With his return to the Fish River Canyon Ultra, K-Way athlete AJ Calitz has only one goal: to break the course record. On Saturday Calitz will again run the 100-kilometre route through the famed Fish River Canyon and the clock will be ticking.
The first Fish River Canyon Ultra was first held in 2011 on a route that was approximately 83 kilometres in distance. The course was extended the following year to include the boulder-strewn Day 1 section of the well-known hiking-trail route to make it an even 100 kilometres.
Runners are allowed to plan their own routes through the canyon and they may take short-cuts to bypass lengthy bends in the river. The only prerequisite is that the runners pass through a number of predefined checkpoints. The shortcuts may greatly reduce the total distance of the race but may also cost the runners in time and effort if errors are made.
In August 2012, independently and not during the race, Ryan Sandes made his second attempt at running the classic five-day hiking trail route. His efforts were rewarded with a time of 6 hours 57 minutes.
Last year, Calitz had his first shot at the canyon. He won the race in 8 hours 4 minutes 15 seconds, taking over two hours off previous winning times on the same route.
“Last year I lost a lot of time due to lack of route knowledge; this year I have done my homework and I’ve done a lot more mileage on flat and sandy terrain,” says Calitz.
With his preparation done, Calitz is focused.
“This year I have only one goal: to break the record. The first section of the route will be a warmup for the record attempt. The weather forecast is good and everything else looks perfect to run hard on race day.”
He’s excited to return to the Fish River Canyon. “This is one of the most incredible and beautiful races I have ever done,” he says. “I’m taking my family along this year, so that will be very special.”
The race starts at 05h30 on Saturday morning, an hour before sunrise. Calitz should complete the route in time for lunch.
Event: Fish River Canyon Ultra
Date: Saturday, 4 July 2015
Venue: Fish River Canyon, Namibia. The race starts from top of the canyon near Hobas and finishes at Ais-Ais.
Start time: 05h30
Distance: 100 kilometres
Ultra Race Record: Men: AJ Calitz, 8:04:15 (2014); Women: Linda Doke, 11:50:35 (2014)
Hiking Trail Record: Ryan Sandes, 6:57 (August 2012)
• Event website: http://africanextremepromotions.com/page/fish-river-canyon-ultra/