Our first speaker was Brune Banaszuk, the candidate who represented France at the ESU International Public Speaking Competition 2017 in London in May. Brune, aged 16, recently admitted to being very shy. She had only agreed to take part in the selection process for the competition in order to keep her friend company.
To set the scene of the IPSC, 32 members and guests watched a short video produced in London at this year’s competition. Brune then delivered the speech she had prepared for the heats in London. She impressed all those present with her charm, her confidant delivery, her language skills and in particular her excellent English accent.
Our second speaker was Emmanuel Bertrand. Emmanuel likes challenges. In particular, he has completed 7 long distance Ironman triathlons. In 2014, he finished two within 7 days to raise money for the fight against cancer. An Ironman is the hardest one-day endurance race in the entire world, covering over 226km from start to finish. There we had the opportunity to see photographs by Jean-Marie Taupenot, a science teacher who set up the first laboratory at the school. It was in this room in 1854 that he famously produced the world’s first photograph of the interior of a classroom.
Emmanuel told us that each race consists of a 3.86 km swim, a 180.25 km cycle ride and a full 42.20 km marathon, raced in that order and without a break. Not only is the distance gruelling, there's a time limit for each section. Most events begin at 7 a.m. The swim must be completed in 2 hours and 20 minutes; the bike ride must be done by 5:30 p.m.; and the marathon must be finished by midnight. Only if you finish within this time can you call yourself an Ironman finisher. You will have used over 9,000 calories and lost 10kg in weight!
Emmanuel then turned his attention to the mental and physical preparation involved. He trains between 12 and 15 hours per week, getting up early whatever the weather and however tired he feels. He explained how important it is to have commitment, to be disciplined and to set objectives; to respect the balance between his family life, his working life and his sport; and to seek excellence, not perfection.
During a race, the body must be kept fed and watered, but it is equally important to keep one’s thoughts and emotions positive. One way Emmanuel does this is by carrying folders of images in his mind: of his wife and children, of an inspiring person, and of races he has completed. He knows although the pain will start, that by opening these folders he will be prepared and will have the strength to embrace it.
After a very good and convivial lunch, Emmanuel divided everyone into teams and set a short quiz. Each team received a small prize: a jar of marmalade, a bottle of Worcester Sauce, a jar of Marmite.
As we left for home, Emmanuel reminded us of the words of Theodore Roosevelt “Believe you can and you’re half way there”. We can all achieve our dreams if, like Brune and Emmanuel, at the hardest points we stop thinking “Can I?” and tell ourselves “Yes, I can!”