After retaining his title at Red Bull LionHeart on Saturday, K-Way athlete AJ Calitz is ready for this weekend’s 100-kilometre Salomon Skyrun.

On Saturday, Calitz powered up and down Cape Town’s Lion’s Head during the prologue, heats and final to take overall honours – again. Set off in groups, Calitz enjoyed doubling-back on the route for the descent, which gave him a chance to see the gap gained on his rivals. He broke the record that he set last year to record a time of 26:46 for the 3.7-kilometre up-and-down route.

“I prefer working hard up and taking fewer risks down.” he says. “And yes, I pretty much go all out to the top.”

AJ Calitz

AJ tames the Lion Pic: Brett Nattrass

With Skyrun only days away, Calitz doesn’t expect to feel the effects of Red Bull LionHeart in his legs.

“With the amount of mountain training that I do, it shouldn’t affect me,” he says.

Calitz is a Skyrun novice and he goes into this self-supported, mountain ultra not knowing the route; he’s up against runners with experience of the Witteberg mountains.

Although the route is unmarked, competitors may run with GPS units to guide them to the well-known checkpoints at Olympus, Snowden, Avoca (the highest peak at 2,756m), Skidaw and Balloch. As the front runners will be up and over Balloch Wall before sunset, they’ll have the advantage of daylight to navigate the Bridal Pass, which takes them back on to the ridgeline. With more than 70-kilometres covered by this stage, they’ll have less than 30-kilometres to the finish at the Wartrail Country Club.

But there’s also more to the route than just hitting the remote mountain checkpoints and following ridgeline tracks. Some path options are more efficient than others and taking the wrong left or right route around a peak could cost unknowing contenders big chunks of time.

“I’m feeling pretty unprepared as far as the route goes,” Calitz says. “Luckily there are some guys racing who know the route very well so I’ll be hoping to stay with them.”

If Calitz’s race-winning and record-smashing track record is anything to go by, the guys racing would do well to stay with him.

The course record stands at 12h36, which was set in 2012 by Ryan Sandes. He took more than two hours off the previous record, which was set by fellow South African trail runner Iain Don-Wauchope in 2010.

To keep an eye on the race, follow Pure Adventures on Facebook and Twitter (@pureadventures) and also follow K-Way’s Facebook page (/kwaysa) for news of Calitz.

Trail Runner's Guide

Trail Runner's Guide

It wasn’t that long ago that you could list the various trail runs around the country on one hand – o.k. maybe two and a couple of toes but there were very few. The last seven or so years have seen an explosion of trail running shoes hitting South Africa’s treasure trove of mountain paths and coastline and a host of organised events to go with. From 5km fun runs to a range of hardcore ultras up to 100km and beyond for the multi-day events.

Now the first guide book to these organised trail runs has hit the shelves. Its 220 pages of 100+ trail runs across the country. And even with this comprehensive guide many runs still didn’t make the cut. It must have been a tough job for adventure photographer and writer, Jacques Marais to pick and choose the runs to include. So tough he excluded some of my favourites.

That aside he has done a pretty good job with the guide and a quick flick through will get any local trail runner checking their calendar and budget to see which runs he can make. It covers the entire country and has given me some serious trail envy. Of course many runs I already knew about, but many I did not, and have added them to my trail bucket list, which was long enough before the book came out.

A full colour offering, Marais has included plenty of information on each run with comments from well known trail runners to give a personal perspective to each run. There are 50 runs covered in detail with distance, maps & directions to the start, route profile, terrain, event description, expert views and accommodation suggestions – everything you need to know to get your trail feet to these events. There is also a section of 50 runs with less info – but just enough to get you interested, and at the end a general calendar allowing you to choose a month and see what is happening at a glance.

Gripes
Marais is a brilliant photographer and there are many great pics in the book but I somehow got the feeling he left out much of his best work when selecting pics for this guide.

He left out the Three Peaks Challenge, my favourite event, even if it involves a large section of tar in-between scaling Cape Town’s three peaks, (Puffer also has a large tar section). He also left out The Bat Run, an iconic night trail run in Cape Town which has been around a lot longer than most. This is not as commercial as many others and one of the few established night runs on the calendar.

Trail Envy.
The Mnweni marathon has gone to the top of my list, a low key but stunning looking event in the Drakensberg Mountains.

Overall an entirely useful and colourful book for any trail runner who enjoys the organised events. Or even those who don’t but want a look at what trails there are to run in SA. There are plenty.

For sale in book shops around the country. Published by Map Studio

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