Brian’s Blog

Do 180 Things in 4 Days that Scare You:The GR20


About a year ago, my good friend Nick told me about this hiking trail in Corsica called the GR20.  It is supposed to be one of the challenging trails in all of Western Europe.   He thought it would make a great trip to test our abilities and was determined to convince me to do it with him.  It looked like a cool idea, but I kept on telling him that I would never have the money or time for such a trip.  There wasn’t even a finisher’s medal at the end to commemorate our efforts!  What’s the point in that?

After working at lululemon for about 6 months, the manifesto was really starting to create an impact on my life.  One phrase in particular really speaks to me.  That is to do something once a day that scares you.   I thought about it awhile and after careful consideration, confirmed with Nick that I was in for the GR20. 

We both agreed that if we were to attempt completing this hike, we would have to make it epic, and increase the challenge even more.  This is the only way Nick operates.  To save us some time and our bank accounts we would give ourselves only 4 days to finish the 180km trail with over 25000m of elevation change.  Most people will take about 15 days to hike the entire GR 20 but we figured that a couple of young guys who both can run marathons in under 3hours at any given time should be able to tackle a few mountains in 4 days. 

As we started to research and plan the trip, I soon realized how difficult this would actually be.  We would be carrying our backpacks the entire way to transport all of our food and gear.  The route climbs and descends roughly 2000-4000m each day, all on rugged terrain. 

Just to prepare, I did almost all my training runs in the months leading up to the trip, including a few marathons, with my backpack on.  As my departure to Europe drew near, I admit that I was filled with fear and was uncertain of what I would be capable of. 

My positive spirit came in handy, both when I lost my luggage in Marseille, and then later failed to meet up with Nick in Toulon, due to a delay of one of his connecting flights.  Some how, I managed to recover my bag, and get the message from Nick about his change of plans.  I finally met up with Nick the following afternoon on the island of Corsica, at the port of Calvi, which is only a short drive from the trailhead of the GR 20. 

Nick and I began our adventure just before 6am the next morning.  Right away, we knew we were going to be in for a long few days.  There was no room for excuses; we just had to keep moving.  The experience was the most challenging and difficult that I have ever experienced, as well as beautiful and inspiring.  I pushed myself through fear and pain and found I was capable of much more than I gave myself credit for. 

By the end of the second day, I could barely take another step because I was so exhausted and sore.  We had no choice but to continue since there was no road access until we finished the following stage.  Once I was moving again on Day 3, I loosened up and from then on, it was just about getting to the next stage.  I hiked for an average of 15 hours a day.  On the last day, I had 51km to cover until I reached the end of the trail near the small town of Conca.  I knew that I would not make all my connections to make it back home if I did not get to the end before the next morning.  I kept moving forward, fighting through fear and fatigue, until I finally finished at 1am, 19 hours after I started out the previous morning. 

I worked tremendously hard, and broadened my comfort zone exponentially.  Every kilometer of the trail was a fight and I am so grateful to my friend Nick, who challenged me to do something that scares me.  After GR20, running 100 miles in one day doesn’t seem quite so scary.  Well, I guess there’s only one way to find out. 

© Brian Groot 2016