He set a new course record in 2012. Then, he set another in 2013 when he ascended more than the height of Mt Everest - from sea level - in 11 hours. Now K-Way athlete AJ Calitz is going for a bigger record; the Guinness World Record for 'Greatest vertical height climbing stairs in 12 hours'. In April, Calitz will attempt to run up Table Mountain's Platteklip Gorge more than 14 times during the 2014 edition of the K-Way Platteklip Charity Challenge.
The annual K-Way Platteklip Charity Challenge (PCC), a tough chellenge that is fast achieving cult-like status, sees individual and team participants ascending Table Mountain's popular Platteklip Gorge hiking trail. They descend via the cableway, return to the bottom of the Gorge and attempt to complete as many 5.5-kilometre loops as possible between sunrise and sunset. It is a very steep and challenging 2.1-kilometre climb up 800 double-size steps that ascends 760 metres from bottom to top.
After a few laps, participants are increasingly thankful for the event’s partnership with the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway for the opportunity to rest their legs on the scenic and speedy ride back down.
Calitz holds the record, which he set last year, for the most number of ascents in the 11-hour duration of the race. His 12 summits add up to an accumulative 9,120 metres of climb - that’s almost 300-metres higher than Mt Everest from sea level to summit!
This Guinness World Record attempt falls under the category of "Greatest vertical height climbing stairs in 12 hours". The current record of 10,060 metres is held by Chris Solarz (USA). He repeatedly climbed 48 flights of stairs of the Three Logan Place building in Philadelphia in June 2011.
As the record is all about accumulated climb, Calitz will ascend Platteklip, run from the top of the Gorge to the cable station, take the cable car down and then bundle into a waiting car, which will take him swiftly to the bottom of the Gorge for his next ascent. He is aiming for at least 14 ascents, which will better the existing record.
Even though the cable car trip down takes only a few minutes Calitz has learned from past experience the value of keeping warm. He has a K-Way jacket stashed in the cable car to quickly pull on for the chilly descent. It should then take him less than two minutes to run from the cable station to the waiting vehicle.
"Driving from the cableway to the start of Platteklip, instead of running, will save me at least five or six minutes per lap and I've got the chance to relax and feed properly in the car," Calitz explains.
"The ride also gives me the chance to recover mentally for the next one. When you've completed a lap or two and know you have another 13 to go... this time to relax is important."
Supportive family, friends and sponsors will be there to cheer him up the mountain - again, again and again.
"K-Way gear has been worn to the top of countless mountains, including Kilimanjaro and Everest. It has been to some of the most inhospitable places in Africa, on the back of Kingsley Holgate. But we haven’t been involved in a World Record attempt – yet," says Nick Bennett, head of marketing for the K-Way brand.
"AJ just keeps getting stronger and faster; we'll be with him every step of the way."
The K-Way Platteklip Charity Challenge has supported Sinenjongo High School since 2012. The event raises funds through donations, which are linked to runner profiles from the ‘Sponsor’ tab on the event website. Sinenjongo is located in the impoverished community of Joe Slovo Park, in the Cape Town suburb of Milnerton. The community has a high rate of unemployment and is home to a large number of child-headed households.
Funding from sponsors together with contributions raised through PCC provides salaries for additional English, maths and science teachers as well as a part-time social worker. These people are role models and mentors to the existing teachers as well as the students. The school is a beacon of hope for this community. Teachers show up for school, parents attend school meetings and children are proud to be learning at Sinenjongo.
The K-Way Platteklip Charity Challenge starts at 07h00 on Saturday, 5 April 2014. You can get involved in this event by entering as an individual runner or recruiting friends and colleagues to make a team of 2 or 3 people. If running is not your thing, cheer for the Challenge participants as they race along Tafelberg Road and sponsor a runner through the event website at www.charitychallenge.co.za.