28-09-2020 - Blog

Rethink Sport: Taking to the roads with Run Mate

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From the 26th-27th September, OC Sport organized their first running event of the year, Run Mate. It follows the successful organization of La Solitaire du Figaro single-handed offshore sailing race earlier this month, and it’s an achievement to be celebrated as the company’s mass events team, who are based in Lausanne, Switzerland, have worked tirelessly to find solutions that will allow runners to take to the roads again in a COVID-safe manner.

The format of the event, which sees 180 teams of 2-9 runners spread out over the 210km route, naturally lends itself to social distancing. But as Race Director Antoine Ollivier explains, extra precautions were put in place to give the participants confidence.

“We made some health adaptations to prevent any risk of transmission but, by its very nature, Run Mate is COVID-compatible. We staggered the starts and required the participants, organizers and volunteers to wear a mask throughout the duration of the event in the village, start, relay points and finish zone. This is not currently mandatory in Switzerland, however it is in France, so we’ve been proactive in this situation.”

With sports events around the world grinding to a halt following the COVID-19 outbreak, Ollivier says participants welcomed the opportunity to take part in an organised event. “Everyone is on the lookout for a race to happen and our participants were eager to get their bibs. Many runners know our organization and they are reassured by the measures we have taken to ensure their safety. And what better place to start running again and connect with nature than the beautiful Geneva Lake.”

2020 is the second edition of Run Mate, a concept created by OC Sport, and Event Director Benjamin Chandelier is proud of his team for delivering an event that surpassed expectations, despite the current situation.

“We had a few more entries than last year confirmed which is quite incredible during this uncertain time. It’s great to feel the support of participants as well as the cities and authorities, partners and volunteers. Participants are so excited about enjoying this race as a team in this period and they are keen to respect the different measures in place.”

Although the relay-style format of the event naturally enables the competitors to be spread out, the fact that the participants cross through 70 cities, 3 states, 1 department and 2 countries while navigating one of the most famous lakes in the world presents another challenge. But it’s one Chandelier says the cities supported, in part due to OC Sport’s solid reputation in the region.

“Overall, the host cities were enthusiastic about being involved in the organization of this event. In addition, we have solid references in the region with the organization of several events such as the Harmony Geneva Marathon for UNICEF. States, department and cities are therefore reassured by our organization. We submitted the health protection plan to them, and they supported us for this event which highlights their territory as a wonderful destination.”

Chandelier, who was one of the founding members of OC Sport and who heads up the mass events team, says his team are more motivated than ever to deliver exceptional events.

“Uncertainty is obviously present on a daily basis, but I would say that the prospect of being able to organize an event in this context has given us additional energy compared to previous years. It’s a great challenge that we are facing head on. We are passionate people who love sport and particularly outdoor sports. Our goal is to give the opportunity to everyone to practice endurance sport, to discover beautiful places and to be in a healthier condition.”

While short term the companies focus is on adapting and rethinking how to deliver COVID-safe events, Ollivier says they haven’t lost sight of the other challenges they face. “We organize outdoor events. For our events to take place in the future, we must put in place all measures to protect the environment. Of course, the current priority is to respect health measures, but we are not forgetting our short and medium-term strategy which is to improve our sustainability impact. For example, at Run Mate we conducted a report on the carbon impact of the race so that we can reduce it in the coming years. It is part of the wider company sustainability strategy that will play an important role in defining how we organize our events in the future.”

While the return to sport demands that organisers adapt and rethink how they deliver events, Chandelier is hopeful other organisers will adapt their approach. “My advice would bedon’t give up if you see a little opportunity to organize your events. It’s completely worth it even if the uncertainty is sometimes difficult to handle. We can all make some adjustments to ensure the health of everyone involved in the event. We have now a famous sentence in Switzerland that can be applied to each big decision that an organizer could have: Take a decision as fast as possible but as slowly as necessary!”

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