Lion King aims for the Sky – AJ Calitz

Image ©redbull

Image ©redbull

 AJ Calitz lines up for the high-intensity Red Bull LionHeart event and just one week later will toe the line at the ultra-distance Salomon SkyRun.The two races will require a particular change in gears particularly as Calitz is attempting to stand on the podium at both events. 

Two years ago Calitz set the pace at the inaugural Red Bull LionHeart, a 4, 4-kilometre duel from the base of Cape Town’s Lion’s Head peak to the top and back down again. Rather than a mass start, the race pits runners against each other in a head-to-head duel. Contenders run again and again, knocking out rivals on their climb up the ranks. Last year Calitz defended his title and beat Thabang Madiba by a mere 11 seconds to claim his second LionHeart title – and setting a new course record (26:46) at the same time.

Calitz has been training on Lion’s Head in preparation for this year’s event, which takes place on Saturday 15 November. When asked how he aims to pull back more seconds from his previous record runs, Calitz replies, “It is always possible to go faster; I am a lot faster on the downs this year”. 

He finds the stretch of jeep track to be the hardest section of the course. “Coming down from the top is quite a rush!” he adds.

Calitz is back for the third time. Aside from defending his crown, he is attracted to the race because of its man-on-man heat setup. “Whoever is prepared to hurt the most will win,” he says.

AJ Calitz at Zegama-Aizkorri

AJ Calitz at Zegama-Aizkorri

A week later Calitz transitions physically – and mentally – from the fast-paced action of LionHeart to the 100-kilometre mountain race, Salomon SkyRun. He has been out in the Witteberg mountains, familiarising himself with the route and the terrain.

“Yes, it helps a lot to be familiar with the course; route knowledge is 60% of the race at this event. To be fair, with racing at altitude and living at sea level I have to manage my expectations.”

Last year the race was cut short due to bad weather. Howling wind, torrential ice-rain and fog brought dangerous conditions to the mountains and Calitz, who was chasing race leader Iain Don-Wauchope, was nearly hypothermic and he withdrew from the race. He learned from this experience.

“Last year was rough,” he says of his first experience at SkyRun. “I learned that I should start slower because it is a long day out. Also, I have to focus on navigation, pacing and nutrition from the start.”


Red Bull LionHeart website (

The Salomon SkyRun ( starts before sunrise on Saturday, 22 November 2014 from the town of Lady Grey in the Eastern Cape.  The most up-to-date content during the race will appear on the event organiser’s Facebook page (Pure Adventures).

More than luck takes Miya to the Skyrunning World Championships

Lucky at Ingeli


Lucky Miya is in France for the 2014 Skyrunning World Champs, which is hosted by the Marathon du Mont-Blanc. The only South African runner in the men’s race, Miya will compete in this 42-kilometre mountain run on Sunday, 29 June 2014, starting at 07h00. It just shows the global appeal of Skyrunning!

Miya hails from a road running background with an impressive 2:16:41 personal-best marathon time. His road running times remain impressive; in 2013 he ran a 1:09 half marathon.

“In 2009 I decided to try trail running as I enjoyed doing tough things, surviving tough battles makes me proud!” he says. And survive he has.

Miya made his foray into trail events with short-distance races and now favours those up to 40-odd kilometres. Although trail is his main focus, he does participate in road race in the colours of the Gallopers running club, which he started.

As his experience has grown, Miya has increased his trail race distances, competing in staged races too.  His trail prowess was clearly demonstrated in October last year when he posted a 4:29 time at the famed marathon-distance The Otter African Trail Run. This earned him a highly respectable fifth place in this fiercely competitive event.

Miya’s path to the Skyrunning World Champs was guaranteed when he won the inaugural Ingeli Skymarathon, which was held in Kokstad in April. He covered the 42-kilometre course distance in 3:37:19, five minutes ahead of his nearest rival. Miya is representing South Africa at these World Champs and is the only South African runner competing in the men’s race; Landie Greyling will run in the women’s race.

In preparation for this event Miya has put in tough hill sessions at this favourite training venue, the Klipriviersberg Nature Reserve in the South of Johannesburg.

The Marathon du Mont-Blanc course profile shows a massive climb from 17 to 21 kilometres; those hill sessions are going to count when Miya hits that demanding ascent.

“Absolutely, this will be the toughest section of the course but I believe I’m naturally strong to survive it,” he says.

Having competed on the road racing scene, Miya has experience, a strong head and enough cool to keep his composure under pressure. Surrounded by the best-of-the-best in trail running, he is sure to be tested.

“My road speed and racing experience will definitely help me to deal with the pressure and competition but I will still need huge strength, power and a good race plan. My aim for the race is to be safe and enjoy the run. To finish in the Top 15 or Top 10 will be a bonus!”

Conditions for the race (in Chamonix) are expected to be cloudy and cool with a low of 8°C and high of 21°C. There is a chance of storms. In the mountains… well, it is anyone’s guess as conditions can change in a heartbeat.

“We are so excited for Lucky,” says K-Way brand manager Nick Bennett. ‘We’ve kept an eye on him for a while and were delighted to have him join our K-Way athlete family earlier this year. Lucky is a talented runner and his transition from road to competitive distance trail running has been effortless. He is light, quick and agile. We’re only seeing the start of what he is capable of and we’re delighted to see him competing abroad for the first time in such a prestigious event.’

There’s no shortage of exceptional runners preparing to race. Miya will be in the mix with eight previous Skyrunner World Champions. The event has attracted athletes from 65 countries.

“I’m so excited and I can’t wait to be there!” he says a day before his departure for France.

“It has been a dream to compete abroad and this is an incredible opportunity. It will be an amazing experience.”

The Marathon du Mont-Blanc starts at 07h00 on Sunday, 29 June 2014. The race starts from the town of Chamonix in France. The men’s race record of 3:30:41 is held by Kilian Jornet.

Skyrunning HERE

In-depth race preview HERE


AJ Calitz – Verdon Canyon Challenge

AJ at Zegama, 2013

AJ at Zegama, 2013

AJ Calitz gives me the ‘scoop’ on his race report from the Verdon Canyon Challenge 100k in France. Have to say, having talked with, interviewed and watched him race at Zegama, AJ is without doubt one to watch in the future. His Verdon win proves it!

Here goes….

*All images are from Zegama-Aizkorri and we will update asap.

Rarely in my life have I been welcomed with more grace and open arms than with Antoine and Sophie in their beautiful home in Grasse. I felt part of the family immediately and was sad to leave after only two days. This set the tone for a weekend on which my feet only touched the ground when I was running!

Verdon Canyon is one of the biggest canyons in the world and renowned for its turquiose blue waters. However on the way there with Antoine and Levi (a norwegian athlete standing 6’6 tall…) It dawned on me that the furthest race I have ever run is comrades at 89km and longest in terms of time is Platteklip at 11h. This race will trump both.

Verdon is a major race on the European calendar with 1000 athletes taking part from all over Europe. This was the 20th edition so a special occasion all round. It is at the outset hard to explain how big the language barrier is in the EU. The race briefing was in French, and the entries and signs and spectators, marshalls etc….

The small town of Aiguine played host to the race. A typical small “alpine” town, beatiful scenery and houses, very warm and friendly people! I stayed in the top floor of a beautiful hotel overlooking the lake on one side and the village square on the other; all courtesy of the partnership between Ugene Nel from Quantum Adventures and Antoine from the Verdon Challenge, everything was paid for! We were treated to a pasta party before the race and I disregarded Tim Noakes recent advice to stay away from pasta.

The race started at 03:00 Saturday morning which meant waking up at 01:30…ridiculous, but made sense later in the day and as the cutoff is 35 hours it made even more obvious.
Compulsory kit checks done and we were off at a moderate pace through the town for 300m when we hit the first climb, about 800-900m vertical but super steep and techical followed by a crazy descent. For some reason my lamp was not working properly so I took another tumble on my knee but it was only a cut and not too deep so I carried on until my lamp failed. I then had to stumble around until the chasing pack caught me and ran with them. However,  running in someone else’s lamp is not the same as running with your own so I took another tumble. I witnessed the most awesome comeraderie as everyone stopped and either helped me up/waited to see if i was ok. I hope in SA we would do the same.

AJ at Zegama 2013

AJ at Zegama 2013

Ran in the chasing pack with Jean-Marc Zugg, three times runner up, local legend and French running star and a Salomon team bloke. We had quite a nice pace but I moved to the front after about 25km to increase the pace and catch the leader Thomas Pigois.
As is my style of running I went hard in the hills and cruised down, whereas they do it the other way round. I realised this would not suit me so I broke away at about 40km. Just after I realised that I had got my feeding/drinking wrong and was feeling terrible, I almost pulled out. But at the halfway mark was a refueling station where we dropped our goodie bags earlier so I could get some much needed food and drink. Very surprised at my recovery (thanks GU!) and ate and drank like a maniac, whereafter the started climbing again.

At this juncture I need to mention the route. It is really really hard, and technical and difficult. But it is madly beautiful and rugged-very comparible to the Otter with regards to difficulty and terrain. The climbs are very very long and peak at the top and then go straight down. If there was a total of 10km of flats it is a lot, personally I think more along the lines of 8/9km.

I caught Thomas at 60km and could see he was struggling, always makes you feel better to see others suffer;-) and I had the lead with a long way to go. There are no time checks so you never have any idea how far you are ahead or who is behind etc. but the crowds and the guys at the aid stations were incredible and so supportive ( in french) allez allez!

At about 70km I realised I had quite a big lead as on top of the mountain you could see very far and I could not see anyone, which allowed me to relax a bit and enjoy the scenery (i did a bit of a kilian Jornet and stopped for 5/10 seconds on the mountains just to enjoy it). I also started to count down km’s from there as that was when it really started hurting. The 80km station only had water, an essential part of the briefing I missed. Luckily i had enough provisions to last to the next one.

As we crossed the bridge over the canyon, the 100km race turns left and the 55km turns right, another point mentioned in the briefing ( in french) and the course is not closed to the public so there were loads of people around and in front of the sign. I remebered from the map that there is one section of the route we run twice, so as we had passed the bridge before and seeing many other (55km runners) go right, so did I. I realised my mistake at the rock climbing section where the marshalls told me i was on the wrong route ( and that last year first and second place made the same mistake!) so I waited for 20minutes to find out what to do as the helpers had no radio signal and had to climb out of the canyon first. No word came so I carried on and went the 55km feeding station where i had to wait another 20min. At last word came that I could continue and was still in first place, BUT this route was much harder and 5/6km further. Not being a happy camper I slogged on and managed (barely) to drag myself over the last mountain, another 800/900climb and then two more smaller ones (like signal hill from camps bay) and saw the towh through the trees, I had no idea whether I was still leading so gave it all over the last section.

AJ at Zegama 2013

AJ at Zegama 2013

I thought i could have had a go at the record and was on schedule, but the events of the day cost me more than an hour…my lead of 90minutes was whittled down to 15min. But still super stoked with the win and the knowledge that I ran further and harder than anyone else! 106km

Thanks to all the prayers and support back home, it really does help so much-especially after the dissapointment at not being able to finish Zegama. I truly hope more saffas will do Verdon next year, you will not be dissapointed! It was very hot during the race 32/35c so it will suit us after our summer whilst the euros just had winter-made a HUGE difference!

A special thanks to God who heard my prayers ALL day, my wife who spent all of it on her knees praying and all my sponsors, kway, vivobarefoor, guenery and liberty health! You guys made it possible.

Yours in trailrunning

AJ Calitz

“Somewhere in the world someone is training when you are not. One day when you race him, he will win.” Tom Fleming


Men’s results
1. Andre Calitz, 14:15:04
2. Jean Marc Zaugg 14:31:27 (0:16:23 difference)
3. Thomas Pigois, 14:59:31 (0:44:27 difference)


Episode 36 – Ultrapedestrian Ras, Kremer, Calitz, Davies, Cardelli, Browy


Episode 36 of Talk Ultra – Stevie Kremer and AJ Calitz talk to us from Zegama-Aizkorri. We speak to Brendan Davies and Beth Cardelli respective winners from TNF100 in Australia. An inspirational 15 minutes of fame with Eric Browy, Talk Training is about Knees with Mitch from StrideUK. Our interview is with UltraPedestrian Ras. Speedgoat (Karl Meltzer) is back, we have a blog, the news and of course, the up and coming races.

Show Notes:

00:00:45 Start
00:16:30 News with Speedgoat
00:24:50 AJ Calitz talks to Ian after his run at Zegama-Aikorri.

Trail runner Andre ‘AJ’ Calitz is a record-setting South African trail runner. Over the past two years he has won numerous local races, frequently setting new records on challenging courses. He is sponsored by the outdoor brand K-Way. In just the past six months Calitz ascended Table Mountain’s Platteklip Gorge a record 11 times between sunrise and sunset to win the K-Way Platteklip Charity Challenge. He then won the two-day Grootvadersbosch Trail Run, where he set new records on both days. At the end of August, running in wind and rain, Calitz won the 80-kilometre Hi-Tec Peninsula Ultra Fun Run (PUFfeR) and set a new record time of six hours, 59 minutes and 36 seconds, becoming the first runner to set a sub-7 hour time on the original, full-distance route. In 2012 Calitz placed second at The Otter, a 42-kilometre trail run on the iconic Otter Hiking Trail. Even more impressive was that Andre, together with race winner Iain Don-Wauchope, became the first runners to break the 4h30 barrier. Both runners broke the course record set last year by Ryan Sandes. Although Calitz is a relative newcomer to trail running, his pedigree is impressive. He has been a multiple All Africa Triathlon Champion, South African Duathlon and Triathlon Champion and South African Cycling Champion. He also holds silver medals for Two Oceans and Comrades finishes.

00:46:00 Back to News
00:50:20 Stevie Kremer talk to Ian after a stunning third place Zegama-Aizkorri.
Stevie Kremer, burst on the U.S. trail running scene  with a few notable races in Colorado. She moved to Italy in 2012 and performed beyond expectations at Sierre-Zinal with an incredible second place. Stevie finished seventh in the World Mountain Running Championships 8.8K uphill race on Sept. 2 in Temu-Ponte di Legno, Italy, and then won the World Long Distance Mountain Running Challenge at the 42.2K Jungfrau Marathon in Switzerland the following weekend.
01:04:35 News
01:07:25 Brendan Davies not only won the TNF 100 in Australia but he broke Kilian Jornet’s two year old course record.
I live in the Blue Mountains and work in Western Sydney. In my day job, I am a Special Education school teacher; kids call me Mr D.  I’ve been a school teacher for over 10 years and love it. It has been both a very challenging and rewarding career thus far. But I am a runner, always have been and always will be. I have recently been selected on the International Inov-8 team – a dream come true which will take me wider and further than I ever thought, to some of the most spectacular places on Earth like Mt Fuji and Mt Blanc. Another great honour was to be named by my ultra running peers and the governing body of ultra running in Australia – AURA, as the 2012 Australian Ultra Runner of the Year.
01:20:06 Beth Cardelli topped the podium in the ladies race at TNF100.
I really only started running after being involved with my husbands 2007 Sydney Trailwakler Team. We had a pretty slow time and I knew I could do the distance a lot faster. Since then I have focused on becoming a better runner. HERE
01:32:50 Back to News
01:43:50 BlogRob Krar on iRunFar HERE
01:48:40 Talk Training with Mitch from Stride UK
02:12:55 Interview with Ultrapedestrian Ras – website HERE
I expound my ideas, experiences, philosophies and half-assed schemes simply as documentation of the immense blessing that is my life. I am uneducated and underemployed, and in many ways not what is typically considered a productive member of society, and my words should be understood within this context.
02:51:55 Meltzer Moment with Speedgoat
02:59:00 15 Min of Fame with Eric Browy

After throwing away a scholarship and getting kicked out of college for partying too much, my guest enlisted in the Army in June of 2002. As soon as he arrived at his unit, he was deployed to Iraq in the beginning of 2003, here he truly learned the meaning of what a Soldier was and more than anything that just because someone was not his blood they could be his brother. His brother had been killed when he was younger and he had gone through life not expecting to every have that relationship with anyone again. He found that in the Army. After returning home, with less people than we departed with he struggled while being back at Ft. Hood, He didn’t admit that he had any problems, It was a difficult thing for him to handle all of the loss that had happened while being deployed so he just “soldiered on” and self-medicated himself with alcohol and partying in my non-working hours. In 2005 he was deployed again and he was injured in March  2006. Team RWB HERE
03:23:25 Races
03:27:00 Close


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