Geologist Philippe Verdier first came to Monaco in July 1995 to develop Gramaglia Assurances, which specialises in corporate risk.
Over the past 25 years, Philippe has become a widely admired personality in Monaco for creating the popular fundraising event, No Finish Line. For each kilometre a participant runs or walks over the 8-day event, his non-profit association Children and Future donates one euro to support disadvantaged and sick children through various projects.
For 58-year-old Philippe (who shares his birthday on Halloween with his twin sister), benevolence has played a part of his life since junior high when for seven years he was a Sea Scout in Rouen. “Being a scout taught me to show solidarity and how to set up projects for groups of five or six friends.”
And although his family wasn’t particularly sporty, in school he did everything from ping-pong and handball to windsurfing and sailing, becoming an instructor in the latter in St Vaast la Hougue (Normandy). In fact, growing up Philippe dreamt of sailing and being a skipper of a boat from his hometown of Rouen in the Tour de France.
At the age of 30, he did his first marathon and finished with a time of 2:49. This would launch his passion for mythical ultras – UTMB (6th,), Marathon des Sables (15th), Badwater USA (4th), 100km Ventoux (1st) – completing around 60 with 80% podium finishes by scratch or category.
Combining the two elements of sport and solidarity, Philippe put on the first No Finish Line (NFL) in Monaco in 1999. His original idea was to have one person at all times on the 1-kilometre circuit over eight days. But in 2002, a bank sponsored the event for €20,000 and 18,000 km were completed, which lead to the concept of a sponsor donating one euro for every kilometre. This has been the formula since NFL 2004.
“The NFL concept is simple and can bring together all types of personalities – runners, walkers, athletes or not, children, elderly, pets – all for the soul purpose of helping sick or disadvantaged kids. Even those who are not athletic walk 400 km, with some taking a week off work or others hitting the circuit every night.”
Philippe says he is most pleased when he sees groups of friends or business associates coming together every day on the course, chatting while walking or running, while they help to change the world.
In the year of Covid, it would be impossible to maintain social distancing for the hundreds of participants on the 1.3-km circuit in Fontvieille. So the 21st edition from November 14 to 22 will be virtual. “The show must go on! For this first connected NFL Monaco, I would be happy with 4,000 registrants and 200,000 km. In post-containment Paris in June, we had 3,000 registrants who completed 123,000 km.”
It’s only €12 to participate and individuals can register online until noon on November 22 but teams need to do so before November 11. You’ll need to then download the ZAPSPORTS app and register for “No Finish Line Virtuelle” and start the stopwatch. All the kilometres you run or walk 24/7 from November 14 at 3 pm to November 22 at 3 pm will be automatically saved.
Super important to note also is the NFL Toy Drive at Fontvieille Big Top from Saturday, November 14, to Saturday, November 21. This is to collect as-new condition toys for the kids affected by Storm Alex (some of the NFL proceeds will also support this cause.)
Since 1999, NFL Monaco participants have covered a total distance of nearly four million kilometres (3,799,042) to raise more than four million euro (€4,018,092) for various charities, including the Cardio-Thoracic Centre Monaco, Aviation sans frontiers/African Rencontres, the Chaîne de l’espoir, Maison de vie Carpentras, and the Monaco Red Cross.
From the get go, Philippe has said he would love to see one NFL event for every week of the year. “I know 52 NFLs is hard to imagine but it’s what gets me out of bed every morning.”
In addition to Monaco, there are five 5-day NFL fundraisers in Europe –Paris (2015), Oslo (2016), Athens (2017), Nice (2018) and Bratislava (2019, where a connected edition takes place this week with at least €30,000 donated) – which have raised a combined total of €874,259. Philippe hopes that 2021 will see new NFLs outside of Europe.
Children & Future was founded by Philippe in 2001 to promote the protection of children’s rights around the world, and to finance projects that improve their condition, education, health and lifestyle. In addition to NFL, “NFL Danse,” a friendly dance competition in Monaco, was launched to also support the cause.
For Philippe Verdier, the dedication of his association and all the volunteers who all give so much during the week of No Finish Line is well rewarded. “One year, a child who was operated on and recovered only a few days earlier at the Cardio-Thoracic Centre Monaco, came to the NFL start line and was then carried by the winner of the 8-day total distance during his last lap. Every one of us was crying seeing the smile on his face.”