Trail legends AJ and Bernie back for more AFRICANX glory

AFRICANX multiple-winner AJ Calitz is back once again with his renowned ‘trail buddy’ Bernard Rukadza to compete in the PICKLE JUICE AFRICANX TRAILRUN 3-Day Stage Race, starting tomorrow. The two legends of trail running have won the title on no fewer than three occasions, with Calitz also having won with Ben Brimble and the mixed title on two occasions, with Nicolette Griffioen and Kerry-Anne Marshall.

 “Choosing the right partner to run with is like choosing the right partner to marry,” says Calitz. “Things can very quickly go pear-shaped on the trails. My strength lies in my ability to climb and recover well. As a result, I can race hard consecutively. Bernie’s strength is everything – climbing, speed, recovery – he is a monster!

AJ Calitz and Bernie Rukadza winning the AfricanX title in 2018. Can they make it four this weekend? (Photo – Stephen Granger)

“Our team’s (Team K-Way New Balance) strength is based on years of experience and friendship. We look forward to going up against Nicholas (Rupanga) and Wandisile (Nongodlwana). They are such good mates and incredible athletes, but once the gun goes off, the racing starts. Although our goal is to race hard, we’re also looking forward to hanging out with other trail runners. AFRICANX is something truly special, we can’t wait.”

Rupanga and Wandisile finished third overall last year, but Calitz and Rupanga will also have to be wary of second-placed finishers, Somerset West-based Lovemo Nyaude and Hakeem Smith, while AFRICANX regulars Retsepile Khotle and Siviwe Nkombi have the proven trail records to take line honours on Sunday.

Hakeem Smith and Lovemo Nyaude in action in last year’s race. (Photo – Chris Hitchcock)

Nkombi’s injury in stage two last year cost his team a chance for podium honours, but the pair are determined to be a force in this year’s race.

Brother and sister duo, Kerry-Anne Marshall and Stuart Marais will be tough to beat in the mixed team category, while Strand-Somerset West pair Jani Kruger and Nicola de Villiers will be one of the favoured team in the women’s competition.

Nicola de Villiers will be running with Jani Kruger in the women’s competition. (Photo – Sportograf)

While there is a serious side to the racing, with a number of elites lining up for action, AFRICANX TRAILRUN has established a reputation of being the country’s most popular trail-running party, with an emphasis on participation and fun.

Megan Pentz-Kluyts (Big Bay, Cape Town) and Susan Rheeder (Parklands, Cape Town) will celebrate their AFRICANX debut by making their entries count and running for a cause, the National Sterilization Project (NSP).

A registered non-profit organisation, the NSP was established in 2008 to reduce the growing number of unwanted and neglected pets through an ongoing, nationwide mass sterilization program.

Running for a cause – AFRICANX debutants Megan Pentz-Kluyts and Susan Rheerder. (Photo – Chris Hitchcock)

 “I’m a social runner and look forward to having fun, to finishing, but most importantly running for animals,” says Pentz-Kluyts. “NSP is an important cause for both of us, doing fantastic work in the community and we’d really appreciate it if other trail runners could either donate towards the cause or share the link to our Charity Drive page. Every bit helps.”

Megan and Susan’s Fund Raising Campaign can be supported via the following link:

It’s party time at the PICKLE JUICE AFRICANX TRAILRUN this weekend. (Photo – Chris Hitchcock)