I met Lionel when I was working at Carhartt. He was working next door for Bleu de Paname. I do not remember how I ended up on the Jolie Foulée website, and also had no idea that he was one of the main founders. Nevertheless, I knew that he regularly practiced racing. I took the time to talk to him, curious to know more about his motivations, his occupation and desire to share his passion for athletics by creating a dynamic community gathered around the same motto. I spent a morning with Lionel, Alassan & Nicolas, following one of their training not far from my home.
à Paris : une discussion avec Lionel, Jolie Foulée.
Interview & Photography Farade Nicolas
Can you introduce yourself? Where do you come from?
Lionel, 30, I grew up and did the first part of my studies in Bron next to Lyon. I went to England to Wolverhampton a year to do my Bachelor's degree in English and then I went back to Toulouse to finalize everything in business school, more specifically in Marketing. I had the opportunity to do an internship in Paris at Nike in product marketing.
You went to Paris to pursue this internship, did you already know people working at Nike? How did you hear about it?
Yes, a lot of people from my school had made this choice to come to Paris to finish their studies or to find a job, it was the logical decision in a way. Regarding the internship, I was in touch with the person in charge of recruitment through a friend from school. I had the desire to work in the sports world. It was the perfect timing, I kept good memories from this time.
What was your job?
I was assistant product manager on the whole footwear part. Unfortunately, the service where I worked move to Amsterdam, so I could not stay at Nike.
What happened next?
Well, I met Christophe Lépine co-founder of Bleu de Paname. However, I wasn't sure about moving back to Paris and not working for another brand Nike because it was a significant opportunity. I took the time to fix a rendez-vous Christophe when he visited Lyon. We met and everything went well. I left for Paris and started working for Bleu de Paname in 2013. It was very stimulating, we were a small team, I was basically a jack of all trades .
Were you already there when the shop opened?
Yes, we started from scratch, it was an exciting project. Working for Bleu gave me total freedom of expression. To be able to do things in your way gives you an extra motivation.
What happened after Bleu de Paname?
Well, I had a new opportunity, to work for a PR agency on behalf of Patagonia. I wasn't aware of the job. It was not my basic training, however, it allowed me to get off the comfort zone I was and to combine the passion I always had for sports and a day job.
What kind of relationship do you maintain with athletism and overall sports?
I think it goes back to my youth, I had a particular attraction for running, cycling and outdoor activities in all kind. It was something that I was doing with my father, I wasn't in any clubs yet. I dropped out of my first year of college when I was a student, the sport allowed me to focus on something during the time I was inactive. I was 18 years old and I joined an athletics club. I quickly got in tune with the training group, I progressed gradually. I kept going even during my studies until I had a leg injury in 2012.
Were you only racing?
Mainly yes. We were doing racing sessions, jogging, and strengthening. The next logical step was to engage in sports events. There are regular competitions. At the beginning of the year starts the cross season which prepares you for the summer tracks sessions, in between, there are road races. The track season starts with the Interclubs contest held in Lyon. It seemed that we the club I was in was at the highest level of French clubs, the equivalent of league 1 football.
You never wanted to join the STAPS curriculum?
Not really, I did not plan to make a living off racing.
Is there money to be made by participating in these competitions?
You have to reach a high level to be able to benefit from some bonuses, it's not a large amount though. The best young people are sponsored by athletic shops... When there are competitions at the national level it happens that clubs pay to organize these trips which is very practical.
To be able to participate in these types of competitions and races with your club, which require a slightly higher level. What kind of sensation does that give you?
It puts a huge pressure, you have an intense stress just before a race because there is no second chances, you cannot do any mistake. Once you are there, you start to run, you are feeling the adrenaline going up even know the race does not last long. It only takes two minutes to perform an 800 meters race, at least for me.
When did you start the Jolie Foulée project?
Once in Paris, in 2013. The project was initiated with the help of people I met during my internship at Nike and especially with the help of a close friend, Idris. We began this project also because the sneaker culture as we know it nowadays was not the same, it was less mainstream. There was not that kind of hype.
Therefore, it was hard to find websites where we could meet and discuss our common passion for running, equipments, personalities and others stuff related to it.
How did you manage to gather informations then, through magazines?
Mainly via the Internet, some websites such as L'équipe were a good way to start digging. It was definitely more complicated to find great & interesting periodicals that spoke to us. At the end, I think we were fortunate enough to be sponsored by brands to develop the contents & be more precise in the informations we were spreading on the website.
Where does the name Jolie Foulée come from?
I did not want to find an English-sounding name. Jolie Foulée is a compliment that you like to hear when you run, it's also a nice gesture.
So, at the very beginning, you were relaying informations and personal content?
Yes, we did both. The site began as a blogspot, it was a bit random and gradually the contents change and expanded, especially with the support of brands like I said. We were invited to join specific races. At this moment, we decided to share these experiences. These races reports entertained and attracted a new audience. We also tried to promote a slightly offbeat style of writing.
How much are you now?
We went from 4 to 13 people.
How is recruitment done, are people reaching you directly?
Sometimes yes, but to tell the truth, it's all about feeling, the connections we can have with people which I met mostly during races. The team we have is doing quite well, there is a mutual trust that has been established over time. I sometimes happen to take a look at what other people are writing but not very often. We have the ambition to do things well but it's still something that we are doing for entertainment too, it's part of the DNA of Jolie Foulée.
I guess you have a sneaker rotation in your wardrobe whether for the race or other daily use...
It's quite important to alternate. I am lucky because brands send us products that we have the privilege to try out but still, I do think it's necessary to maintain a shoe rotation so that your foot doesn't take bad habits, by doing so you avoid small injuries. While varying shoes when you're doing your training session you can work on several exercises to improve your muscles, with time your foot will develop a better resistance etc...
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