Perfect weather, a quality field and a generous dose of sentiment, comradeship and spirit… All of the necessary ingredients were prevalent for the running of the 2016 Three Peaks Challenge, the 20th edition of the event in the ‘modern’ era*.
Andrew Hagen, returning after an absence of several years, cruised to an unprecedented fourth victory. His finishing time of 4:55,13 was a little less than a minute quicker than his previous personal best, when he finished runner-up to AJ Calitz in that memorable record-breaking day in 2012.
Hagen and Lucas Adams made the early running on the Devil’s Peak leg, with just 40 seconds separating the two when they turned at Greenmarket Square for the very tough second peak, with a group of several runners three minutes back. Adams called it a day before he reached Maclear’s Beacon, leaving the chasing pack of Mark Winter, Pete Calitz and Darryn Patterson to fight for second place.
Undeterred by a large number of recreational visitors and tourists on the mountain, a visibly relaxed Andrew Hagen breezed down Platteklip Gorge, well in control, before wrapping up a comfortable win with a successful final assault on the Lion’s Head leg record. Winter finished 9 minutes behind in second (surely somebody to watch in the future?) with Darryn Patterson 27 minutes further back, in third.
Jane Wyngaard took complete control of the women’s race going up Platteklip Gorge and romped home in a very credible 6:40,45, nearly half an hour ahead of Jana Trojan. 2015 winner, Melany Porter, was third.
One of the performances of the day was undoubtedly that of Brian Key. Just eighteen days shy of his 78th birthday, the incomparable Key completed the gruelling challenge in under eight hours, beating three-quarters of the field on his way to his 14th finish.
Some significant milestones were achieved on the day. Event co-organiser Gavin Snell became the first person to successfully complete the challenge twenty times, while Barry Washkansky secured his fifteenth. Arno Lawrenz and Andre Filander were presented with Don Hartley paintings, their well-earned reward for ten finishes. Permanent Number 99 was awarded to Peter Johnstone – permanent numbers are a privilege accorded to participants who complete five challenges.
The 2017 Three Peaks Challenge has been scheduled to take place on Saturday, 4th of November.
* The event follows a tradition started in 1897, by Carl Wilhelm Schneeberger.