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One FMO (Team 202) finishes Roparun 2011

Click here for an overview of photos of the adventure of the FMO team at Roparun 2011. 

Saturday afternoon, the first runner started under thunderous applause, including moral support from no-one other than the famous Dutch athlete Nellie Cooman, ambassador of the Ropa run. For FMO Karin was the logical starting runner. The other team had 5 hours to wait, which were spend in the local pub / post office / library, where they played tafelvoetbal against another Ropa-team. A few FMO colleagues started their Twitter career, a useful modern communication and fun way to keep everyone informed of the continuation of the race.

Most important lesson of the Roparun is that you can much more, than you previously thought (‘impossible is nothing’). Mental toughness and team building play an important role. Another important aspect: trust in your team members, or letting it go. Anyone seen doing their own things well under pressure and increasing fatigue is wonderful to observe. FMO could, in its daily operations learn a lot from his journey. A common mission contributed to an unprecedented cooperation between team members of FI, GP, E&H, ACC, IMR, RM, SO, and PAR, and three ‘interns’. Also nice to see that many FMO-ers also have very different qualities than their regular "FMO dull office job":

  • Caterers: Leonie & Carlyne, stayed in control of the catering operation for 25 team members, and operated very "client first".
  • Photo-journalist Jos, had a night sleep in an ice cold car in order to make a beautiful embedded photograph and film report of the race
  • Navigators Martijn & Tobias, lead us with sharpness, coolness and humor through the Ropa route.
  • Drivers Oana and Maarten, the international touch of the team (South African Music by our bus DJ Maarten), were not impeded by French, Belgian or Dutch driving hours regulation and clumsy bikes on the roof of the bus (smoothly handled by athletic capacities of Oana).
  • Runners: Huub, Casper, Karin, Erica, Robert, Jan-Willem, Edgard, Nico, Frederik, showed clearly that "exhaustion and pain are temporarily, but surrender is permanent" as the text of a participant’s T-shirt who recently healed of cancer was standing. They all passed their first serious Ropa-test without major difficulties, a great physical as well as mental performance.
  • Cyclists: Tanja, Arno, Kees Jan & Walter, enjoyed intensely the approximately 250 km saddle sore.
  • Masseurs: Mieke and Louise (both from Brabant, ‘hired’ via Jan Willem), with sharp and attentive care of the tired muscles and blisters countering emerging despite sleep deprivation.
  • Camp Managers: Willem & Denny, kept a 24 hours a day overview of the basic needs of the team: sleeping and eating, under enormous time pressure.
  • Overall organization: Kim, was not able to join the event, but delivered necessary overall organization support. Enjoyed a few days without her would-be man, but was more than happy to welcome him and his team mates at the Coolsingel.

The Ropa-run is for many a virus: once started, most of the participants become hooked to the unique ambiance. Difficult to summarize, but the Ropa-run experience is ‘a way of life ': it is a unique combination of team building (a better ‘One FMO in practice’ is hard to imagine), positive thinking, navigating, scouting, fund raising, combined with running as nothing more than a pleasant side event. It is an intense, and sometimes emotional rollercoaster. It is obviously much more than a running marathon (‘an experience for life’), which is also clearly illustrated by the team reactions (see box). This is a.o. illustrated by the fact that the ‘winner’ is the team which contributes the most funds for the fight against cancer. Total fund raising of last years’ Roparun was more than €4 million.

The Roparun was also supported by thousands of enthusiastic people along the endless route. Sweet memories of terraces in northern France, bands and DJs, ‘hoedje van papier’ and costumed spectators in Ossendrecht, an offered horseshoe in the Trois Villes. Nightly Vlaams Ropa Carnaval in Zele, and Dendermonde. Nightly passage to the city centre of Antwerpen. Brabantse ambiance in the early morning in Bergen op Zoom, Oud-Beijerland, a reception by the mayor and aldermen of Barendrecht, the arrival via the Daniel de Hoed Clinic, and Erasmus Bridge and finally the finish line at the famous Coolsingel. Furthermore, the thousands of volunteers from organization, catering to traffic support contributed to the unique ‘one goal’ ambiance. You must have experienced it, to understand the virus fully. Most of FMO team members became infected by the virus somewhere along the road, and promised to other teams as well as to many supporters along the track to return in next years’ race. So there is no way back.

The FMO team delivered a great, and intense team performance: 520 km in 46 hours and 20 minutes (11.22 km/hour), also due to our top pace maker Edgard. Importantly, we fortunately experienced no dropouts and no major setbacks: a matter of good preparation, training and a little bit of luck. The most exciting moment occurred somewhere in northern France, when a FMO-bus headed by Robert and Tobias got stuck in the mud and the ROPA adventure briefly threatened to end prematurely. Happily due to join forces the bus was straightened and the FMO caravan could resume its route.

In Rotterdam, approximately 46 hours after the start in Paris, our common trip ended. The last miles were driven by the view of the finish line and the moral support of a growing number of (FMO)people along the route. Mental and physical exhaustion for the whole team was a voluntary choice, other than for cancer patients, the ultimate goal of the race. The total sponsorship contribution from FMO, family & friends (Mandema, Vinos Quixote, TCX, DEG) was approximately 20K EURO, a lasting result of months of successful team effort: many thanks to all sponsors. Combining fun and fundraising, in this case as a signal of solidarity of healthy, athletic people to sick fellow human beings, offers in our view a natural fit with FMO’s mission as a social responsible, entrepreneurial development bank: a perfect reason to give up to the Ropa-virus and return in the next year’s adventure without a script, where we can demonstrate all ‘lessons learned’.