AJ Calitz

Last year Andre Calitz, a relative newcomer to trail running and a novice Three Peaks runner blasted his way to a new course record. This race started a trend and many record-setting runs followed, including a Puffer win and new record. No longer an unknown, Calitz returns this year with substantially more experience. He also carries a season of racing in his legs and the weight of expectation on his shoulders.

Three weeks ago Calitz competed in the marathon-distance Otter African Trail Run for the first time. Not only did he place second –five minutes behind race winner and past record-holder Iain Don-Wauchope – but he also beat the race record set last year by Ryan Sandes, by 10 minutes. Also, both Calitz and Don-Wauchope became the first ever sub-4:30 runners at The Otter.

On top of building his speed for The Otter, Calitz has put in specific training for Three Peaks. “I’ve done a lot of climbing and intensity work and also quite a lot of technical skills for the steep descents,” he explains. “Route knowledge is also essential so I’ve spent some time on the route last week to scout for the fastest routes and possibly dangerous and time-consuming sections.”

Calitz is certainly the best mountain runner around and he has a knack for running fast and strong uphill and downhill. He recommends running up and down staircases as preparation for races with big climbs. He also often runs on the beach, going up and down sand dunes.

“There is no substitute for proper climbing and unfortunately the best way to learn how to go up mountains fast is to go up mountains fast. Hill repetitions have their place as they offer good intensity, rhythm and strength work but mountains are a different story because they’re very steep and very long. Lion’s Head is an awesome all-round training route; it’s a nice hill with a difficult climb to the top,” he advises.

It’s not just the ups that are challenging. Steep descents can destroy the field of competitors.

“Yes, downhills hammer my legs too!” Calitz exclaims. “There’s no way you can do this in minimalist shoes because you need the cushioning and it is really impossible to prevent your legs taking strain because you have to go down. Getting a rhythm and trying to ‘flow’ helps a lot. For the best example of ‘flow’, just watch Iain Don-Wauchope run down a hill!”

Calitz’s course record of 5.07.39 is up for grabs. The spotlight is as much on Calitz as his competitors. Runners most likely to challenge for the front include Andrew Hagen and Ake Fagereng.

“Andrew is an animal and Ake is always strong. Both have won this race numerous times and they are in good form,” says Calitz.

He believes that a sub-5 hour time is possible: “I think we started too quick last year and that this race will be won and lost on Platteklip”.

Going into the race Calitz doesn’t have a particular strategy. “There are always many unknowns, like the weather, so it is always tough. And there are expectations this year, which weren’t there last year, but mostly I expect a good race from myself.”

Katya Sogot

Katya Sogot winning the 2012 TMC

Cape-based brand K-Way is a sponsor of the Three Peaks Challenge and of Andre. “We’re proud to be associated with what is the most iconic trail run in the Western Cape (and arguably one of the toughest). These Peaks sit in our backyard – but only a few have ever climbed one, let alone run all three in a day!” says Nick Bennett, marketing manager for K-Way.

On the women’s’ side Katya Sogot is a firm favourite. The little dynamo is especially good on technical terrain and the steep up and down course should suit her. It would be no surprise if she broke the record as well.

The Challenge starts at 5am on Saturday, 3 November just around the corner from Greenmarket Square. 120 runners will attempt to ascend all three peaks by 7pm – a 14-hour allowance. Greenmarket Square should prove an entertaining spectator point. More information can be found here

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