With her delectable Quebec accent, she tells her experience and we are immediately thrown on the Australian tracks. Teacher and mother of 3 children, Marie-Claude is enthusiastic, sensitive and funny. Nice meeting.
Marie-Claude, it was your first experience on such a race. How did you join the staff of THE TRACK?
I like moving and have a sporting experience but I had never lived an adventure like this one. My companion Jean-François is a doctor. He runs in outstanding races for raising funds to support children with cancer. The Track was its 5th race. That’s how the idea came to integrate the staff. I just knew that I needed a good sleeping bag, a few personal belongings and to be on site two days before the beginning of the race.
Tell us about your role before and during the race?
Before, we began by sewing emblems in the colors of their country on the runner’s jackets. The youngest were lost… sewing! We managed and I even repaired the strap of a rucksack. The team also verifies the supplies: it is important that the athletes have whatever it takes, the food, the useful calories. We serve them so that they feel good.
We speak different languages. We have to communicate as we can, with hands and through objects. You have the impression that your brain never stops! So, I was proud to know all the names and bib numbers without delay.
During the stages, we manage water supply, markers and we watch runner’s progression. Sometimes, we have to make heavy decisions when they get short of breath. One day, I had to force an exhausted athlete to lengthen. Not easy but I had to do it, it was my decision.
What did you learn?
First, I faced loneliness. That is so far from my everyday life. When we arrive very early at Check Point 1 to prepare the waterhole, we don’t know when will come the first life sign … sometimes, it’s long. I was talking to myself. Certain members of the team spent the time by reading… Not possible for me to concentrate on a book with all the flies. I finally brought my linen to wash it … It became a running gag but it kept me busy. Then, we learn to adapt. We are no longer scared to stay somewhere else. Even when we are alone in the middle of nowhere and some aborigines are coming.
During these 10 days, how does the team live?
Every evening after the stage, we arrive at the camp. We set up our tents, we prepare the supper. And welcome the runners. Sometimes, we need a little bit of ingenuity. The water is vital and when some of us wanted to clean up without wasting potable water… I had the idea to split the bottom of water bags already used during the running. It helps to collect “lost” drops. In the evening, I was wiped out but the brotherhood and commitment of volunteers give some strength. We had beautiful moments of laughter and sharing of our cultures. We also take time to look at starry sky … It is a full-immersion experience, you forget who you are. On 4th day, I had totally dropped out! I realized that I had not thought of my children.
What are your most vivid memories on THE TRACK? What words could sum up this adventure?
At the end of each stage, we assist the last runners. Seeing some of them suffering and crying is difficult. One time, I put on my sand shoes to travel the last kilometers beside an athlete having a foot injury. They go up to their limits and when we can help, it creates a real link. We kept in touch since the end of the race.
I was able to run the last 34 kilometers beside Jean-François. Share a little of that with him was a strong moment. Even if they choose to challenge, it is a severe test and feeling steady is important. And it is valuing for the staff. Moreover, Jean-François often heard “Lucky you, your blonde is here”.
The words that describe the best my Track: surpassing oneself, freedom and friendship.