By Geraldine Courtois-Menguy, regional sales manager, Scality
Employee wellness is a core value at Scality, and we encourage our staff to challenge themselves in all sorts of ways — not just professionally, but physically and emotionally, too. For one Scality employee, that came in the form of participating in the Ironman Europe event. For Scality regional sales manager Geraldine Courtois-Menguy, it was riding in the GravelMan Series, a bike race from Paris to Deauville, France. Below, she shares her experience with us.
When my father was a child in the late 1950s, he received one of the first heart operations to be conducted in Paris. A teacher led a fundraising effort in his village to help his parents afford the life-saving surgery. I wouldn’t be here today were it not for their generosity.
My gratitude for the efforts of that teacher all those years ago has inspired me to want to give back to my own community. At the same time, I also sought a way to really challenge myself physically. What if there was a way to combine these two desires?
“Start with the legs, finish with the mind”
I often think about a Scality colleague of mine who underwent a bone marrow transplant a few years ago. Her experience inspired her to support others going through something similar by participating in charity running events.
My desire to find a way to participate in a personal physical challenge while also supporting a good cause led me to the GravelMan Series. This isn’t just your average road race. It’s described as “an adventure where the ultimate goal is for participants to surpass their own expectations.”
When I first thought about participating in the ride from Paris to Deauville, a roughly 350-kilometer (about 217 miles) distance, it seemed totally unfeasible — and yet, it got me dreaming of what it would feel like to take on this challenge. I knew it would be hard; after all, the event’s slogan is, “start with the legs, finish with the mind.”
Founder Steven Le Hyaric is a well-known cyclist and adventurer with a zest for life and tackling the unknown. He started the GravelMan series to encourage others to welcome new challenges and push themselves beyond their comfort zone. As he explains on the event’s website, “The goal in life is to do something and be proud of yourself. Whether I cross the Himalayas, Tibet, the Sahara, France, Flanders or Picardy, there’s a single common thread — freedom. Be free.” And so, I decided to take the leap and go for it — despite having never participated in an event like this before.
Riding for a cause: Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque
This race wasn’t just about my own desire to tackle a physical challenge. I also wanted to use the event to raise awareness of and funds for a charitable organization I passionately support. Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque was founded in 1996 by French cardiologist Francine Leca with a mission of helping children with heart conditions obtain life-saving surgeries.
The organization works with children from underprivileged countries around the world, bringing them to some of France’s best medical facilities to receive life-saving heart operations. Since its founding, the organization has operated on over 4,000 children, with the support of volunteer host families in France with whom the children temporarily stay.
Watch a short video about Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque’s work here.
I first found out about this organization a few years back, and it struck a chord with me because of my father. My dream is to give back and help another child receive heart surgery by supporting Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque. This was my guiding force as I prepared for the GravelMan event, and I started fundraising.
The day of the big race
We started the race at 6:00 a.m. sharp on Saturday, September 24, leaving from Paris avenue de la Grande Armée. It was dark and stormy, and the weather report called for rain throughout the day.
My fellow cyclists and I began our ascent from Mont Valérien, then to the famous Côte de la Jonchère as we rode from Paris to Deauville. We passed beautiful villages and crossed the Marly forest, where two kind-hearted racers helped me replace the tube in my rear tire. We passed the gorgeous Mantes-la-Jolie church, with its roof adorned with tiles with diamond patterns, like those of the Hospices de Beaune. Then it was on to the banks of the Seine, all of us striving to stay focused, no matter how exhausted we got.
We rode uncountable uphills and downhills from the beginning until the end, including some very tough ones that took many agonizing minutes to ascend. With each leg completed, I felt better knowing I was that much closer to the end. The camaraderie of my fellow cyclists helped fuel the ride, providing encouragement along the way.
Reflecting on the experience
The GravelMan was truly one of the toughest sport challenges I’ve ever done. Wearing a Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque T-shirt as I rode was an honor — and served as a constant reminder of why I was choosing to do this, even when it got really hard.
I still have shivers of happiness when I think about this event — why I took it on in the first place and what it took to complete it. I am thankful to Scality management for supporting me in these efforts, including making a donation to Mécénat Chirurgie Cardiaque. I am inspired by CEO Jérôme Lecat’s mission to give back and promote Scality for Good — and grateful that the company encourages us to support the organizations and events that matter to us. Even a small action is still an action, a step in the right direction of making the world a better place.
Want to learn more about some of the work Scality employees are doing to improve their physical and mental well-being while also giving back to their communities? Read about our “race to the moon” and our participation in the Course du Coeur to raise awareness for organ donation.