Two years after its last edition, the Côte d’Opale trail is making a comeback this weekend of September 11 and 12. Canceled at the last moment, the 2020 vintage is therefore nothing more than a bad memory even if Franck Viandier, founder and organizer of the race, is not about to forget this SMS from the prefect received 72 hours before the race.
“It was traumatic. We were setting up the last tents, everything was almost ready and, there, I received a message to tell me that the event was perhaps going to be canceled because of the evolution of the Covid and the rise in the rates of ‘impact. The next day, the cancellation became official. You organize one of the biggest running races in France and we call you the day before to tell you that it will be canceled. We were released as if we were a little neighborhood race. It was psychologically hard for several weeks, ”admits the organizer.
A new route for the 2021 edition
In history, tens of thousands of euros went up in smoke with this last minute cancellation. But rather than lament, Franck Viandier and his team decided to go ahead to breathe new life into the race, which had to change course for health reasons.
“A race like the Côte d’Opale trail needs to be prepared several months in advance. However, last January, we were still told that it was forbidden to have more than 1,000 people on the beach and that it was impossible for people to pass each other on the course. So, we changed everything. Because the old course was a loop from Wissant to Wissant where 3,500 left at the same time on the beach and often crossed on the course ”, continues the founder of one of the most important trails in France.
Fewer foreign runners because of the Covid
Fini Wissant where the race arrived in recent years and direction Wimereux located a few kilometers further west. As for the different races (7, 14, 18, 24km.…), They will all start from a different city (Audreselles, Audinghen, Sangatte…) at staggered times so that there is no traffic jam. joint arrival in Wimereux.
But the Covid has not only impacted the course. Traditionally, 7,000 runners take part in the various weekend races. But this year, they will be “only” 5,500. And the health pass, compulsory to participate in the event, is not the main reason. “In France, there are between – 40 and -50% of participants compared to usual in all races. This is mainly linked to the drop in the participation of foreign runners who usually came in large numbers. They will be half as much this year. And then, there is also a traffic jam in the calendar because many races take place this year in September due to the health situation, ”explains Franck Viandier.
A life-size test for the future
If the health situation seems to be developing favorably, nothing says that the trail will stay in Wimereux next year. As every year, the trail had to have the agreement of the coastal conservatory which fights to preserve the beaches of the Opal Coast. Until the last moment, the institution hesitated before saying OK for the 2021 edition. “We had the agreement for a year but we do not know if this will still be the case next year. We will have meetings with elected officials by then. Whatever happens, this 2021 trail will be a full-scale test, ”concludes the organizer.
And if it is still necessary to change, the trail will adapt. Since its creation in 2007, the TCO has already changed its course on several occasions. And when we experienced a last minute cancellation in 2020, we have enough to be vaccinated against the unexpected.