Words: Stéphanie Major, Altitude Sports writer
RUNNING TO BREAK DOWN BARRIERS
How Marc-Antoine Forand became an ultramarathoner for his son Noah
From beginner to ultramarathoner...in just four years
In June 2016, everything changed for Marc-Antoine and his wife when they were told that their son, Noah, had down syndrome. It was a diagnosis as life-changing as it was unexpected: it had not been detected during the pregnancy.
“Don't expect too much,” said specialists. “People with Down syndrome are less adept at sports, balance, and daily tasks.” The new father was lost despite a multitude of resources. Then, finally, he saw a way he could bridge the differences between him and his son while breaking down barriers: running.
And so Marc-Antoine began to run. Despite having never been a runner before Noah was born, he took to the trails. Two kilometres, then three, then four. And now, 160 kilometres in October. “The course is a guide,” he explained. “It helps me to breathe and live my emotions fully, and it teaches me that I can rise to any occasion, both in the sport and with my family.”
The Bromont Ultra: a monumental challenge
“This will be my first official participation,” states Marc-Antoine, who ran the challenge for fun last year. To prepare, he follows a rigorous but intuitive approach of running approximately 100 kilometres a week. “If my alarm goes off and I don’t feel like running—I don’t,” he says. “You need to know when to listen to your heart, as well as your body.”
In addition to these 100 kilometres, he has also added strength training sessions and a healthy lifestyle to his routine. No one becomes an ultramarathoner overnight, especially not when the Bromont Ultra is at stake. The legendary race is composed of two 80 kilometre loops, with only 14% on flat ground. Several sections are so steep that you need to hold onto a rope to climb over the roots.
While the Bromont Ultra remains a high-level competition, trail running is still one of the most accessible activities for beginners. The key? A good performance shoe.
The North Face and the VECTIV effect
Marc-Antoine reaches his goals wearing a pair of VECTIVs: the latest running innovation from The North Face. When asked if he sees a difference with VECTIV, he gives a definitive answer: “Absolutely. The shoe is light and adapts to everything, and definitely contributes to my performance on the trail. I do about 100 kilometres a week with VECTIV, no problem.”
VECTIV is The North Face’s latest little miracle. Designed by a team of athletes and engineers, the technology propels the runner forward with its excellent energy return and stability. The VECTIV Escape, one of the flagship products of the brand's fall/winter 2021 collection, offers excellent protection for novice runners with its comfort and reinforced heel design.
Breaking down barriers
“As soon as you start to believe that you can run 160 kilometres, it becomes possible. So by extension, you start to believe that anything is possible. And this is what I want to show my son.” Noah proves that specialists are wrong: at the age of five, he loves running, riding his bike, and is perfectly capable of climbing the miles that lead to the Bromont summit. A feat with the same flair as his father.
It starts to become clear that limits don’t exist. When Noah puts one foot in front of the other, he doesn’t stop to think about any setbacks he may face. This is a lesson that Marc-Antoine hopes to share with the world. “We put so many restrictions on ourselves in life,” he explains. “In the end, they’re really all in our head. I want to show everyone that they can do anything.” The young father provides compelling evidence of this with the challenges he sets for himself, like the 21-hour consecutive run to celebrate Noah’s birthday on June 21.
Never stop exploring
“One of the most moving moments in my life was when Noah came to join me at the end of my first 160 kilometres. I could see that he understood: nothing is impossible.” With the right gear, the right motivation and the right spirit, everyone can accomplish little miracles.
Never stop exploring. Break down barriers. Reject limitations. These ideas are all closely connected. “I’m honoured to be a part of The North Face team. Their motto is exactly what I teach my kids every day.” We’re betting that Noah, and anyone else who dares to dream, has a bright future ahead of them.