Calitz runs his first race abroad on Sunday

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Calitz runs his first race abroad on Sunday

K-Way athlete Andre Calitz is already in Spain and eagerly awaiting the start of the Zegama-Aizkorri Mendi Maratoia, a 42-kilometre mountain race in the rural Basque Region of Spain. A well-established event, Calitz will line up with 600 runners on Sunday morning for his first race on foreign soil against a field that features a host of trail running headliners, including Kilian Jornet and Luis Alberto Hernando.

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The Skyrunner® World Series is a collection of events, mostly in Europe that fit into categories according to distance and positive elevation gain. Zegama-Aikorri Maratòn is the first of five ‘Sky’ events that are longer than 22km, but shorter than 50km, and that have at least 1,300 metres of positive vertical climb. This race has been on the annual Skyrunner World Series calendar since 2004 and it attracts a deep field.

Spaniards Kilian Jornet and Luis Alberto Hernando head up the star-studded men’s field. They’re expected to be challenged by a contingent of strong runners from France, Andora and Italy.

According to a media release from the event, the women’s field “has shot to the headlines with new stars, new records and the ‘chicking’ phenomenon with the gender gap slowly closing”.  A string of world champions are expected to lead the women’s race. These include Emelie Forsberg, Nuria Picas, Oihana Kortazar (2012 winner) and Emanuela Brizio (2009 record holder).

Calitz has done his research on the race, looking into the terrain and elevation of this event. With a maximum altitude of only 1551 metres above sea level, altitude is unlikely to have an adverse effect. That said, the route does climb. Up, up, up! The route crosses the Aratz massif and the Sierra of Aizkorri, which includes the four highest peaks in the area, to accumulate 5,472 metres of elevation gain.

As a circular route, what goes up, must come down too…

“I’ve worked a lot on my technical skills and downhill prowess,” he says. “I did a short run on the course and a lot of the terrain looks similar to home.”

The event supplies the 13 aid stations along the route with water, fruit, energy bars and sports drinks and Calitz will use these to refuel; he can run lighter and faster without a pack.

The event specifies only a windproof jacket as compulsory equipment. Calitz is expecting cold, wet and rainy weather on race day.  “I’ll wear my K-Way Thermaskin thermal long-sleeved shirt and probably compression shorts with my K-Way Mercury jacket for the wind and rain,” he says.

This race is a whole new competitive experience for Calitz.

“I’m going to play it by ear, I think, as I have never run against any of the guys before. I have it in my mind to go out a little conservatively… but who knows. On the day anything can happen. Climbs are my strength so I’ll aim to capitalise on this.”

With only two days until the start, he’s both excited and nervous. This race will give him a benchmark on which to measure his performance against an accomplished field.

“All the big names and teams are here! There is only one way to find out how good you are.”

Quick reference

  • Date: Sunday, 26 May 2013
  • Venue: Zegama, Basque Region, Spain
  • Distance: 42.195 kilometres with 5,472 metres of accumulated elevation gain
  • Live online streaming from the race from 09h00 to 17h00.
  • Event website (English):
  • Event on Twitter: @ZegamaAizkorri (mostly Spanish). Hashtag #ZegamaAizkorri
  • AJ on Twitter: @ajcalitz (AJ’s wife, Paulette, will send out tweets during the event)
  • For several years the weather at the race has been cold and wet. Good conditions on race day could see the long-standing records challenged.

o   Men: 3h54’18” by Rob Jebb (2005)

o   Women: 4h38’19” by two-time world champion, Emanuela Brizio (2009).

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