Training Route: Four Peaks Challenge

In my last Training Route post I covered the Bryanston Half in the first part of what I will name the Wednesday trilogy. Now for the sequel.

At the end of the last post I discussed the original and “easy” versions of the Bryanston Half, a challenging 21 km training route. The obvious progression for a group of runners that were (and still are) continuing to push new boundaries was to create a “hard” Bryanston Half. After Kirsten had planned and plotted the easy route I decided to make my mark on the hard route and straight away went to work mapping out a proposal.

I already had in mind a key feature for the new route and it involved the removal of the relatively flat run along the river once we reached the low point of the course, and swapped Heartbreak Hill with a replacement climb that was worthy of being called “hard”. Heartbreak Hill had one major flaw as a short and steep hill, and that was the fact that it is short. The replacement was achieved by reaching the river, crossing it, and then running straight up the other side in a continuous climb of over 4 km.

I replaced the gradual and winding descent that marked the first phase of the original Bryanston Half route with the most direct option down to the river, and that allowed for those flat and downhill kilometres to be replaced by climbs. It was obvious that the 2 km climbing finish of the original route needed to be maintained so the start and end of the route were finalised. I had wanted to include the tough climb from the easy Bryanston Half route but could not find a way to fit it in within a 21 km route. Therefore I left it out and sent a proposed route through to Kirsten for review.

Kirsten promptly responded with his feedback. The left-out hill must be included, and there was no need to feel limited by a distance of 21 km. The unlocking of the distance opened up some great possibilities and the route started to take shape. I added in the left-out hill but replaced an out-and-back section at the top with a new loop that had the benefit of adding in yet another climb. Kirsten and I ended up agreeing on a route with all of the climbs we wanted to include within a training route of 24 km. It was Kirsten that gave the route its name, the Four Peaks Challenge, after its four notable climbs. The route now featured only a single water stop at the halfway mark.

The first running of the route took place with only Kirsten and Lindsey while I was out of the country on holidays. Following that first running Lindsey proposed that the route be renamed to the Five Peaks Challenge due to the severity of a climb preceding peak number three. I returned from my holiday and took part in the second attempt at the route in late November of 2012, which finished with a discussion over the proposed fifth peak. Following a democratic system the proposed fifth peak was voted down (Kirsten and I both voted against) and the Four Peaks Challenge name remained, but the proposed fifth peak instead became known as the unnamed hill.

Another agreement following the second running was to further increase the route distance to 28 km. During 2011 Kirsten and I had both regularly been running 30+ km on Wednesday by following up the Bryanston Half with another 10 km in the evening. It was agreed that a single 28 km morning running of the Four Peaks Challenge would easily replace any previous 30 km day. A fairly flat 4 km loop was added near the halfway point of the route but the single water stop was maintained, now falling at the 16 km point of a 28 km run. The route ended up with a total ascent (plus equal descent) of 560 metres.

Four Peaks Challenge - Route Profile
Four Peaks Challenge – Route Profile

The first running of the 28 km Four Peaks Challenge took place in January 2013. Campbell was working his way back into fitness, and as he struggled to the top of the first climb he was staggered by a discussion that took place between me and Kirsten: maybe we need to create a Wednesday morning route with an extra major climb and a distance of around 35 km.

After that first running I downloaded the run data from my watch and was interested to see the route profile. Three of the four peaks are extremely clear. Interestingly the unnamed hill is almost identical (and possibly even slightly more difficult) than peak three, Outspan Road. But during the run we had already worked out a worthy fifth peak for our 35 km route, and the name Five Peaks Challenge was already assigned. As you might have guessed the details of that route will take part in the third part of the trilogy.

Four Peaks Challenge - the Unnamed Hill and Outspan
Four Peaks Challenge – the Unnamed Hill and Outspan

For anyone in Joburg looking for a nice 28 km Wednesday morning run, you can check out the Four Peaks challenge on MapMyRun.com here.

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