Race Report by Dean McCoubrey (participant)
Photos by Trevor Wilkinson (PPSA)
Sponsored by K-Way and held in support of Milnerton’s Sinejonjo High School, the K-Way Platteklip Charity Challenge (PCC) is in a class of its own. With 760 metres of climbing on every ascent, those runners who commit to five or more summits are ascending at least 3800 metres in accumulative height. Those that manage 10 ascents (and there are only a handful that have made it), are on their way to Everest. In a day. Yes indeed, for some reason or another, this last fact is both true and possible. Agreed, there is neither altitude sickness nor a merry band of sherpas, but there is true grit and gruel in mastering the relentless steps and rocks of Platteklip Gorge that will maketh the (wo)man come race day.
The other way in that this event stands out is its sheer simplicity. A great many charities work every marketing muscle to raise funds for their all-important plight, raising tens of thousands, which is – of course – highly commended. This charity model is all about its product.
PCC is a unique challenge, ideally situated on one of the ‘Seven Wonders of the World’, that it lays down the gauntlet to the ego. It’s pure talkability. When you tell someone you’re going up five times, they’re suitably impressed and they start looking at you from top to toe – particularly from quad to calf.
Entries to this event ‘sold out’ before the start, with 120 runners all agreeing to raise a minimum of R2,000 for Sinenjonjo High School. Some, like Steve Cloete from Rabie Properties, raised not just R2,000, but R30,000! Cloete was just one of many who exceeded the personal target and ensured a whopping R520,000 rasied at the end of the day. Half-a-million Rand is a very large collection from a small group of people.
Last year’s Platteklip Charity Challenge 2011 was best remembered for ‘upping the ante’ of the Challenge by adding… raw heat. Running in 35 degree temperature is a true test of character, especially when attempting to ascend 3800m. It would have been wise to buy shares in Rehidrat last year!
So, of course, this year I watched the weather reports. “Warm and windy” is the announcement by race organiser Anton de Waal at registration, which was hosted at the swanky Cape Union Mart Adventure Store in Canal Walk. They added nice freebies to the participants’ race packs too. As for warm and windy, I wasn’t sure if I preferred being minimised by meltdown or blown off a sheer rock face.
With some trepidation I journeyed toward the start line from the Southern Suburbs. As we approached the City Bowl, we were met by a thick bank of cloud; so thick that when you’re inside it seems like you’re climbing upwards in a Boeing 737 until you poke your head out the top and see blue sky.
Indeed, as the 120 runners line up in their lime green tees, the attitude was not of trepidation but of hunger. Without the heat, anything was possible. AJ Calitz had promised to complete at least 10 laps and he aimed to break the record by achieving 11 summits in one day.
The fleet of front runners bolstered the first kilometre from the cable car to the entrance of Platteklip Gorge on the flat, racing for the all-important lead position before the steps commence.
As some of us mere mortals laughed and bantered. We could see the little green men and women lurching high above, building distance rapidly between us. Andre Calitz and Luke Powers were upfront, racing head to head for the R2500 prize awarded to the ‘first man to the top’. First to summit was Andre Calitz, in 35 minutes, with Luke Powers close behind. Gabby Cloete was the first placed women with an impressive 54 minutes to the summit.
From the summit, participants run along the top of the Mountain, grab a Bos Ice Tea (most runners were very grateful to this event sponsor, for sure!) and down in the Cable Car (to the surprise of tourists, who are left wondering what South Africans eat in the morning to both set themselves such a challenge, and then complete it.
Light-hearted banter in the Cable Car made it look like this was something we ‘just do for fun.’ Nik Rabinowitz, famed comedian, was on hand to keep spirits high and people amused, as well as keeping radio listeners aware of this unique challenge taking place with his on-air commentary.
As the day progressed banter decreased and support for each other increased. Knowing looks passed between exhausted comrades as they stopped on the trail for repeated ‘breathers’. There also comes over you a quiet sense of meditation as you no longer look up to the summit – only looking ahead – as you methodically place one foot in front of the other towards markers placed in your mind. “If I can get there, then I’ll be one third up” and “When I get to that corner, it is halfway” or “Finally I’m in the shaded corridor of the last 100m, the hardest part”. Every runner has their own personal markers.
On the day there were a few outstanding heroes. Andre Calitz, of course, springs to mind. He achieved his goal of 11 summits between sunrise and sunset; that’s an accumulative, 8360 metres ascended between 07h15 and 18h15. He averaged one summit every hour. He was so fatigued after the tenth summit that he called a friend to join him on the last one. This was true friendship indeed as they braved the beast one final time. There should be a Guinness World Record for this feat, no?
Gabby Cloete is the day’s heroine for her six ascents; and Steve Cloete stands out for his powers of persuasion – raising the largest single amount.
Of course the real heroes are the organisers, Bridget and Anton de Waal and Lisa and Adam Pike. Committed, organised and yet incredibly relaxed and down to earth (at least in public), they have created not only a brilliant event, but one that defies the laws of marketing. They have created an event – a product – that is so good that it attracts participants and, through them, donors without the need for public involvement or acknowledgement. Funds that change the lives of people who deeply need the support can be raised through novel and fun initiatives.As a result Sinenjonjo High School’s pass rate has leapt from 22% to over 90% over the last few years because of financial support received from this event.
Event website: www.charitychallenge.co.za
The event was held on Saturday, 21 April 2012.
Contact: Adam Pike, email@example.com (event organiser)