Emelie Lecomte GR20 by Niandi Carmont

The GR20 is very topical at the moment, particularly with Salomon athlete Julien Choriers‘ imminent attempt at the course record set by Kilian Jornet in 2009. Read HERE

However, earlier this year, Emelie Lecomte broke the female record. Unfortunately this didn’t get much coverage outside France, however, Niandi Carmont actually was trekking on the GR20 route when this attempt took place and later caught up with the new female course record holder. Here is what she had to say:

Emelie Lecomte GR20 by Niandi Carmont

Corsica is affectionately known by the French as the “Ile de la Beauté” (Island of Beauty) and Nicolas Hulot the well-known French adventurer and journalist aptly said even the most beautiful islands in the Pacific cannot compare with this French island in the Mediterranean South of France and off the West coast of Italy.

The GR20 in Corsica is arguably Europe’s greatest and most spectacular mountain trail. In French G.R. stands for “Grande Randonnée” (great trek). Over a distance of 200 km of crests, pinnacles, rocky mountains, pine forests and snow-capped peaks the GR20 crosses the island from Northern Corsica to Southern Corsica. It is traditionally divided into 15 stages and takes an experienced hiker about 2 weeks to complete.  With 14 500m of positive incline it is also considered Europe’s toughest trail and its spectacular scenery  and free roaming wildlife are only accessible to experienced hikers  who are prepared to do some serious rock climbing and looking for a physical challenge.

The GR20 was created in 1971 and since then has been the playground of many an experienced athletes looking for personal challenges and setting records. It is here that Kilian Jornet astonished the ultra community by setting a new course record of 32h54 in 2009.

But today all the focus is on 32 year old French female trail runner Emilie Lecomte, a Team Trail Quechua sponsored athlete, who smashed the previous female record held by Corsican Stéphanie Samper knocking an amazing 9 hours off the previous record to finish in 41h22.

I happened to be hiking in Corsica when Emilie set the new record and the day before I finished my hike she literally flew by me towards victory looking fresh as a daisy.

Emilie is not what you imagine a tough ultra trailer to look like: feminine, nymph-like with big blue eyes she exudes an aura of calm and self-control. But make no mistake this girl is immensely talented, tough, focused and determined.  Modest and generous too Emilie was very excited about sharing her experience with UK readers.

Can you take us back to your beginnings in trail running? What motivated you to start sport seriously only 4 years ago and especially trail running?

I started trail running in 2009. The Raid de la Réunion (160km, 9000m+ and 9000-) was my first ultra. My partner got me interested in sport. Before 2007 I did some cycling. When I started cycling 12 years ago I quickly developed a passion for endurance and adventure sports. Then in 2007 I started multi-sport events. The notion of pushing yourself to your limit was an eye-opener and suddenly there was new meaning to my life. I work in sales so I can relate to the idea of competitivity. You have to work really hard to achieve your goals. . Having said this today I identify more with the values in sport than in the working world – basic values – like sharing emotions and achievements.

What made you decide to set the GR20 record?

It’s a long story. 12 years ago before my passion for sport I hiked the GR20. It felt great to be in Corsica in the mountains. It was amazingly beautiful – a bit like being on another planet- back to basics. Also it’s the toughest trail in Europe. I returned 12 years later to hike the GR20 in 7 days, then in 5 days –that was last year. It was obvious to me that the next logical step would be to do it non-stop. What I was interested in was the sports challenge – a challenge against myself – a personal challenge. I was competing against time. Would I be able to cover 180km non-stop with more than 12 000m+?

What makes this so different from an ordinary race is the team work. I was seconded and assisted by a team of close family members including my partner, mother and friends from the Marseille Trail Club.

This was not about claiming a trophy it was about sharing a challenge with my team.

How did you train for this?

Like you would train for any other ultra mountain event. What’s important when preparing for this kind of challenge is managing your race.  Race management is key – you need a good combination of physical training and race management to succeed.

When I saw you on the course you were with Stéphane Talotti – what was the role of your seconds?

The seconds ran mostly behind me – they were not ‘pacers’ but more like ‘guardian angels’ – giving advice, protecting me. Pacing was OK on the fast runnable stretches but I set the pace.

In your blog you mention your ‘Dream Team’. Tell us about them.

I wanted a small close-knit team of people bonded by mutual trust. I met the Marseille Trail Club in 2009 on the GR20 – we hit it off immediately and became very good friends. They have done a fantastic job. They gave up their time in preparation for the challenge, during the challenge and after the event. They had to carry 12kg ruck-sacks in the mountains to provide me with food and water. Most of them had to take holiday leave and go through white nights.

Your partner Franck was on the course too – what was his role and was it difficult to get the timing right?

There were 8 refreshment stations. I drew up a road-book with a pacing chart to help my seconds. What made things complicated was when I was delayed or when I was ahead of schedule. On the GR20 there is hardly any mobile network.  When I was delayed the seconds worried I might be injured and when I was ahead of schedule the whole seconding chain had to recalculate the check point times so that they wouldn’t miss me. I needed seconds who could react quickly. Franck my partner was at 6 of the 8 refreshment stations which were accessible by road and he was responsible for liaising with and coordinating the seconds. The key to success is preparation. I couldn’t decently expect of my team to be available for me if they couldn’t count on me to be organized and prepared.

You started on Thursday morning at 4am and arrived on Friday at 21.30pm. How did you manage to run on this steep, rocky and very tricky course on mountain crests, with via ferrata and tricky dangerous descents at night?

I didn’t find it any harder at night. On the contrary I prefer running at night!! You are so much more in symbiosis with the elements. We had very good frontal lamps and on the technical stretch I was paced by the fire fighters from the Fédération Française de Montagne – all mountain experts.

What was the hardest bit?

I had 2 hard patches. The first was when I stopped at Vizzavonne for 15 minutes. It was 3 in the morning. When I started running again it took me a while to get back into it. I’m not so sure the break was a good idea.

The second was just before I got to the Col de Bavelle – it was like an oven – I was boiling hot – there was no shade – it was 42°C and the sun was beating down on us.

Friday was hard going on the mountain crests with soaring temperatures, lack of shade, forest and wind.

Your mum was with you on the course. What did this mean to you?

I really wanted her to be there. I needed her moral support.

In your blog she writes ‘Emilie is excessive in all respects as much in her energy, will-power, pugnacity, and stubbornness as in her affection, love and generosity towards others’ One really gets the impression that she’s 100% behind you.

My mum finds it much easier to express her emotions in writing – she wrote that straight after the GR20 –I felt she was very proud of my achievement and it was very touching to feel all that love. Even though she worries about me she will always back all my projects even the craziest ones!

Is it hard to juggle with your professional life and your training?

It’s really hard. A project like that is very time-consuming both in physical training and conception. It4s really hard juggling your professional life and your life as an elite athlete especially for someone like me who holds a full-time job in sales.

Do you intend to go back to Corsica to try and beat your record?

Not for the time being. To be honest I was aiming for sub 40 hours. I’m not disappointed just a little frustrated. Why not in the future? Right now I’ve got too many other projects and challenges in the pipe-line.

How do you see your future in trail running?

I’d like more recognition of the sport whether it is at a national level or with regards to the Federation. It’s an extremely demanding sport. Nowadays sports like football are disproportionately lucrative. If you consider the investment in terms of training I feel long distance trail running doesn’t get enough recognition considering that it is one of the few sports that conveys essential basic values to the younger generations.

Any future challenges?


I do a lot of multi-sport adventure events, mountain-biking and road-biking.

Any role models?

I admire athletes who share the same philosophical values. For example Myriam Lamare (Boxing) or in sky-running Corinne Lefavre. She’s an icon. And also Derwa Sherpa not because he’s part of the Quechua Team but because of his way of seeing things – I can identify with that.

Last question Emilie – do have any advice for young women out there who would like to take on a tough challenge?

Don’t hesitate. Dreams enable us to move forward. Don’t be afraid of getting involved in a project. Women are genetically programmed to be tough and resistant – it’s our way of compensating for not being as physically powerful as men.


Emilie Lecomte


2011    1st female du Grand Raid 73

             1st female Andorra Ultra Trail

             3rd female Trail du Ventoux

             3rd female l’Ardechois


2010    1st female Trail des Aiguilles Rouges

             1st female 6666 Occitane

             2ND female Grand Raid 73

2009    1st female Grand Raid de la Réunion

             1st female Drayes du Vercors 


Objectives 2012:


Winner L’Ultra trail l’Ardéchois – 98km, 3930m + in 12 hrs31

The  GR20 female record  in 41h22 beating Stéphanie Samper by 50h52

L’UTMB August 31st – 168km, 9,600m+

La Diagonale des Fous La Réunion 18th to 21st Oct 

Julien Chorier – GR20 attempt

October 12, Julien Chorier will attempt to break the record for crossing the GR 20. This is Julien’s first experience of running a solo challenge like this. Depending on weather conditions, the attempt may take place on the 11th or 13th.

The GR 20 hiking trail crosses from the north to south of Corsica between Calvi and Conca. It is a long mountain route of 185 km and has an elevation gain exceeding 14,000 meters. The previous record held since 2005 by Pierrot Santucci in 36:53:5 was beaten in 2009 by Kilian Jornet and he set a new benchmark of 32:54:2.

“The GR 20 says Kilian Jornet has a beautiful layout with large technical trails and an uneven background of beautiful mountain views and the Mediterranean Sea. I could enjoy the journey and views even if the last few hours were very hard because of the distance. I like the competitive spirit, the strategic aspect, the 100% commitment and tactics compared to other routes or races. In a record there are many variables with or without assistance, pacer or not … and it’s hard to be fully engaged if you’re not very focused. I hope Julien has fun and the weather is kind. I think he’s ready, he is a good friend and I hope there will be a new time to beat on the GR 20 from mid-October!”

  1. Calenzana
  2. Refuge d’Ortu di u Piobbu
  3. Refuge de Carrozzu
  4. Refuge d’Asco Stagnu (Haut Asco)
  5. Refuge de Tighjettu
  6. Bergeries de Ballone (alternative to Tighjettu)
  7. Refuge de Ciottulu di i Mori
  8. Castellu di Verghio (alternative to Ciottulu di i Mori)
  9. Refuge de Manganu
  10. Refuge de Pietra Piana
  11. Refuge de l’Onda
  12. Vizzavona
  13. Bergeries de Capannelle
  14. Col de Verde (alternative to Prati)
  15. Refuge de Prati
  16. Refuge d’Usciolu
  17. Refuge d’Asinao
  18. Col de Bavella (alternative to Paliri)
  19. Refuge de Paliri
  20. Conca

Julien Chorier, Team Solomon explains his reasons for the attempt.

“This is the most legendary GR de France. The challenge in Corsica is a project a little more personal. You need to get involved: contact with the right people, recognize the path, analyze each sector, implement the whole strategy and logistics … An opportunity also to acquire more experience managing an effort of more than 30 hours. ‘

Julien had the opportunity to hike on some areas of the southern part of the GR 20.

“It was a first time to learn about the most technical parts of GR, including the north section and meet up with the people who will accompany me. The northern part is very technical, I will have to be careful and I do not try to go too fast in this sector. I can retrieve a lot of time in the southern section providing I am still fresh ‘
Other potential difficulties are the weather. If it rains the rocks will be slippery. Night vigilance must be optimal in order not to get lost and not to fall.. Julien has never done this type of solo effort over a long period.

“I hope to be ready physically and that I have given the course respect for its severity. I will also be accompanied by friends who know the route because it is their training ground every day. I think for example  William Peretti and his wife, Stephanie Semper, who is the previous female record holder.”

The female record was conquered in July 2011 by Stephanie Semper 50 h 52 min 10 s. Emilie Lecomte set a new record on June 22, 2012 with a time of 41:22:10 and you can read an interview by Niandi Carmont here

In his attempt, Julien Chorier be assisted by a team of guides and guards all coordinated by William Peretti and other runners. Among them, fellow team mate François d’Haene. Logistics will be handled by Solomon.

Julien says “It is very tiring. It’s a huge psychological challenge. Support is crucial to maintain a proper pace and keep me on track despite fatigue. Based on Kilian’s times, my team help will allow me to monitor supplies and equipment”

Julien Chorier, Team Solomon, was born October 16, 1980 in Saint Martin d’Heres.

He won the 2011 160 km Hardrock Hundred Endurance Run, the 163 km Wide Raid Meeting, 80 km Ultra-Technitrail Tiranges. In 2012 he won 156 km of the Ultra Trail du Mont Fuji and won the 100 km from Zugspitz Ultra trail and second in the 73 km Trail Citadels.

Royal Parks Ultra

The inaugural Royal Parks Ultra took place today on a sunny and warm day in the capital. London really is quite a beautiful place when the sun shines on it!

A misty cool morning gave away to blue skies and warm temperatures.

I was at the race with the very kind help and cooperation of Salomon who had two star athletes taking part;

 Dimitrios Theodorakakos and Silvia Serafinii

They both won! Silvia running so quickly that she was 4th overall and this may very well have been a top 3 had she not been of course multiple times through poor course marking and complacent marshalling. Dimitrios ran 3:25:19 and Silvia 3:39:15.

Dimitrios almost lost the race due to errors from course marking and marshalling…. from a comfortable lead he ended up being neck and neck with 2nd place Julian Rendell  and then pushed away again in the closing stages to secure victory!

Dimitrios said “the course markings are terrible and the marshals are too busy on phones… by the time they realised I was there it was too late… six times I went of course. The organisers seriously need to look at some significant improvements for next year!’

Silvia confirmed “I went off course so many times… it’s terrible! If I am running a ‘marked’ course I want it to be marked. Today was too stressful. It as all very well when running slower and you have the time to look around but if you are racing I just want to concentrate on speed and effort… not worrying if I am course”

Not great! Considering the ultra had a small field in comparison to the Half Marathon (12,000) the race had some great pluses. A wonderful course around the parks of London, post race massage, good food provisions post race and a great setting. If only they could get the course marking to that standard… in addition, each runner got a wooden medal; a nice touch!

This race has great potential and will be a perfect race for those venturing up from marathon distance. It includes road and easy trail and at 50k it is the perfect step up distance.

Here are images from the day.

Trofeo Kima – Running Fitness

The biennial Trofeo Kima is a jewel in the Skyrunning calendar. thanks to its spectacular mountain passes, brutal terrain and its ability to attract the best ultra runners in the world. Ian Corless reports from the cloud laden course and finds that it more than lives up to its reputation….






This article is available in Running Fitness dated November 2012. It also has a great article on Lizzy Hawker ‘The Queen of Ultras’

Buff Ultrarunning Team – Cavalls del Vent

Bagà 2012. The global elite of trail running and hundreds of athletes meet up for the Ultra Cavalls del Vent (Salomon Nature Trails) taking part in the Cadí-Moixero.

In its fourth year, the Ultra Vent Cavalls’s is part of the Ultra Skyrunning series.

85 km of personal challenge, to test the limits of the body exceeding over 12,000 vertical meters accumulated in a privileged environment as offered by the Cadi-Moixeró Natural Park.

Featuring Nuria Picas, Anton Krupicka and Emma Rocca

As Buff say… “Flat is boring!”

ULTRA? ultra emotional

RUN247 ‘Cavalls del Vent’ 03rd October 2012

Wednesday 3rd October 2012

Race report: Ian Corless reports after the Ultra Cavalls del Vent – Spain, September 29, 2012

On a day of rain, cold temperatures and intense racing, ultra running and in particular ultra Skyrunning opened a new chapter in our sport with some really competitive racing by ‘the best’ in the world.

Unfortunately the whole experience was somewhat overshadowed by the news on Sunday morning that Teresa Farriol, aged 48, had passed away in the night due to a cardiac arrest brought on by hypothermia. It was hollow faces, dark eyes and tears in the race hotel as elite runners, race organisers and journalists pulled together. The prize presentation was cancelled and was replaced with a one minute silence in the crowded square.

The Race

Ultra Cavalls del Vent - Spain, September 29, 2012 © Ian Corless

Photos: The start and race winner Kilian Jornet out on the course © Ian Corless

Despite alternative race options available all over the world, many of the worlds best decided to head to Spain and race at the Skyrunning ‘Ultra Cavalls del Vent’, an 84.2km race with 6098m of altitude change.

Kilian Jornet, Dakota Jones, Tony Krupicka, Tofol Castanyer, Miguel Heras, Joe Grant, Philipp Reiter, Anna Frost, Emelie Forsberg, Nuria Picas and Emma Roccaall decided to do battle in what turned out to be an incredibly testing day.

At Refugio Niu de L’Aliga the race format was starting to unfold with Kilian leading the race, followed closely by Tofol and then several minutes back Miguel Heras. Dakota Jones and Philipp Reiter soon came into sight and then Tony Krupicka. Although minutes separated them all, one thing became apparent. It was cold!

Thick mist made visibility difficult and it was biting cold on hands. Kilian seemed in his element running in short sleeves but nearly all the other runners wore jackets. Including Tony!

Emelie Forsberg was the first lady to come into sight. Somewhat of a surprise… not because she didn’t have the ability but because the plan was to ease into her ‘first’ 50 miler. Frosty followed and then a very cool and relaxed looking Nuria Picas.

The cold and constant rain hit the race and the runners hard! Miguel Heras dropped, Tofol had hypothermia, Joe Grant had hypothermia and hundreds more runners had dropped from the race.

Tony Krupicka moved up through the field, moved ahead of Dakota and a format was set. Kilian and Tony swapping the lead and Dakota following.

At Gresolet, Kilian had a two minute lead. As he passed me I asked how he felt? “I am great, it was a little cold but now I am good. I am having fun!”

Tony approached “How you feeling Tony?” “I’m good man, Kilian is just playing with me… all good though!”

Some of the press with me at this point wondered if Tony would win? To be honest, no disrespect to Tony but Kilian seemed in control and was glad of company. Dakota was now some 30 min in arrears with Philipp Reiter in fourth. This order remained until the final climb when Kilian accelerated leaving Tony behind. Kilian crossed the line in a new CR of 8:42:22. Tony crossed the line in second, also beating the old CR too with 8:49:56 and Dakota finished in third in a time of 9:26:25.

Ultra Cavalls del Vent - Spain, September 29, 2012 © Ian Corless

Photos: Anton Krupicka on the course and Kilian finishing in a new course record © Ian Corless

Tony was stoked at the finish and rightly so. After the best part of two years of being out of the sport with injuries, his ‘return’ now seems to be confirmed. Speaking of his love for Skyrunning he said on the line “These are the races we want, vertical gain, tough gnarly climbs and altitude. We can’t get this at home, I love it”

Dakota was happy with third, but said he had hoped for better and that he never felt quite on his game!

Emelie Forsberg in the ladies race pushed ahead and at one point had a 15 minute lead, with Frosty and Nuria chasing. However the gap was closed and over the final two hours a battle started. My money was on Nuria, she had told me at ‘Kima’ that this was the race she wanted and I guess it showed. In the latter stages Emelie was dropped and Nuria ran into the finish, victorious in 10:34:42, beating her 2011 winning time by over an hour. Frosty finished in second 10:35:24 and Emelie jumped for joy in 10:39:51.

Ultra Cavalls del Vent - Spain, September 29, 2012 © Ian Corless

Photos: Anna Frost on the course. The women’s podium: third placed Emelie Forsberg, winner Nuria Picas and Anna Frost, second © Ian Corless

Frosty said “Everything hurts. I won’t be able to walk tomorrow. I dug deeper that I have ever had to go, I am happy for Nuria and I am happy for me”

Emelie in only her second ultra and first 50 miler was elated. She told me “I felt really good and still do. My legs are not hurting but it was [my] mind… in the latter stages when I had to fight I couldn’t focus but I am super happy”

Cavalls del Vent was an incredible day. It showed us all what is great about our sport. Wonderful courses, great running, new runners showing potential for the future, established runners confirming that they are the best, a return to form for Tony and of course immense comradeship. In the hotel ‘Press Room’ I was surrounded by all of them… Kilian on the sofa chatting, Tony and Dakota on the web, Frosty and Emelie giggling, Philipp and Terry discussing the next time to pose naked. All individual, but all one.

Ultra Cavalls del Vent - Spain, September 29, 2012 © Ian Corless

Photos: An emotional race – smiles from Anton Krupicka, a hug for Nuria Picas and more smiles from Britain’s Terry Conway © Ian Corless

Cloud confuses and distorts “less cloud MORE SKY“

The next event in the Ultra Skyrunning series is ‘Templiers’ in the South of France. The date is October 28th and rest assured I will be at the race to bring you images, stories and a podcast from the final race in the series.

Men’s results

1 Kilian Jornet Burgada 8:42:22
2 Anton Krupicka 8:49:56
3 Dakota Jones 9:26:25

Women’s results

1 Nuria Picas Albets 10:34:42
2 Anna Frost 10:35:24
3 Forsberg Emelie 10:39:51

Click here for full results

Ultra SkyMarathon® SeriesSPAIN: TRANSVULCANIA ULTRA MARATHON – La Palma – May 12
USA: Speedgoat 50K – Snowbird, Utah – July 28
ITALY: Trofeo Kima UltraSkyMarathon® – Valmasino, Sondrio – August 26
SPAIN: Cavalls del Vent – Cadi-Moixeró Natural Park – Pyrenees – September 29
FRANCE: La Course des Templiers – Millau, Grands Causses – October 28

Click here to find out more about 2012 Skyrunner® World Series