After seven years at the helm of Harricana Events, particularly as the organizer of the Ultra-Trail Harricana of Canada (UTHC), Marline Côté decided to give up and take a break from the world of events in which she has invested her heart and soul almost a decade before she felt some form of exhaustion. She officially leaves these functions this Friday evening. Described by those around her as a sunny, positive, dynamic, attentive, caring, persistent and innovative woman, she now plans to live her passion for trail running as a simple athlete who loves nature. She answered Distances+ questions just before handing over the keys to UTCC to “her gang,” her “dream team.” Interview!
Distances+: You announced on September 26th, shortly after the 12th edition of the Harricana Ultra-Trail of Canada, that you were leaving the management of Harricana Events, which today runs the UTHC, but also the TransCharlevoix, the Échappée on the Île aux Coudres, managed. the FestiTrail in the Massif de Charlevoix, the Trails in Motion Film Festival and, to a lesser extent, the winter event Virée Nordique. For what ?
Marlin Côté: I had seen for some time that we were nearing the end of a phase. Our organization has evolved significantly in recent years to consolidate a team of permanent employees around solid and sustainable events. However, this development phase will come to an end in 2024.
When I arrived seven years ago, the organization relied on a single employee for eight months of the year, surrounded and supported by several contract workers and volunteers, who are of course valuable and important, but who also have their own schedules and other priorities outside of their involvement with us . Creating an organization based on a single event and a single employee remains fragile and precarious as an organizational model, and we had to find a way to consolidate the business model.
We now have a great team capable of coordinating a range of events that complement each other and form a stable and coherent whole. Canada’s Harricana Ultra-Trail, our largest event since its inception, has reached phenomenal travel speeds. After adding different distances (10 races from 5 to 125 km without taking into account the youth races, editor’s note), refining the routes and schedules and improving the organization of sites and services in recent years, we finally have one Formula that seems to me to be winning and completely mature. Our other events L’Échappée, TransCharlevoix, FestiTrail and Trails in Motion also have solid foundations and excellent development potential.
We had great success at all of our 2023 events, but a lot of work was needed! I would even speak of personal sacrifices. My vision of the organization and its events has become a reality and I am ready to pass the torch to a new person who will arrive with new energy and skills that complement mine to consolidate and expand the ecosystem we have built Turn around and take it to another level.
How do you feel a few hours before turning the page? What are your feelings?
Really quiet. I am confident that our “dream team” – I am thinking of Erika Potvin, Joanie St-Pierre and Steve Horth, supported by a really solid board – will achieve great success in the future. They are extremely knowledgeable and passionate people and I’m glad to know the events are in such good hands.
Over the years, the UTHC has become the most popular trail event in all of Canada, according to Iskio.ca’s annual rankings, and as the helmsman of this ever-growing ship, you’ve established yourself as a leading lady in the eyes of those watching the world of trail running in Quebec. With a little perspective, what is the “paw” of Marline Côté? What do you think you have contributed to our sport and our community in Quebec?
First, UTHC has always been the result of a large team effort involving many people at all levels. We were fortunate to be really well surrounded by people who, in my opinion, are among the best in their field in Quebec. These people are not just performers, they share their opinions, their ideas and help make decisions. They help us keep raising the bar. So perhaps my “paw” would be to mobilize several partners, organizations, volunteers and professionals that I admire and trust, so that they can take ownership of the event and contribute in their own way to its success. In general, I think that together we have helped bring many other organizations to the top by raising standards, by constantly striving for improvement, by questioning ourselves and by drawing inspiration from best practices in other parts of the world let.
What will you do now? What are your plans ? And do you plan to remain involved in the trail community?
For now, I will be taking a break from volunteering or professional involvement in the trail community. I will concentrate on practicing more regularly the sporting discipline that got me to where I am today. I want to rediscover the pure joy of running, with friends, maybe even in trail clubs. I need to step away from my computer and phone and get up close and personal with the trail community right in the mud and on the trails.
Since it’s time to take stock… What are the two or three most memorable moments you’ve had while running Harricana Events?
Oh… Good question! I have to think about it…
It’s certain that our pandemic edition was quite an adventure (UTHC was the only event to see the light of day in Quebec in 2020, editor’s note). When I think about it, I realize that we were very naive to believe in it until the end. We were really lucky that the event took place in September 2020, but it was almost a miracle, it didn’t make any sense. I will always remember that moment, standing on the balcony overlooking the main grounds and looking down from the stairs at the dozens of people scattered around the grounds, so happy to be there in the sunshine and at the Waiting for other runners to arrive or rest before we had to leave the site, and I felt like we were experiencing something historic, completely unconventional and surreal. All these people had kept hope for months despite the completely destabilizing situation, continued training – which was also a way to take care of their mental and physical health – and we managed to make a difference in our lives more than 900 athletes and volunteers this year. It will remain a great moment for me.
I’m also thinking about the end of the 2022 edition. The team met in a chalet not far from Mont Grand-Fonds. We had just completed the most beautiful edition of the UTHC yet, but not just for the athletes but also for the team. For the first time we really felt like we had everything under control. We managed to manage our schedules and sleep so that we weren’t too exhausted from these four intense days of events. We really had a lovely evening this Sunday. It will remain in my memory for a long time because it is also a moment that we shared with a person from the logistics team who we loved very much and who unfortunately passed away from this world today.
What are the three best anecdotes that quickly come to mind?
There are actually many of them. So quickly I once forgot to put petrol in the car before heading to the start of the 125km and Ludovic Collet got lost in the forest while leading the race. He had arrived a minute earlier, grabbed the microphone and put on quite a show within a few seconds. There is also the time when the logistics team’s cube truck got lost in the night and almost didn’t arrive in time to set up the 65km and 80km site in the Hautes Gorges park, or again the time when the trailer was full of supplies The La Marmotte supplies arrived locked and without a key… Not to mention the time we were stuck outside the Mont Grand Fund Chalet on the Sunday morning of the event. That was something too!
Before you became a full-time organizer, you were one of the best trail athletes in Quebec – including winning the first edition of the UTHC 80 km. Can we expect to see athlete Marline Côté back on the podium from 2024?
The athlete Marline Côté will be seen on the trails again from 2024, but certainly not on the podium! The level has risen well in recent years, while unfortunately I have lost a lot. If I was lucky enough to be on the podium in the past, it was because I was rarely on the starting line with the few female athletes back then.
After this voluntary break, Marline Côté, who was one of Distances+’s first employees before becoming involved in organizing the Ultra-Trail Harricana of Canada, was able to occasionally write for D+ again in the coming weeks or months. Continued in the Distances+ networks.
Distances+ is the media partnerUltra Trail Harricana of Canada.
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