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Interview with Erich François, founder of the ING Night Marathon Luxembourg

Published on 9.03.2023

The ING Night Marathon Luxembourg will take place on May 20th this year, and we are pleased to announce that SOS Villages d’Enfants Monde is its main humanitarian partner. The goal of this partnership is to encourage runners and the public to support the protection and care of the most vulnerable children. This year, all donations will go to populations facing extreme drought and hunger resulting from the climate crisis in the far south of Madagascar. We had the honour to interview Erich François, Founder and Managing Director of step by step SA, organiser of the event.

The ING Night Marathon was first organised in 2006, three years after you presented your idea to sponsors in Luxembourg. How would you describe the evolution of this major project since its creation?

When we launched the first marathon in Luxemburg, there were already over 300 marathon races in Europe. It was clear that we needed to set ourselves apart from the crowd with a new concept – that’s why it’s a night marathon. And this is an event that aims to entertain not only runners but the public as well. There is a reason why we now have more than 500 musicians along the way. This special feature, this unique atmosphere at our event, has helped us from the very beginning to stay in the limelight and bring runners from all over the world to Luxembourg. Already at the first edition in 2006, we had 6,000 participants and were fully booked. From there, we raised the limit by 1,000 bibs step by step until we finally reached 16,000 starters – until the collision caused by a small virus. We are doing a lot at the moment to get rid of this, I call it “pandemic laziness”, which has crept in with many people over the last two years, and to get people back into their running shoes and onto the running track.

Photo : Erich François avec Sophie Glesener, directrice de SOS Villages d’Enfants Monde

Nearly 10,000 runners are expected for this 16th edition of the 42 km race in the Luxembourgish capital.

The marathon is the most important sporting event in the country and annually attracts runners from all over the world. Was the international impact of our work relevant to the selection of our NGO as a humanitarian partner?

One reason is that SOS Villages d’Enfants Monde is very involved in Africa, particularly in Kenya and Ethiopia. We invite the best athletes from these countries to Luxembourg every year, they run fantastic times at the marathon distance and get on the winner podium. We pay those athletes and the best ones get bonuses too. With this funding, we are supporting the athletes and their families, but we are not reaching those at the end of the line: the children. In collaboration with SOS Villages d’Enfants Monde, we have been able to support a number of projects, not only in these countries, but especially in them. And through that cooperation, I know that the money we raise goes to the right places, where it is needed.

This year, all donations will go to populations facing extreme drought and hunger resulting from the climate crisis in the far south of Madagascar.

How do volunteers contribute to the organisation and success of the ING Night Marathon?

An event of this scope is not manageable without volunteers. They take care of the refreshment points along the route, act like street marshals, work in the finish zone and much more. In total, we have over 1,300 volunteers. This “orange team” is the backbone of the race; if this team was missing, we would not be allowed to give the start sign for the race.

Call for volunteers

Join us and show your support for children in Madagascar! We are looking for volunteers* to help us care for the well-being of runners. You will receive your official t-shirt and be with us on the streets of Luxembourg to provide some refreshments to runners or indicate the route! Your presence will be very important and you will enjoy the great atmosphere of this amazing night event.

To register as a volunteer, please contact sonia.dossantos@sosve.lu

* all volunteers must be at least 18 years old and hold a driving licence

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