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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