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Gauthier Herrmann runs through France during the day and organizes classical music concerts in the evening

The cellist and ultra-trailer Gauthier Herrmann launched this Saturday April 23 in his challenge “I run for culture”, a stage race of 660 km between Paris and Aix-en-Provence. 12 classical music concerts of approximately one hour will be given at the end of the majority of the stages

A project born of the pandemic

A professional cellist, unemployed at the time, he had the idea of ​​combining his passion for trail running with his talent for music and symbolically running 900 km between the town where he lives, Montgeron, in the south of Ile de France and Aix-en-Provence, where his parents live, to “give them a kiss” while running, while organizing concerts over the stages. And that’s what he did in 2021 with six friends, four runners and two cyclists, and a logistics team led by his wife.

Designed to “talk about culture with a smile and renew social ties. », Gauthier Herrmann’s project was born in the midst of a pandemic, at the dawn of the third confinement, when performance halls, theatres, cinemas and museums were closed and a curfew had just been introduced. “It grumbled a lot and I didn’t really agree, because no one was defending culture in a positive way,” he recalls.

Classical music and the ultra, “these are two worlds with many similarities, believes Gauthier. When we put together a Mozart quartet, it takes us years. The notion of effort is quite similar between music and ultra-distance. I wanted to create a unifying event and it turns out that the ultra is a fashionable sport lately”.

Health restrictions oblige, the concerts could not be held every evening, but the mayonnaise took anyway. Je cours pour la culture has also been publicly supported by media personalities such as Vianney and actress Natalie Dessay. To their great surprise, Gauthier and his team were accompanied on the trails several times, sometimes during entire stages.

A traveling festival

The success of this first edition gave Gauthier Herrmann the desire to set off again, despite the memory of his body bruised by the effort.

The second edition this time has 660 km of racing and becomes a real traveling festival with an official program of 12 concerts over 14 stages. Thus, 30 musicians from the greatest national orchestras will follow one another over the dates in Voulx, Anost, Lyon, Valence, or even Cavaillon and Aix-en-Provence to interpret classics by Beethoven, Mozart, Ravel and Schubert, not to mention quote them.

At the end of each race day, a concert will be held in the host municipality. “We have set up a ticket office accessible on the “Je cours pour la culture” website. The concerts will be free for those under 18 and students. The goal is that everyone can come, ”underlines Gauthier Herrmann, who will not be playing this year, but who intends to attend all the performances.

The route that connects each concert will include “discovery portions” compared to last year, even if it has been shortened. The route has been carefully drawn kilometer by kilometer, in order to avoid as much as possible the roads and excessive daily elevations.

“This year, we are doing segments, explains Gauthier. We will be moved by car between certain stages, because we wanted to do a little less kilometres. The difference between 50 km and 80 km per day is enormous”, assures the cellist.

However, they are not immune to a surprise, like last year in the Morvan. The mayor of a village had told them that a simple hill awaited them. A hill which finally turned out to be a “bump” of 800 m in altitude over 6 km. “He had to drive this route,” he laughed.

I run for culture
The equipment of the participants of the Je cours pour la culture festival – Photo: courtesy

Gauthier Herrmann, an ultra-trailer who does not prepare his races.

At 40, Gauthier Herrmann has a special relationship with running. A sportsman until he was 16, the conservatory and his life as a musician did not allow him to pursue his sporting activities. It was only at the age of 36 that he put on his sneakers to take part in the Médoc marathon, registered by a runner friend. “I bought new trainers and took the tag off on race day,” he explains. He runs this marathon without any preparation and finishes it “with two pieces of wood in place of the legs”. A “super funny” experience that makes him want to push his limits over longer distances.

After having run the 100 km of Millau in 2017 after only “three 10 km outings” on the clock, he passed the gates of the ultra in 2019 and registered for the Diagonale des Fous which he will finish without any other training than preparatory races such as the EcoTrail of Florence, the Grand Raid of the Pyrenees and the Oisans Trail Tour.

Running on D-Day and not training because he doesn’t like it, that’s his philosophy. “It’s a matter of time and interest,” he said. I don’t even have a monthly practice. »

He assures that he sets off on his challenge of 660 km without really having run long distance since October and the 108 kilometers of the Endurance Trail des Templiers.

His approach is not approved by any coach worthy of the name, but he fully accepts it and sees the ultra as a “rare” moment that deserves to be experienced as it is, with its obligation to be “focused on duration”, a quality that he believes is being lost today.

Psychologically, running 660 km without preparation does not seem to scare Gauthier, who only remembered the good times of the first edition with his team. “I think we are even too serene, he admits. In reality, we suffered a lot last year. The crossing from Montgeron to Aix-en-Provence 2021 took place with pivotal days. A first stage of 71 km “overflown”, followed by five days of “ordeal” then a “total acceptance of the body” until the end, without injury. He approaches this second edition “cool”, even if he knows that morale will absolutely have to be there to go to the end of this journey.

The sequel will be written outside the borders

“I run for culture will become a repeated project”, announces Gauthier Herrmann, who also aims to leave the borders to run in the countries of the European Union, in Italy, in Germany, in Portugal… and allow people to register for one or more stages before attending the concerts.

“The idea is really to create a unifying event that people can take ownership of. “And this time, Gauthier Hermann ensures that he will take his sneakers, but also his cello to perform on certain evenings.

Information, details of each stage and concert schedule can be found on the Je cours pour la culture website.

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