Last weekend, thousands of people followed on live streaming the Phantasm24 project, Kilian Jornet's attempt to complete 24 hours of running on track.
Ahead 24h of the project and an illusion. Prior to the project, more than a year of work and some difficulties to be able to carry it out.
In this post we want to share how the Phantasm24 project was developed and coordinated from a logistical and management point of view, as well as all the obstacles we have encountered throughout this year until it became a reality. The logistics of projects of this magnitude begin long before D-day, and also they get extended later until they can be formally closed.
Specifically, Kilian24 (the first name of the project) begins to take shape by October - November 2019 with the process with which we start any potential project: the selection of ideas.
OCTOBER / NOVEMBER 2019 - IDEA SELECTION
Inside the minds of athletes there are always challenges and projects to be fulfilled. Inside Kilian Jornet's head, even more :)
Thus, the first step before working on a project, is to empty the head, that is, to list all the illusions in the medium term and study their feasibility.
Our mission as a team is to be able to order and shape as many projects as possible in a sustainable way, in terms of partners, logistics, budget and communication.
Kilian24 is already in the list of projects that we all see with a special appeal and also with surprise, since the fact of raising a project on a track is something new for everyone.
Internally we agree that it is one of the projects we want to move forward, and we schedule it for the last quarter of 2020 as before that, the season is committed to races (few) and other projects.
With the project defined, the next phase is to work on it with the partners. Our relationship with them is very fluid and direct. We have known each other for many years and have shared many projects, so if Kilian wants to do a project and he is convinced of it, they always support us.
Sometimes, the project can fit better in its annual strategy, in its contents or in its budget, but in this case we all saw the attraction of doing something different so we started working especially with Salomon and Suunto.
Extract from mail Lymbus - Kilian - Salomon (December 2020)
With the onboard partners we started to work together in detail on the project.
In this phase we start to consider some options of locations, to think if we want to do it in an "official" way, because if so, we have to follow the regulations of the IUA (International Ultrarunning Association)
It is from that moment on, with the guarantee that the project will go ahead, that Kilian dissociates himself from the day-to-day operations, since his focus has to be on training and the competition.
FEB 2020 - PROSPECTING
In February 2020, taking advantage of a commercial shooting with Kilian in Norway, we took the opportunity to make a first survey in the stadium that is closer to his home (5min) in the small town of Mandalen (500 inhabitants)
A first visit in-situ to imagine the setup we want to , and time for questions and answers to be able to move forward later in all the logistics, and see what things we may need.
Extract from the prospection document (Feb 2020)
MARCH - SEPTEMBER 2020 - COVID + INJURY
With the irruption of covid-19 and its uncertainty, the project remains in 'stand by' until we all could have a clear picture of what could happen with the season.
The projects planned for the spring are cancelled, as well as the main races that were on Kilian's calendar.
Kilian decides to change the focus of the season, and instead of preparing expeditions or mountain races, he focuses on training on the flat. First on the treadmill, at home, and then around home and at Mandalen Stadium. However, a first injury arises in the summer that keeps him on his feet until the end of July.
In the face of the injury, the priority is to recover as quickly as possible and assess whether it is still realistic to plan for 24 hours.
SEPTEMBER 2020 - GO
After the uncertainty of the Covid and seeing that Kilian recovers well, we decided to press the final button to activate the project.
We set the first weekend of November as the date. It's time to move from theory to practice.
We have a month ahead of us, a global pandemic situation that limits us in terms of travel and a great logistical challenge.
A small working group is created to lead the project: one person from Lymbus and one person from Salomon are in charge of making all the decisions and moving the project forward. In the logistic part, we incorporate in the working group the person in charge of sports in the area of Mändalen, Kristin Lien, who will give us indispensable help on the field.
Together with Kilian, we finally decided that the project will be executed on the Mandalen Track, where she trains, and which is located next to her house.
It is an important factor for two things:
the global context of the pandemic, which recommends moving as little as possible
the way in which Kilian has decided to face the sporting challenges, trying to reduce as much as possible the displacements in order not to contribute to the generation of carbon emissions
We want to make the attempt official, so we will have to comply with the official rules and have at least 3 participants in the race. So, in addition to all the logistics, we have to formally organize a race, which we coordinate together with our local contact.
OCTOBER - READY TO GO
In three weeks we consolidated the plan, got the teams ready, as well as runners for the race after the great work of the Mandalen Athletic Club.
That's when we decided that the official name of the project will be Phantasm24, playing with the name of the asphalt shoe that Salomon has developed.
We have marked the first weekend of November (Saturday 6th) as D-day, having clear that in Norway those dates are not the ideal ones at a meteorological level, and that the change of weather can play against us. Besides, there are very few hours of light, which is not ideal either because of the great mental charge that running in the dark means for most of the runners.
We all accept that this will be the context in which we will have to work, and we accept it. At this moment we do not know that we< will have enough surprises ahead of us.
We manage the project completely remotely and incorporate Kristin Lien into the core management group for field management.
From Lymbus' side, we are clear that we are going to travel knowing that we have to respect a 10-day quarantine upon our arrival. So the plan is to rent a big house in Mandalen, where we are close to the stadium and Kilian's house, and spend the quarantine working at home. We block flights and activate the whole process, managing the PCR tests before taking the flight.
At the same time, Kilian is preparing for his first test with the asphalt in the 10K Hyteplanmilla race on October 17, 3 weeks before D-day
At the end of the race Kilian suffers from a lukewarm pain, which puts the project in check.
As this is a project where sporting performance is key, we decided that we cannot risk Kilian being physically exposed by doing the challenge and decided to postpone it for three weeks. If Kilian recovers himself, we will reactivate it and if not, we will cancel it.
NOVEMBER 2020- PHANTASM24 IS A REALITY
Kilian is recovering from the injury and we are moving forward with a new date for the project, which will be November 27-28 in Mandalen.
As the weather can be very changeable Kristin is working on a plan B, reserving an indoor stadium near the area for the same dates. The handicap of the stadium is that the laps are 200m instead of 400m. We accept it in order to have a backup in case of emergency.
A team of 4 people left Barcelona on November 9th to work on the project
- Logistics and management - Jordi
- Logistics and management - Mireia
- Nutritionist - Aitor
- Filmaker - Diego
In projects of this size, even though we have a production team in charge of the living and the images of the test, we like to have our filmmaker to be able to document the project: the good moments, the bad moments, the waiting moments... It is with this documentation that we help people to get to know the Kilian that is beyond the numbers and the competitions. as well as the access to Kilian in the important moments.
Over time we have learned that a good documentation of the projects can help you a lot to build stories later.This way, we want to keep this part under control.
We arrived in Norway with the negative PCRs, and ready to complete 10 days of quarantine and then have 2 days to help prepare on site the local team before D-day.
On the 7th day of being in Norway, the weather changes abruptly and a 40 cm snowfall covers the whole landscape with snow. The athletic track in Mändalen is impracticable. Luckily, we have plan B under cover.
Trying to get home by car in the middle of the snow
Just in these days we are being cut from Plan B due to the new restrictions at Covid in Norway that do not allow us to have the closest covered stadium to Madalen.
After meeting with the core group, we decided to postpone the project until Wednesday 25th November.
In the previous days we concluded that Wednesday is not a good day, so we postponed the date again to Friday 27th November.
Each movement of dates is accompanied by coordinating teams again, communication plans, social media, volunteers and production teams for the live. In this period, we have also achieved a new indoor stadium that, following all the anti covid measures, would allow us to do the event.
So Friday 27th will be D-day, either in Mandalen or in the Indoor stadium.
With the clear date and detailed plan it is time to execute.
Laura, our PR and communications manager, coordinates all the communication, management with the media interested in the challenge, image distribution, interview coordination, as well as the first virtual press conference that Kilian will give together with Tim Sweeney, Salomon's PR manager, who is also in charge of the crisis plan and coordination with the agencies that Salomon has around the world.
Victor, our Media Manager, manages all the social media part in Kilian's channels in coordination with the plan agreed with the partners for all the social media communications related to the project.
(Normally many people ask us if Kilian manages the networks, and the answer is that in 99% of the cases he does, but in these projects where he has to be focused on performance, we take care of it)
Screenshot of a pre-project meeting
In Norway, we spent the three previous days meeting with logistics, stadium visits and on site production, as well as reviewing the content plans to be spent during the live.
It is always interesting to feel the emotion of a big event, to project the long hours ahead and all the way through.
27 NOV 9:00 AM !
We arrive at the track two hours before the event starts for the last meetings with the production and logistics teams. We validate the content of the live, and make a control call with the partners to make sure everything is ok and to wish us luck. We will need it.
The project is progressing normally and from the beginning the expectations are very high in the live where more than 20,000 people are hooked
Salomon has turned and made the Phantasm24 one of the most important activations of the year, and has put a lot of work to spread and communicate the project to the maximum number of viewers. Several media make live connections and despite the cold, everything goes well until 9 pm.
CRISIS - 10PM
The project ends for Kilian (blog KJ) after medical recommendation. It ends for Kilian, but not for the rest of the runners who are competing for their private 24h, since it is an official competition and everything must continue.
For our part it is time to manage the crisis by working on:
- Coordinate Kilian's medical evolution on the track
- Link and inform to the project management group of the status of the situation => We are the main source of information that will later be passed on to all channels: The live, social media and press.
- Coordinate and validate the message by assessing the situation in the first person
In times of crisis the most important thing is to act in a cold way and try to have a global vision. For big events like this, there is a crisis plan that we have previously validated and worked on. We are clear about our role: we are the maximum ones responsible for Kilian and we have to control what we are going to communicate.
For this reason, it is important to try to share the information with the people on the crisis committee so that everyone can do their job. For our part, keeping the group informed is key to moving forward and the information flows through all channels.
In parallel to the work in the stadium, and while Kilian is being taken care of, the PR and Social Media teams are already working on the message for the live, journalists and any questions there may be about the situation.
A long night outside the stadium where on the ground we are watching the medical developments in order to share the message the next day and explain what happened, as there are many people waiting. The hospital informs us the next day that they have received more than 50 calls from journalists asking about Kilian's health status.
Once Kilian has been admitted to the hospital, we have a few hours to rest before having the results of the tests. Kilian must sleep to recover himself and so must we. Over the years we have learned that in crisis situations rest is very important; it allows you to have a clearer mind after a few hours and not make mistakes. In the morning, the doctor tells us that all the tests are fine and that Kilian can go home. At that moment the work is not over, as we must prepare the message that Kilian will give through the social networks. This message is very important; it must serve to reassure everyone that everything has been a piece of scare and also to thank all the team and the rest of the runners for the effort they have put in as well as the spectators who have followed the challenge from their homes.
At the same time, on November 28th at 11 am, the 24 hour race ended where several runners managed to finish. Although Kilian has had to abandon the race, he has continued with all the live coverage, audiovisual production until the end without altering the program. All the merit to the teams that continued doing their work as well as to the finishers, in a specially cold night
For our part, after publishing the update Kilian we closed the phase of the event.
Calling all the partners, we are happy with how we have managed everything, and in Lymbus we reaffirm the decision that it has been worth the quarantine and all the changes we have made to be able to be present at the event. We can't imagine being able to manage a project with all these challenges without being there.
We thank the team we have and we agree that we will celebrate it as it deserves when circumstances allow :)
With the event finished, we move on to the closing phase where we are as we write these lines. Ahead of us:
- Subsequent interviews with media
- Media information: press release, Kilian's statements, photos, video compacts ....
- Reports of repercussions and clipping
- Management analysis
- Quotation closures
- Partner ratings
This post part will take a month. After all, we will have dedicated more than a year to the project that we value logistically as one of the most complicated we have done.
After managing challenges in all the mountains of the world, expeditions on Everest as well as other types of projects, the sum of Covid, injuries, weather changing and the unexpected end have made it a very special project and therefore we wanted to share the experience in this blog post.
We were moved by four things:
- The team. In projects like this one you realize the importance of being surrounded by a good team with which you try to overcome the difficulties in the most bearable way possible. We have all supported each other and been there.
- Relationship with partners. We have created a relationship of mutual trust that allows us to move forward with projects like this with confidence and knowing that we all row in the same direction
- Trusting people. The situation has made us incorporate new people in the team. It's very inspiring to meet new people and see how they strive to make it all work. Especially thanks to the people at Mandalen Sports Club because without them this project would not have been possible.
- Kilian has surprised us for a long time, and he has done it again by approaching a challenge so far away from his habitat. We have learned many things, which we will surely apply in the future :)
We will see all the results of this project in a documentary that we are preparing for 2021, of challenges and a bit of drama for sure :)