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7 Octobre 2005 - Gersende HAYOZ (Services Administratifs)

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The Mayor and “The municipal members” of Aix, line-up to run (aix ac)

The Aix 100m Fun Run!
Thursday 6 October 2005

There have been many marathon fun runs, half marathons, even five kilometres round parkland where thousands turn up for a day-out with the family. But a 100-metre fun-run? Well, that’s exactly what took place in Aix-les-Bains, France, last Saturday 1 October, at the Stade Jacques Forestier.

“Maybe not everyone can race a 100 metres, but they can at least cover the distance”

In total 500 people turned up in driving rain to test their skills over the shortest distance on the Olympic track programme and the day was declared a resounding success despite the weather Gods’ attempt to put a dampener on the proceedings. In Aix’s favour, it has to be said that the rain was the exact replica of what happened in Helsinki during August’s IAAF World Championships, so in that sense the organisers were faithful to their promise to give the general public a genuine feel of how it feels to contest a top-class 100 metres.

Aix 100m logo
(aix ac)

Though 100 of the participants were club athletes who knew what it was like to compete under these circumstances, the remaining 400 were novices who were intrigued enough by the offer to brave the elements.

The idea was the brainchild of Jean-Luc Gastaldello, president of the Aix athletics club and the idea behind it was to give everyone the chance to run over “the most universal discipline in athletics”, said Gastaldello. “Maybe not everyone can race a 100 metres, but they can at least cover the distance.” “At least once in your life”, ran the poster advertising the day, “come and discover the 100m”.

A chance to sample the world of the elite sprinter

The day was open to all comers, from families to club athletes, including disabled and young teens who would all be offered the chance to warm-up under the direction of coaches and be advised by physiologists and doctors attached to the club, the sort of back-up only an elite competitor would enjoy and that the general public only sees from the distance of the stands.

Down on the track the real-life experience continued with a synthetic surface and eight-lane start with the races subject to exactly the same conditions as in a major championships with starting blocks, starting pistol, judges and electronic timing. And when the day was done each participant could take home as a memento and the all-important evidence to show friends, a photo-finish, t-shirt and a diploma.

A family 100m line-up in Aix
(aix ac)

But no false starts

The only exception to the rule book was that judges would turn a blind eye to false starts, since when you are organising a race every five minutes over the space of eight hours, from ten in the morning to six in the evening, there is little room for manoeuvre. People lined up over the eight lanes and entire families could take part in the same race if they wished.

A bureaucratic and off-piste line-up

Gastaldello was pleased to report that the final race pitched the entire Savoyard city council against each other including the Mayor, Dominique Dord, leading by example. But personalities from the world of sport were also there including two of France’s foremost ski aces, former Olympic champion Frank Piccard and former overall world cup winner Luc Alphand.

In order to maximise numbers organisers contacted local schools and the University as well as local clubs. The day was well supported by local sponsors as well as some better known international kit suppliers as well as the Ministry for Youth and Sports. Each entry cost 3 Euros, with a concession to families who were charged 2 Euros.

An aspect of French Federation’s development policy

There were various categories ranging from club runners to fun-runners, disabled and the under-15s. A special place was set aside for children so that older members of families would be free to take part. There were prizes for the fastest boy and girl and the day was preceded by workshops on athletics so that all could be acquainted with the other events that the sport consists of. All participants were insured by the French Federation since the Aix 100m was part of the Open-Doors weekend promoted by the national body under the banner of Sport and the Family. Around 80 volunteers helped out, including the club’s administrative staff and helpers drawn from local government.

The idea was first mooted November 2004 during the Aix AS general assembly and involved one of the club’s old members, sprinter Gilles Richard, and the first working meeting took place in May.

Attracting new talent

“There were two main reasons for the event,” explains Gastaldello. “Firstly, we are an elite athletics club which means we live only for and by competition, but we wanted to make ourselves known to the general public.   It was also a means of attracting new talent to the club. We need new athletes to survive as a club.

The second reason was that we wanted to organise a big event to show our sponsors what we are capable of. We wanted to show that this was a viable project.”

Michael Butcher for the IAAF

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