Red Bull LionHeart played out on Saturday on Cape Town’s Lion’s Head peak where runners faced off against each other in elimination rounds. K-Way athlete AJ Calitz dominated the mountain to again claim his third LionHeart crown. 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 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.
“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 straight after every 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 him hold 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.
For more news of K-Way’s athletes and events, ‘Like’ K-Way SA on Facebook.
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
© Kolesky/Nikon/Red Bull Content Pool
Header: AJ Calitz is the undisputed ‘Lion King’ after three consecutive wins at Red Bull LionHeart. Calitz out gunned Thabang Madiba in the final in a new record time of 25:54.