Lucky Miya erased the huge disappointment he suffered three years ago, when he won the Three Peaks Challenge on Saturday, more than ten minutes ahead of four-times winner and defending champion Andrew Hagen. For the top K-Way trail athlete from Gauteng, it was a vastly different mountain to climb, from that which he encountered in 2014, when severe cramps and inadequate knowledge of the route relegated him to second place.
In a break from CW Schneeberger’s 1897 traditional Long Street start, close to 150 high-spirited trail enthusiasts lined up outside Cape Town’s historic Old Town House in Greenmarket Square for the 5 am send-off, and an escape up Government Avenue and out of the city.
In near-perfect conditions, a group of six runners stayed in close contention as they tackled the gradual climb through Deer Park to the first checkpoint at “Dead Man’s Tree”, on Tafelberg Road. Hastening up the slippery slopes of Devil’s Peak, the group reached the beacon in five to six minutes more than an hour.
A strong-running Darryn Patterson seized the initiative on the return to the city and arrived at Greenmarket Square three minutes ahead of Lucas Adams, in second, with Miya, Hagen, Pete Calitz and Rupert Becker just less than a minute further back.
On the second peak, Patterson’s lead was whittled down to barely a minute by the time he reached Tafelberg Road and started up Platteklip Gorge, ahead of Hagen and an ever-watchful Miya.
Miya launched his assault on the tortuous climb and had opened up a seven-minute lead on Patterson by the time he had reached Maclear’s Beacon; Hagen was a further minute behind. Miya had stretched the gap to eight minutes when he landed on Tafelberg Road and to nine minutes when he turned in the centre of the city for the final time, and the third peak.
Hagen passed Patterson on the Lion’s Head ascent, but was fifteen minutes behind Miya at the top. One of the top downhill mountain runners in the business, Hagen made up five minutes on the leader, from the beacon to the square, but it was too little too late. With no pressure to bear and the sounds and smells of the city within his grasp, Lucky Miya was able to win comfortably, in a finishing time of 5:04:55. Hagen finished in second place with the gallant but weary Patterson not that far back in third.
Karoline Hanks celebrated her long-awaited Three Peaks debut with an emphatic victory in the women’s race. Challenged only momentarily by an inspired Cleo Albertus – to the top of Devil’s Peak and on the return to Greenmarket Square – Hanks had built a fairly sizeable lead at Maclear’s and shook off her less-experienced and fast-tiring rival on the way down. She went on to win in 6:57:20, half-an-hour ahead of Cherry Gammelin in second. Albertus did well to finish third – one to watch in the future?
A total of 138 people completed the 2017 Three Peaks Challenge, the 21st in the modern era – 120 years after Schneeberger, 90 after Trimble and 40 after Pitter.