Red Bull LionHeart played out on Saturday on Cape Town’s Lion’s Head where runners faced off against each other in elimination rounds. For the third year in a row,

Calitz The LionHeart

K-Way athlete AJ Calitz  dominated the event to claim a hat trick of LionHeart crowns. He set another new course record of 25.54 in the process.

“LionHeart is one of my favourite races of the year and I always look forward to it,” says Calitz. “When I get to the start line I remember how hard it is. This year was no exception.”

Last year the competitors ran a 3.7-kilometre qualifying circuit in the morning with three elimination rounds in the afternoon. This year runners qualified for the 22 men’s and 11 women’s places by using Strava – a free-for-download GPS route tracking app – in the lead-up to the event, which meant four ascents during the race.

“It makes a difference to race four times, instead of three,” says Calitz. “Luckily, more ascents suits me.”

Fortunately the forecasted rain stayed away on race day, although gusty winds high up on the peak made for cold temperatures and tricky conditions underfoot on the technical and rocky terrain.

LION TAMERS - AJ Cailtz & Landi Greyling

“I had friends and family waiting at the bottom with my warm K-Way jacket, some food and water so that I could keep warm and recover after each heat. My wife, Paulette is an amazing support at these events.”

Calitz had a tough draw, running against Ben Brimble in the first heat and quarterfinal and then against Thabang Madiba in the semifinal and final.

“The first three rounds were a lot faster than last year and we had to push from the word go,” he says.

“I was very nervous before the final as Thabang beat me at Otter in September and he was tipped as the man-to-beat at LionHeart this year. But I stuck to my guns and did what I had planned; to start the climb hard and break early. My plan paid off and I had about a 40-second gap at the top. I managed to keep the gap until the gravel section where Thabang’s leg speed would be a real danger. Gladly the gap was big enough and I could hold him off.”

Calitz ran the final in 25.54, beating Madiba by 21 seconds and again setting a new course record – a time that is almost one-minute faster than his record set in 2013.

Landie Greyling won the women’s race for a second time (33.58), beating Cape Town runner Megan Leslie in the final by only 29 seconds. 16-year old Leslie is the newest member of K-Way’s junior athlete stable.

FINAL MEN’S RESULTS

1 AJ Calitz  25.54

2 Thabang Madiba  26.15

3 Martin Kleynhans  29:39

4 Ben Brimble  30.37

 

FINAL WOMEN’S RESULTS

1. Landie Greyling 33.58

2. Megan Leslie  34.27

3. Amy Burton  36.20

4. Allie Townsend  37.22

 

The first South Africa Skymarathon®, which debuts on October 26 at Matroosberg Private Reserve in the Western Cape, has attracted the cream of the crop.

Matroosberg Trail ChallengeAJ Calitz, one of the country’s top trail runners, takes off as firm favourite, but will certainly not have things all his own way – other strong performers pose a stern challenge.

Calitz, a relative newcomer to trail running, has taken the sport by storm with several victories and new records including Puffer, Three Peaks Challenge and the Red Bull Lion Heart. He also triumphed in a 100km trail run in Verdon, in the Provencal district of France and last month finished third in a super strong field at The Otter, finishing inside the existing record.

Included in the chasing pack are SA Ultra Distance Champion and former Puffer winner Nic de Beer, SA trail team member Charl Souma and top local trail specialists, Noel Erntzen, Derrick Baard and Ake Fagereng. Last year’s winner, Michael Owen attempts a repeat.

The women’s event appears no less competitive with some serious talent looking to conquer the tough 36km course. Leading the field will be the experienced Linda Doke, adventure racer and 2013 Bat Run winner Annemien Ganzevoort, and Robyn Kime, 4x Dusi Canoe Champ and a rising star in trail running. Ingrid Peens, last year’s champion, will also line up at the start.

A Skymarathon® is a mountain race with a minimum of 2 000m in total elevation gain and between 30km – 42km over paths, trail, moraine, rock or snow; total asphalt must be less than 15% of the course.

“Skyrunning is hugely popular overseas, particularly in Europe,” says race director Ghaleed Nortje. “The Matroosberg is a perfect venue, with aSkymarathon summit at 2 249m, spectacular views, tough ascents and technical descents.”

Sponsors on board include VIVOBAREFOOT, Adventure Inc, Wintergreen, Protect, K-Way, Red Bull and Bio-oil; but Nortje seeks a title sponsor.

“There are many costs involved for such an event and we consider this is an outstanding opportunity for sponsors to become linked to Skyrunning; the sport, making its debut in Africa, will be massive here.”

The Witzenberg Municipality, in which the run falls, are also excited about the run and have offered full support for the event.

The Skymarathon® is not to be confused with South Africa’s first Ultra Skymarathon, The Lesotho Ultra Trail to be run in Lesotho on November 30.

Contact Ghaleed on runningthecape@gmail.com or 082 887 3011, www.matroosbergtrailchallenge.co.za, www.skyrunning.co.za

The fifth edition of the Pronutro AfricanX Trail Run kicks off today (Friday, April 19) and K-Way athlete Andre Calitz

Nic de Beer & AJ Calitz

will be on the start line. This is a three-day event where participants run in pairs and team members must stay together at all times. Calitz is teamed up with local trail speedster, Nic De Beer, his well-matched rival from last year’s 80km Peninsula Ultra Fun Run (PUFfeR).

Calitz was initially planning to run AfricanX in a mixed pair, with Zola Budd but she pulled out with a recurring injury. “Nic had a great result at Addo and we ran together most of the way at Puffer. Our running styles complement each other so I thought, ‘Hey, this could work!” says Calitz.

The race is made up of three stages over three days with distances of 31 km 33 km and 24km respectively. Both Calitz and De Beer shine in the ultra distance events, especially those with a lot of climb. These stages are somewhat ‘short’ for them.

“Yes, they’re short stages,” says Calitz. “I haven’t scouted the route but it looks as though there are some technical sections. Mostly it looks to be quite flat and fast, which doesn’t suit me.”

That said, the hills are where Calitz and De Beer aim to gain ground.

“It’s no secret that I always go hard on the climbs…to take the sting out of the speedsters on the flats and downs,” Calitz laughs. De Beer too has climbing legs so this pair is sure to close down gaps and make up time when the terrain veers uphill.

Two weeks ago Calitz won the K-Way Platteklip Charity Challenge, setting a new record with 12 summits of Platteklip Gorge between sunrise and sunset. Asked whether his legs are rested after the 9,000-metres of accumulative ascent he replies, “I’ve trained very hard the last two weeks so my legs are not fresh, but I’m feeling strong”.

In looking at the line-up in the Men’s category, Calitz points out the pairs that will be vying for the lead.

“Definitely Mike and Ben, also Kane and Nicholas are very quick. Bernie is in super form so it’s going to be very fast and interesting,” he says referring to Michael Bailey, Ben Brimble, Kane Reilly, Nicholas Rupanga and Bernard Rakadaz.

At the end of May Calitz will run the marathon-distance Zegama Aizkorri in France. With 5,472 metres of ascent and descent over the 42-kilometre course distance, this Skyrunner Series event suits Calitz’s strengths. Two weeks later he’ll run the100-kilometre Verdon Canyon Challenge – also in France.

“AfricanX is very much preparation for my overseas races, so the more fast and strong guys for me to run against, the better,” he explains.

Running as ‘Team K-Way Vivo Gu’, Calitz and De Beer have experience and pedigree. The race starts on Friday, 19 April and finishes on Sunday, 21 April. Follow their race progress through the Cape Union Mart Facebook page (/capeunionmart) and the event website – www.africanx.co.za.

For most people Platteklip Gorge is just a means to getting to the top of Table Mountain. For first time hikers it’s a safe but strenuous journey to the top but

AJ Calitz descending Platteklip Gorge

for many seasoned hikers/runners it’s often a route to avoid unless absolutely necessary.

On Saturday, April 6, AJ Calitz, one of South Africa’s top trail runners, will attempt to ascend PK 12 times between sunrise and sunset. No mean feat and a seriously tough ask even for the fastest and fittest.  AJ will not be doing this for personal glory but for a good cause as he is among 175 entrants in this year’s  K-Way Platteklip Charity Challenge, an annual fundraiser where runners get sponsored for their ascents up PK.

Last year, as a first-time entrant, AJ set a new course record with 11 ascents. Now, with numerous wins and race records on his impressive resume, Calitz has set himself a challenge; to better his record with one more ascent. With the start at sunrise and the finish at sunset, he has only 11 hours to achieve his goal.

Platteklip ascends 760 metres from bottom to top, which puts 12 summits at an accumulative 9,120-metre – that’s almost 300-metres higher than Mt Everest from sea level to summit! At the top, participants run to the Cable Car and catch a ride to the bottom. Each lap is 5.5km in total and the ascent alone is a physically demanding route that takes one to two hours on most fresh legs. It is this level of difficulty that makes this event worthy of being called a ‘challenge’. Most runners make three to six summits.

With this in mind, how will Calitz squeeze out another lap to reach his objective of 12 ascents?

As of this year Calitz is running full time – a professional athlete. He is putting more time into training, focusing on power and speed, which are both needed to get him through this Challenge.

“I have no specific plan other than to just run harder and faster,” he says. Calitz needs to make up five minutes per lap to fit in the 12th ascent.

“The easiest place to make up time is on the flat sections at the top of the mountain and the cable way,” he explains.

And it’s not like the cable car will be sitting waiting for him: “There is no way you can judge the cable car unfortunately,” he says. Calitz will certainly need a dash of luck to be on his side too.

As a fundraising initiative for Sinenjongo High School, the K-Way Platteklip Charity Challenge raised R500,000 for the school in 2012 – and they aim to better this contribution this year. Donations are linked to runner profiles from the ‘Sponsor’ tab on the event website. By sponsoring a runner, donors contribute to the fund for the school, which is located in the impoverished community of Joe Slovo Park, in the Milnerton suburb.

Despite its lack of facilities and resources -  no hall, library, staff room nor sports facilities – this school has lifted its matric pass rate from 27% in 2008 to 90% in 2011. Last year 77 matrics passed – double that of the previous year – with 56 qualifying for tertiary education.

The Challenge starts at 7am and ends at sunset – 6pm. Throughout the day spectators can cheer on the runners ascending Platteklip Gorge and from the cable car stations.

Event website: www.charitychallenge.co.za.

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