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J100 - Sunday, January 24: Aix-en-Provence – Saint-Julien les Martigues

72.85km – 9H16’
Altitude: 79m

Yes, yesterday I was lazy with a short log, so today I have to pull myself together….
This is an opportunity for me to talk about the « followers ».  Their role and the different tasks were explained in a log last November  so here is some additional information, following questions I have received in your  e-mails:
Who are they?  For the most part, young retirees who are dynamic, love sports and adventure but later you will also meet Ludo, Thomas and Bertrand, who manage to take time off from their jobs.
Where do they come from? From Normandy, Brittany Loire-Atlantique, Ain, Anjou and Isère.  How did we find them? In different ways, depending on the person but most of them were with us on the Paris-Tokyo race.

Is there special baggage ?  In 1997 Serge, like a lot of runners who organize this sort of race, wanted to have a podiatrist, a physio-therapist and a doctor with him.  But over the years, Serge came to realize that medical and auxiliary medical assistance was not indispensible.  On the Paris-Tokyo, at the end, Ludo, who is a physiotherapist, did not give any massages because Serge preferred to sleep…And up till today, he has had 10 massages in 100 days.
 Experience has taught us that the people who accompany us, besides being devoted to Serge’s cause and to his race, also have to put part of their life on hold and they must be able to adapt to a life which is not planned in advance but which demands daily repetition of gestures as well as facing occasional periods of stress.  They must have good endurance and I would say considerable resistance because the days are long and leave no quiet time to read for an hour or go off for a walk.  Kilometers hold us on a tight rein and the clock is an important factor for all of us.
Actually, the qualifications needed are more physical and mental than professional.
Also, each person brings his own qualifications and puts them to the service of the race: Daniel and RenĂ© are handymen, JoĂ«l was a computer specialist, Eliane is a pearl in organizing supplies, Ludo is a physiotherapist, Thomas is a photographer, etc.  But besides all this, versatility is necessary and as the saying goes, everyone « lends a hand ».

Gilles (who crossed Madrid with Serge and David) had an interesting question.  When there is a change in the support team does it make any difference to Serge?
For Serge and for me, these changes are far from easy.  As Serge says, “I’m an old man and “old men” don’t like change!”
Serge is very sensitive to the support team, like a sponge that absorbs water; he absorbs the good and bad vibes. He knows when things work well or less well, if someone feels good or not in the group, if someone is tired and not with it…He tells me these details, which are sometimes surprising and in the end he is very attentive to his environment.  For me these changes are synonymous with changing task distribution: Eliane does Serge’s laundry when she is here, otherwise I do it.  JoĂ«l takes care of downloading photos and everything having to do with the Garmin watch and its beacon.  When he is not here it’s my job. RenĂ© manages the Ducato and when he leaves this job is redistributed among the team.  Naturally, for me it’s important and of prime necessity that a person feels good in the group, because it’s a rather communal life that we lead every morning and evening.  When you go to work, in the evening you go home so you are cut off from your colleagues.  Here from the time we get up until we go to bed we see the same faces so I would say that the last characteristic I would mention is: being sociable. And also, you have to like meeting people!
Lately, Serge has taken to saying that there are better runners than he but what makes the difference is that his team is extraordinary: I can reassure you; this doesn’t make us feel self-satisfied!
 Jean-François and Christian will be with us at departure and for a full day.  After running this 3rd stage I think Jean-François should enter races like the Transe-Gaule with a “follower” like Christian.  They would make a good team.
There were many fine encounters today: thanks to Xavier and Boureyma of the CJD, who guided Serge and the team out of Aix and found the road to Berre.  The visit of Pascal, Laurence, his wife and their 3 children, who are following the course at their computer and who came to have Serge sign the books of the other crossings.  Serge was amazed to have such a fan and it must have motivated him because his pace was even today, with an average of 7.9km/h and quite a few halts (TV France 3, Eliane’s massage of the “adored” feet).  Jean-Louis came back today.  In the south we find there are lots of people who come to run with us and then come back again and run some more; people who obviously love foot races.

At the end of the stage Simone and Isabelle joined the group….
I want to make special mention of a planned and very touching visit by BĂ©rengère, of Grainville-Ymauville, our well known village.  BĂ©rengère has not been running for long but does so very seriously and like a gazelle.  For this special weekend “South and Serge Girard,” a couple of friends from Le Harvre accompany her: Sylvie and her husband, Denis, a blind runner whom we meet for the first time today, after having been in touch by e-mail.  BĂ©rengère has the difficult task of guiding Denis because runners who don’t see well or who are blind run with a guide attached by a cord.  They run as one but it is much easier on paper than in fact, because the role of the guide can’t be improvised.  After one training session with Denis, BĂ©rengère is taking up this challenge on a road which neither of them knows and which includes crossing the city of Martigues that is full of traffic and has many sidewalks.  To make matters more complicated, Serge and the dream team are fast and have to keep up the rhythm at the end of the stage.  There is a last hill after Martigues and then a descent to the finish in front of a wine cellar which is closed (too bad!) at the entrance to Saint-Julien de Martigues.
I’m surprised to have the visit from a cousin and her husband whom I haven’t seen for 20 years…incredible.

BĂ©rengère has not come empty handed: caramel cream to put on pancakes for mardi-gras, drawings which the children in the school of Grainville-Ymauville drew on January 12.  These drawings all show a runner in the mountains on a very visible road and sometimes there is a person walking.  Thanks to all the children.  And last but not least, a selection of sweets from our dear neighbors, Brigitte and Jean-Yves.  Thanks for thinking of us, it is heartwarming and I’m smiling with pleasure as I write these lines.
I hope I haven’t forgotten anything or anyone and with the possibility of boring you, here is tomorrow’s program, which rather special.

Part 1: 7H15’ departure from Saint-Julien les Martigues – Sausset-les-Pins – Carry-le-Rouet – L’Estaque – Marseille with a stop at 12H30 (for 90 minutes) for the CJD Marseille chapter.

Part 2 : 14H00 Start from le Vieux Port – Stade VĂ©lodrome –Col de la Gineste -  Cassis – La Ciotat

Town : Saint-Julien-Les-Martigues (Les Bouches du Rhone)

GPS : N43.36754° W005.08725°