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The factor where most people get their motivation is a common, challenging, and inspiring mission in combination with a good team effort.  Another universal sport lesson is that the strength of the team is determined by its weakest link. A nice real life illustration of both is the Roparun. It’s mission is twofold:

To finish the 520 km relay-race between Paris and Rotterdam with a team of 8 runners, and 5 bikers, 6 drivers/navigators and 3 base camp/support/catering and 2 physiotherapists, and collect as much money as possible for the fight against cancer (the winner of the race is the team which collects the most money for the Stichting Roparun).

You can’t complete your mission without excellent teamwork. Dedication to your task, in combination with trust in each other capacities/roles, and a ‘Never let you down mentality’ are the ingredients for success/completing the mission. As Jan Willem correctly mentioned: Roparun is the ‘ultimate team building event’  and a shining example of how FMO employees can cooperate in their daily (business) life.

The FMO team in 2012, which finished the Roparun this year (average speed 11,26 KM/hr in total 45h, 39m), an excellent performance, and faster than last  year’s debut (46h,  20 min).

Roparun... a special experience

Started as a pub bet 21 years ago between 2 Rotterdam friends, the Roparun has developed itself over the years, as the greatest relay marathon in the world, and an important player in the area of the fight against cancer. Therefore, the race has gained a massive support from sponsors, and people along the 520 km track, and in particular in Rotterdam. Although the Roparun is a running event, in practice it has grown into a much larger event due to this broad support and the relation to its goal, which is unfortunately part of so many people’s live. The idea of solidarity between healthy, energetic participants, and ill people seems to be an appealing one. Unfortunately, everyone will be confronted with this disease during his/her life, either in person, or indirect via family/friends. This contributes to the massive support. The Roparun is often described as a virus: once you have experienced the unique event, you will become an ambassador and part of it.  This year was a special Ropa edition as a second starting place was added to the event: 50 teams started in Hamburg and 275 in Paris to arrive at the same time in Rotterdam.

heroes for two days

This year’s FMO team consisted of the following 25 ‘heroes for two days’:

  • Drivers/navigators: Evangelos & Manos: nicknamed ‘The Sirtaki boys’, Jan Willem (king of the Megaphone) & Martine, (queen of sports@FMO), and Roparun veteran (rummycub) Henk & rooky Andrew (who already promised to return to the next Roparun before the start) of FMO supplier and sponsor Vreugde Reizen.
  • Bikers: Laurens Jan, Walter (preparing to run next year), Eowyn (always smiling), Tanja and(bolletjestrui) Arno: 260 km of navigating in the dark and full sun shine, and saddle pain without complaints
  • Camp support: Sabine (Catering),Mr Cool never get stressed Didier (Camp Support,excellent travel john tent builder), Willem (Coordinator & Road Manager): excellent logistics & catering (‘no finish without Sabine’s wraps & pancakes and foot bath) & mental support
  • Physiotherapists: Irene & Peter Paul: indispensable physical & mental support (‘excellent massages in the middle of the night’).
  • Runners:  Huub, Alex (following his achievements on the pulse meter), Stephanie, Karin (team captain), Casper (despite blisters), Nico, Robert (despite a bruised rib), Frederik (as spare runner he still made his km’s), and Vincent: solely focused on running just a few km’s  each time during two sunny days.
  • All our sponsors: FMO, Allen & Overy, Vreugde Tours, Vinos Quixote, IQ Events, Wallich & Matthes, Infosupport, Avantage, Mandema & Partners. PeopleWare, Securitas, NH Hotels and Procurios plus all FMO colleagues (& family & friends of them) who generously donated through the roparun site, CPC-sponsoring, wine sales, pleasant gala dinner at ROC Mondriaan (incl. lottery), and the Ropa lottery.

The Race report

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 (!/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.

The Ropa team enjoyed the race very much, in particular due to the almost perfect organization (except from the cycle race in Belgium), and every single person along the track, which gave us a positive boost necessary for the completion of our mission. Every support felt special en kept us moving, ranging from the crowd of thousands of supporters in Zeele, a few kids who provided us with tomatoes, to the lonely grandmother which provided us with water and applause at 4 AM somewhere close to Bergen op Zoom. In addition to 4 days of intense fun and teambuilding, we collected in total app. €12.000 to the Roparun, a lasting effort for a good cause. The total donation of last years’ Roparun was € 5 million. This years’ donation will be announced in the coming weeks.

The Roparun team has already set its audacious goal for the future: The goal for next year is to have two teams participating: one team starting in Hamburg (with the participation of DEG runners) and the other team starting in Paris (with the participation of Proparco runners).