K-Way athlete AJ Calitz finished 6th at this year’s running of the annual Salomon SkyRun Powered by Powertraveller. This 100-kilometre trail race is run across the Witteberg Mountains from the town of Lady Grey to the Wartrail Country Club. Fresh from the previous weekend’s win at Red Bull LionHeart, Calitz had a tough day in the mountains.
“I had no illusions of grandeur at the start of SkyRun as I was still carrying the fatigue of LionHeart from a few days earlier – so I’m very happy with my sixth place!” Calitz says.
He started with the front group, keeping a quick, but manageable pace over the first few kilometres. Early on, Iain Don-Wauchope, who would go on to win the race, broke from the group. Instead of chasing, the other runners stayed together.
“Many runners, including me, ran out of water on the section from Avoca to Skidaw. It was very hot and there was little available water high up in the mountains,” he adds.
Calitz says that two international runners then broke clear from the group; he stayed with Ryno Griesel and Nick Clark. They were caught by Bruce Arnett and Hilton Dunn. They all ran into the Balloch checkpoint together, which is 65 kilometres into the race.
“I wolfed down sandwiches, Coke and water and we left Balloch together, chasing the leaders. My climb up Balloch Wall was not too bad, but could feel the lack of power in my legs,” he says.
For most, the race really starts after Balloch where the gravel road to Bridal Pass takes its toll on the runners and the kilometres already covered start to be felt.
“I nearly caught up to the group of Bruce, Hilton and Jock Green but I just could not hang on at the top of Pass,” Calitz explains.
“At 2800m, when you are exhausted and powerless, 25 kilometres-to-go is a long way. I ran as much as I could and even had a sit down to eat properly. I resolved to enjoy the rest of the run and take it easy especially as I was not going to catch the group and no one was going to catch me.”
Calitz collapsed in a heap at the Wartrail Country Club finish, utterly spent after 15-long hours in the mountains. His time of 15 hours, 26 minutes saw him finish in 6th place.
“Six black toenails, a twisted knee, massive blisters, cramps, aches, pains, scratches and exhaustion are all dwarfed by the most incredible, amazing, beautiful and epic day out in the mountains. It is what I live for,” he says.
The men’s race was won again by Iain Don-Wauchope in a new course record time of 12 hours, 8 minutes. Landie Greyling won the women’s race in 16 hours, 12 minutes. She finished 7th overall.
SkyRun is a self-sufficient race where athletes find their way between checkpoints by map, compass and GPS. Most participants take over 27 hours to complete the race, which is held annually in November.
Photo credit to Salomon SkyRun