Three Peaks

Runners approaching the Knife Edge

I’m not a particularly competitive runner, although I might sometimes chase a faster time on routes or events that I do regularly. It’s just not often that I’m up for it.

But when the opportunity does arise I’m all for it. Last Sunday was the UCT (that be The University of Cape Town for out of towners) GSB (Graduate School of Business) Three Peaks Challenge. This is an annual event organised by the current MBA class and run by many of them. It is also not to be confused with the other, more difficult, Three Peaks Challenge (3 November)

This one involves Cape Town’s three peaks starting at UCT and going up Mowbray Ridge, over the Knife Edge to Devil’s Peak, down to the saddle and up the infamous Ledges to Maclear’s Beacon, down PK (Platteklip), finally ending on top of Lion’s Head. A not unchallenging and rather fun route.

The run was once reserved for GSB students but they have recently opened it up to the general public. Last year I entered for the first time and ran it with a friend, Petro. I led her a merry dance in the mist, getting lost on the upper slopes of Devil’s Peak and getting caught in the pack on the way up Ledges. Despite this Petro still landed up being first woman home. We had run together most of the way with Petro dropping me on Lion’s Head and finishing a few minutes ahead of me. I finished in 4.35, quite high up the field. The nice thing about this event is that a lot of non regular runners take part, making us mid packers feel good about ourselves as we finish higher up the field than normal.

This year, having reccied the route I was hoping to comfortably beat that time, even dreaming of a sub 4 hour. The weather on the day was spectacular, clear skies and a threatening sun early on. Once again Petro and I set off together – Petro dragging me up the hills and me gaining ground and position on the downs. Having safely negotiated Ledges, thanks to the help of the Mountain Club man and his ropes, we headed for Maclears. On our approach to the highest point on TM (Table Mountain) we heard the voice of Michael “the CEO” Ohlsson, there to meet us and offer some encouragement and company. We raced down PK, me literally bouncing off the rocks on a regular basis, Michael hurling abuse from behind.

But after refreshing at the stream near the bottom of PK and Petro having caught up, my competitive streak set in. As we neared the PK seconding table we could see a small group just ahead of us. At this point I turned to Petro saying, “Petro, you are the reigning women’s champion and in second place, there is the woman currently in first place – go get her.” At which stage Petro turned to me, gave me one of those death stares only women can give and went after her, my words “eye of the tiger Petro eye of the tiger” left trailing in her wake.

So while Petro took care of my competitive streak I meekly coasted to the finish taking some serious strain in the now pretty warm weather.

Petro eventually finished 2nd woman, three minutes behind eventual winner Angela, but it was a fine effort nevertheless. I beat last year’s time by 10 minutes; a long way off the four hour mark but a decent finish.

At the post event braai some spot prizes were given out. I managed to answer a simple question quickest and walked off with an Ipod the size of a blister on my big toe. Yip, I too can be competitive.

First women, Angela (Left) & Petro on Lion's Head

 

A little while back I received an email asking if I wanted to assist with a trail running excerpt for the Expresso Show, a local lifestyle show on morning TV on SABC3.

Now with a face made for radio and a voice for mime I was reluctant at first. I really wasn’t into going into the studio to talk about trail running. But once it was explained that this would be an outdoor shoot with Lisa Raleigh, the fitness expert, I thought why not? It’s not everyday I get asked to be on TV in any capacity and I thought it might be fun.

So on a chilly but sunny Wednesday afternoon I gathered a few hardy trail runners together at the bottom of Lion’s Head. Lisa arrived with a rather unfit cameraman, soundman and a Sanparks rep in tow and we went to the top of Lion’s Head, shooting as we went. It was fun and the excerpt produced was pretty cool in the end.

Have a look.

Running up and down Cape Town’s three peaks (Devils Peak, Table Mountain and Lions Head) isn’t most people’s idea of fun – but it is mine. This is kind of strange as I usedto hate running. Well hate is a strong word; I just didn’t like it much. I loved hiking though and found once I got into it that I could hike pretty fast up some fairly steep mountains. Then I saw an article in the paper about the Three Peaks Challenge which caught my interest, but after reading that they start in town near to Greenmarket Square and return to the Square after each peak, I laughed to myself, thought “fucking crazy” and lost interest.

The following year, 2002, the Three Peaks reared its beautiful three heads again and a friend, a Celtics runner at the time, told me to phone fellow Celtics runner Gavin Snell, the organiser of the event. As sceptical as I was I soon found myself chatting to Gavin who told me about the event, showed me some pics and hauled out his shoebox of memorabilia including the hand carved trophies of the Three Peaks that every finisher gets. The trophies are made by Don Hartley, founder and co-organiser of the event. All well and good I said but I don’t run. Don’t worry said Gavin you’ll be fine. Far from convinced I decided to give it a bash and entered.

Three Peaks Challenge 2011I started doing some running, completed my first half marathon in the process, and on the first Saturday in November, 2002 I found myself lined up in Long Street at 5am with a bunch of other nutters. About 8 ½ hours later I completed my first challenge, had the best time and was hooked – not just on the Three Peaks but on trail running in general.

November 2011, nine years later, I have completed my 10th Challenge. Those years have seen me become a seasoned trail runner who now loves running and has his own shoebox of Three Peaks memories. I have watched the local trail running scene explode into a main stream sport with many roadies finally seeing the light and now stretching their legs regularly if not exclusively on the mountains. Where once there were a handful of trail events there is now one almost every week.

While the trail running scene has changed I’m glad to say the Three Peaks Challenge has not. The organisers are the same, the atmosphere is the same, and the entry fee kept affordable, unlike many events which charge almost 3x that amount for far less, and you still receive a hand carved Three Peaks trophy if you finish. More importantly I still love this event. I have roped in many an unsuspecting runner who landed up running next to me at some run or another, burning their ears with tales of this special event – some of them completed their 5th challenge this year. The one difference is that nine years ago you could phone Gavin the night before and get an entry – that is no longer possible.

Thanks Gavin, who has not only organised all 15 events to date –read the history of the event here –  but has run every one as well –  and thanks Don for starting this event in 1997, 100 years after it was first completed. Looking forward to no 11.

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