in the race for a large part of the first Ropa night, under a cloudless starry night. In the meantime the other team enjoyed a few hours of sleep. Getting sufficient food and sleep (estimated: 4-6 hours in 2 days), is one of the survival ingredients. As our Greek driver observed after 2 hours of sleep: “Dit is toch voor niemand leuk meer?”.Indeed, the Roparun shows no mercy!
On the Sunday, our team got frustrated and irritated by the interference with a cycle race in the Belgium village called Silly (what’s in a name), which caused the team to run at least an additional 6 km, app. 1% of the total distance. The detour led over the “muur of Silly’ (some 20km from the muur of Geraardsbergen and of similar difficulty), all bikers had to get off the bike except for Arno. This caused a mental dip for the team, the pace slowed down, and the other team had to prove its flexibility: to start earlier on track.
Only a few hours later in our road movie, the mood turned positively. FMO Ropa team entertained the crowd along the Belgian part of the track with a megaphone, and lot of enthusiastic noise. Arriving in Zele, THE Ropa city for many years, is really a unique experience. The city celebrates the Roparun like a second carnival. All inhabitants of this small Flemish city, celebrated our arrival (with music, drinks), like we did. We were welcomed by the mayor (and greatest Ropa fan), a moment which has been recorded on our facebook site (http://www.facebook.com/#!/Roparunteam202FMO ). A few hundred meters later we enjoyed our second moment of fame with a pintje in café Calypso, which gave us a welcome mental boost for the rest of the track. The warm weather this year in particular made it for the runners tougher, but contributed to the large number of enthusiast supporters along the track, in particular in Vlaanderen (Zele, Dendermonde) and Brabant (Bergen op Zoom, Ossendrecht, Oud Beijerland and many other smaller cities). The teambuilding element is tested the most at the changing of teams. Will the teams meet at the same place at the right moment? Communication is crucial. Most of the times this goes well, but during the 520 km track there are also moments of despair, and miscommunication. To overcome these issues in a positive way is part of the Ropa challenge and we succeeded with flying colors.
The Finish in Rotterdam (at 12:17 hours on Monday) was much better than last year. The sunny weather and the fact that we finished as one of the first teams (in fact number 11) contributed to our moment of fame at an almost empty Erasmus bridge and but cheerful Coolsingel (with indeed Nelli Cooman of the picture, and the mayor of Zele). Our moment of glory at the Erasmus bridge and the Coolsingel was recorded by FMO colleagues Marc and Jos.