Posts Tagged ‘three peaks challenge’

Three Peaks Challenge: 10 Done – more to come

Running up and down Cape Town’s three peaks (Devils Peak, Table Mountain and Lions Head) isn’t most people’s idea of fun – but it is mine. This is kind of strange as I used

Three Peaks Challenge 2011

Three Peaks Challenge 2011

to hate running. Well hate is a strong word; I just didn’t like it much. I loved hiking though and found once I got into it that I could hike pretty fast up some fairly steep mountains. Then I saw an article in the paper about the Three Peaks Challenge which caught my interest, but after reading that they start in town near to Greenmarket Square and return to the Square after each peak – I laughed to myself “fucking crazy” and lost interest.

The following year, 2002, the Three Peaks reared its beautiful three heads again and a friend, a Celtics runner at the time, told me to phone fellow Celtics runner Gavin Snell, the organiser of the event. As sceptical as I was I soon found myself chatting to Gavin who told me about the event, showed me some pics and hauled out his shoebox of memorabilia including the hand carved trophies of the Three Peaks that every finisher gets. The trophies are made by Don Hartley, founder and co-organiser of the event. All well and good I said but I don’t run. Don’t worry said Gavin you’ll be fine. Far from convinced I decided to give it a bash and entered.

I started doing some running, completed my first half marathon in the process, and on the first Saturday in November, 2002 I found myself lined up in Long Street at 5am with a bunch of other nutters. About 8 ½ hours later I completed my first challenge, had the best time and was hooked – not just on the Three Peaks but on trail running in general.

A Don Hartley orginal - my reward for completing my 10th

A Don Hartley original - my reward for completing my 10th

November 2011, nine years later, I have completed my 10th Challenge. Those years have seen me become a seasoned trail runner who now loves running and has his own shoebox of Three Peaks memories. I have watched the local trail running scene explode into a main stream sport with many roadies finally seeing the light and now stretching their legs regularly if not exclusively on the mountains. Where once there were a handful of trail events there is now one almost every week.

While the trail running scene has changed I’m glad to say the Three Peaks Challenge has not. The organisers are the same, the atmosphere is the same, and the entry fee kept affordable, unlike many events which charge almost 3x that amount for far less, and you still receive a hand carved Three Peaks trophy if you finish. More importantly I still love this event. I have roped in many an unsuspecting runner who landed up running next to me at some run or another, burning their ears with tales of this special event – some of them completed their 5th challenge this year. The one difference is that nine years ago you could phone Gavin the night before and get an entry – that is no longer possible.

Thanks Gavin, who has not only organised all 15 events to date –read the history of the event here –  but has run every one as well –  and thanks Don for starting this event in 1997, 100 years after it was first completed. Looking forward to no 11.

Three Peaks Challenge – Will the record go?

The record for the Three Peaks Challenge (Next event – November 6, 2010) is one of the longest standing trail records in the Western Cape, if not the country. (Quick disclaimer – I have based that on no more than the fact that the record was set in 2001 and as most trail runs these days only started after that and others have had their records broken regularly – I came to that conclusion – am happy to be corrected – end of disclaimer.)

The Three Peaks Challenge, for those that don’t know, is an annual event which starts at Greenmarket Square in Cape Town, pretty much at sea level, and involves running (or walking for some of us) up Cape Town’s three peaks; Devil’s Peak, Maclears Beacon via Platteklip Gorge and Lion’s Head, returning to the square after each peak.

A fun and challenging day out for most of us fun runners but there’s always a group of super charged, super fit and super fast runners, who go out to win it and break the record if they can. The record is held by Chad Ulansky, a Canadian cross country skier, who in 2001 entered at the last minute, you could in those days, and blitzed the tough course in 5:27:29 – a record that still stands today, albeit with a bit of luck.

Guys have come close but the record stands. Three time winner (1998, 2002, 2003) & multiple comrades gold medallist, Danny Biggs, threatened the record in 2002, winning in 5:33:51, Bruce Arnett, one of the country’s top trail runners, came agonisingly close in 2008, finishing in 5:28:08, missing it by 39 seconds. Considering that Arnett is from out of town and did not know the route that record is lucky to be still standing.

But stand it does, last year’s winner, Andrew Hagen (also the 2007 winner) also came close with an impressive 5:34:27 .  So can the record go and who can win it? Not knowing all of the entrants and their abilities, two names stand out for me; double winner, Ake Fagereng (2004 and 2005), won this year’s Hout Bay Trail Challenge, looks in good form and is probably just favourite ahead of Hagen. Hagen, always a threat, is an effortlessly fast runner with a well disguised, competitive edge. Should be a good one and I think that record may be in danger.

Me, I’ll be enjoying outing number 9 in my favourite run on the calendar. Those mentioned above are the ones that I see at the square after my first two peaks – they are already finished and sitting around drinking beers.

See the history, results and  pics at

Three Peaks Challenge