Tower races are often won and lost by the narrowest of margins, so finding ways to make small gains can make a big difference to where you finish in a race.

Ergogenic aids, or performance enhancers, are one easy way to potentially get ahead. Alongside proper training, these simple and natural additions to your race day prep could see you clocking faster times on the stairs.

Read on to find out the three natural performance enhancers that could change your tower running.

Caffeine

Caffeine

There’s a good reason why the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) had caffeine on its list of banned substance up until 2004. Its performance enhancing qualities are well established.

Up until that point you had to be ‘caught’ with a dose of 1,200mg (somewhere around 10-12 cups of coffee) in your system close to competition to be considered doping. To be fair, if you were necking that much before an event, the chances were you were probably utilising it disingenuously as a performance enhancer.

But since coffee and energy drink usage in particular have become more mainstream, WADA has softened its stance on caffeine. It’s no longer banned, but since 2017 it has been put on WADA’s Monitoring Program.

That means caffeine levels in athletes can be monitored for patterns of use, or abuse, but there’s no longer a set limit as to how much you can have in your system before competition. If caffeine intake is a normal part of your dietary routine, you’re OK; but if you’re specifically ingesting loads just before a race you could potentially be flagged for a violation if it doesn’t fit in with your regular pattern.

Of course, WADA regulations haven’t found their way into tower running yet anyway, but it’s worth noting the official position adopted by them.

Interestingly, the NCAA (the National Collegiate Athletic Association in the USA) still has caffeine on its banned list. Ingest 500mg of coffee within three hours of the start of one of their sanctioned competitions and you run the risk of a positive drug test.

Although the advantages of high levels of caffeine for performance have been established by multiple studies, you don’t need to go anywhere close to 1,200mg to reap the benefits of this centuries old performance enhancer.

Some studies have shown that caffeine can still have a significant impact on performance at much lower doses. In one test, trained runners cut an average of 4.2 seconds off their 1,500m time after taking 150-200mg of caffeine in the form of coffee (roughly two cups of instant) an hour before exercise.

In another study, cyclists extended their time to exhaustion by nearly 15 minutes while caffeinated with 330mg caffeine one hour before exercise.

Some of the established positive effects of caffeine include:

• Enhances endurance exercise performance
• Improves reaction time, concentration, and self-perceived energy levels
• Low doses increase energy expenditure and oxygen uptake without changing perceived effort, exercising heart rate, or fuel usage
• Delays feelings of fatigue, and lessens sensations of exertion and pain

That last point is probably most significant for tower runners. Delaying the onset of pain and fatigue by just a couple of floors could potentially see you clocking PBs at a bunch of towers.

Caffeine isn’t for everyone and it should be used judiciously, because at high doses it can be dangerous. The potential benefits will vary depending on a bunch of other factors, but even if you’re not a coffee fan, it’s probably worth experimenting with it in some form to see if it can work for you.

Research shows the effects peak around one hour after consumption, so make sure you time it before your climb to maximise the benefits.

Peppermint oil

peppermint oil

The evidence on this one is less well established than for caffeine, but results from studies have shown that inhaling peppermint oil prior to exercise, or taking it orally as a supplement, can produce some positive effects on performance.

In a 2013 study, ’12 healthy male students every day consumed one 500 ml bottle of mineral water, containing 0.05 ml peppermint essential oil for ten days.’ The results of a series of exercise tests on a treadmill taken one day before and one day after the supplementation period showed ‘significant increases’ in power output, time to exhaustion and energy output.

Additional studies have examined the ergogenic benefits of peppermint oil when inhaled as a vapor. A 2000 study concluded that there was an ‘association found between administration of peppermint odor during near-maximum treadmill exercise with a reduction in RPE (rate of perceived exertion) and increase in perceived performance.’

A further test, although this one done on rats, showed that the inhalation of peppermint oil ‘powerfully relieved the indicators of exercise-induced fatigue’. There was also a reduction in blood lactate (BLa) and blood urea nitrogen (BUN), which is another sign of reduced fatigue.

Tower runners work at the edge of exhaustion for significant parts of their races. A reduction in the signs of fatigue and the rate of perceived exertion are exactly the sorts of effects they could benefit from.

Yes, you may look a bit odd standing in the lobby before a race, rubbing essential peppermint oil across your top lip and smelling like a sickly child who’s been slathered with Vicks vaporub. But who’ll care when you’ve taken 10+ seconds off your personal best time at the top? Worth a shot, for sure.

Beetroot juice

83fda72a-63617360-1200x630

Beetroots, like many vegetables, are high in nitrates. When ingested, the nitrates in these items go through a set of conversions within the body until they become nitric oxide.

Increased levels of nitric oxide in the body have been shown to increase blood flow, improve lung function, and strengthen muscle contraction.

For example, a test on masters age competitive swimmers found they significantly increased their anaerobic threshold after beet juice supplementation compared to testing without. This means increased oxygen capacity allowed them to swim longer before reaching exercise failure after drinking beet juice.

In another study, ‘competitive cyclists who supplemented with beetroot juice improved their performance by 0.8 percent in a 50-mile test. Significant improvements were observed during the last 10 miles. Both oxygen efficiency and time to exhaustion were greatly improved after beet juice consumption.’

The ideal way to supplement with it is still a bit of an unknown. In some studies, the best results came from drinking beet juice 90-150 minutes before commencing exercise. But other findings suggest supplementing for as long as 15 days in the run up to a race.

Perhaps the best approach is to regularly boost your nitric oxide levels by including nitrate dense foods in your diet, such as celery, rocket, spinach and lettuce. Then you can top up on race day with beet juice.

If beetroot juice is not the one for you, you can up your nitric oxide levels with other supplements. Terry Purcell, one of the top stair climbers in the USA, makes use of the Kiyani Nitro Xtreme supplement which is derived from the noni fruit.

It’s worth keeping in mind that findings from one study indicated that caffeine can interact with beetroot juice and mask its ergogenic benefits. So you’re better off choosing one or the other, instead of doubling up with both before a race.

You may also be interested in:

Advertisements

Suzy Walsham ESBRU

Suzy Walsham is one of the greatest tower runners of all time, so who better to hear from to find out more about the sport of stair climbing?

In this episode of the excellent Everyday Running Legends podcast, Suzy chats with Brodie Sharpe and discusses her journey from an elite track and field career to stair climbing super-stardom.

The episode also covers how she trains for a tower run, the differences between stair running and flat running, and her tips for those looking to start out in the sport.

Click the link below to listen to the full podcast:

Everyday Running Podcast – Reaching the top of the world in tower running with Suzy Walsham

You may also be interested in:

Penang Top Komtar Towerrun 2019

Soh Wai Ching clocked 7:39 to take the win at the Penang Top International Tower Run on Sunday.

The world number two was the only athlete to go under eight minutes, taking victory ahead of Kenya’s Lel Kipchirchir who climbed the Komtar Tower’s 1,377 stairs in 8:17.

Mohd Saddam bin Mohd Pittli, winner of the R U Tough Enough? Southeast Asia competition in 2018, was third in 8:32.

View this post on Instagram

Great Day this morning at Penang Komtar Tower. Strong field on the first @mastowerrunning (Malaysia Towerrunning Association) sanctioned event. We have participants from 🇭🇰🇸🇬🇰🇪 and others who took part in the Tower Run. Overall the event was good but definitely more rooms to improve it. Glad to have a 3 days 2 nights short trip with family to Penang Island. Happy to have 4/8 committee from Malaysia Towerrunning Association to be here today taking part in the race. Well done to my training partner who did well in the race! Congratulations on everyone who completed the race, come back stronger in the next tower run! Keep going and see you all again! Next Sanctioned event will be at Yayasan TM Tower Run on 10th Nov 2019. #TheTopInternationalTowerRun #PenangKomtar #TowerRun #MalaysiaTowerrunningAssociation #MasTowerRunner

A post shared by Soh Wai Ching (@mastowerrunner) on

The win caps a great few weeks for Wai Ching. Last month the Malaysian runner secured second place at the fiercely contested 200-point Ostankino Tower Run in Moscow.

In the women’s division on Sunday it was Michele Tan who came out on top. Tan finished in 10:58, a long way ahead of Stephanie Chong (12:15) in second place.

Pyramidenkogel-Aussichtsturm

Britain’s Sarah Frost took third place at the Pyramidenkogel-Turmlauf in Keutschach, Austria on Friday afternoon.

The British number one reached the top of the distinctive tower’s 441 steps in 2:45.04 to continue her impressive run of form in 2019.

‘It was a better result than I expected, so I am super stoked’, said Frost.

‘There’s still a large gap between myself and the legends of Windisch and Walsham, so I can’t wait to get back to training in London – lots of work to do to catch up.’

Austria’s Veronika Windisch, who set the course record at the inaugural event in 2018, returned to take the narrowest of wins ahead of Australia’s Suzy Walsham.

Windisch clocked a winning time of 2:36.42, while world number one Walsham finished agonizingly close in 2:36.68, to claim second.

Walsham followed the race with a ski jump run-up at the Red Bull 400 event in Planica, Slovenia on Saturday, where she finished fourth overall.

Sarah Frost is set to return to action on home soil at next month’s NSPCC Gherkin Challenge, where she is hotly tipped to break her own course record.

London skyline

This year saw the fewest number of stair climb events in the UK since 2014.

In 2015, a then record 14 stair running events seemed to herald a new era for the sport in the UK. This boom continued for a spell and in 2018 there were 16 pure stair races.

But this year the number of events has dropped off and the looming loss of another big race next year is casting a shadow over the future of tower running in the UK.

What’s the problem? Is it just a blip or is UK tower running in trouble?

Tower running is too London-centric

While it makes sense that the ‘home’ of tower running in the UK should be London – the proliferation of tall buildings is ideal ground for an HQ – it’s a necessity for the growth and promotion of the sport that opportunities are available for people in other parts of the country to take part as well. Unfortunately, these opportunities are disappearing.

In the last six years there have been stair races in Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Leicester, Manchester and Portsmouth (we’re not including stadium stomps in this analysis, but Edinburgh would be included if we were). Planned events for Middlesbrough and Liverpool didn’t quite come to fruition for varying reasons, but for a time the scene outside of London was seemingly healthy and growing.

But in 2019 only Leicester and Manchester have hosted stair races outside of the capital. And, at the time of writing, the Christie Tower Run at Manchester’s Beetham Tower won’t be returning in 2020.

Not only has the sport’s spread throughout the country ceased, it’s fallen apart completely. It’s a massive disappointment.

Fortunately, London should be hosting a good set of stair races for the foreseeable future. But there’s a catch.

Tower running poverty: the reliance on charities

GherkinChallenge_2018-476

Although saddening, it’s no massive surprise that almost all the events that were once run around the country have ground to a halt.

Apart from the Spinnaker Tower-thon event in Portsmouth, every one of those events was put on by a charity. The events teams in those often small organisations are solely focused on getting the maximum return from every event they organise. If for just one year they don’t get the sort of return they expected or needed from the work and investment they put in, they often call time on their venture into stair racing and move onto promoting alternative activities that are more profitable for the charity.

But it’s not just a problem for charities. Even without any charity connection or fundraising minimum, plus a very reasonable entry fee of around £15, the Spinnaker Tower-thon struggled to attract the sorts of numbers needed to make it worth their while to continue hosting it. After a handful of years they called it a day.

Sometimes a charity will ride out a small turnout in the first year or two and dig in to see the event grow and grow. The LOROS Tower Run in Leicester is a brilliant example of this. They’ve been growing year-on-year since they launched in 2015, and hopefully 2020 will be their biggest event yet. They even offer a highly reasonable flat entry fee with no fundraising requirement, which has been very well received by the tower running diehards here in the UK.

But fundraising continues to be a challenge for committed stair climbers. Of the six stair races in London this year (we’ve excluded the multi-event Guy’s Urban Challenge that finishes with a stair climb), only one of them offered a straightforward non-fundraising entry at a reasonable price; the Broadgate Tower Run-Up back in July.

The Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) event at the Walkie Talkie Building, Shelter’s Vertical Rush, the NSPCC Gherkin Challenge and the Rainbow Trust’s Grate48 event at the Leadenhall Building all require, for the most part, a commitment to raise at least £130 for the charity (GOSH are asking for £250).

There are some small exceptions, though. For £149 you can take part in the Gherkin Challenge without having to raise any additional funds – the alternative is to pay £20 entry and fundraise £250.

For most of the regular UK tower runners who tend to pay outright for their events, to save them the hassle of constant fundraising, the self-funded option provides a not insignificant saving of over £120. But paying £149 for a race lasting less than six and a half minutes for most of them isn’t really sustainable, especially if you’re hoping to do multiple races each year.

The race organiser on behalf of the Rainbow Trust’s Grate48 has managed to secure 10 male and 10 female entry fee only places for that event in November, which is fantastic. Everyone else, though, will have to pledge to raise £130 to take part.

Access is everything

"Security staff at the Shard, London."

The fact is, there wouldn’t be a tower running community in the UK if it wasn’t for these charities putting on these events. So there is a deep gratitude there, for sure. It’s highly unlikely anybody would be racing inside the Gherkin, Leadenhall or Tower 42 if it wasn’t for the charity connection. But that’s also the problem.

Vertical Rush and the Gherkin Challenge have each been running for over a decade, but will they run for another decade? If, for whatever reason, these charities decide this means of fundraising isn’t working for them anymore and stop organising the events, the ‘sport’ of tower running in the UK will very likely disappear.

Will any of London’s big towers open up for non-charity affiliated stair climbing events? So far, only Broadgate Tower has done so. Perhaps others will in the future, but its a precarious position to be in for a ‘sport’ whose followers and advocates have ambitious notions of international legitimacy and even Olympic participation.

You simply can’t build a sport on the back of just a handful of venues that could potentially deny participants access at the drop of a hat, with nobody in the tower running community having any say or impact in the decision making process.

Of course this isn’t a problem for the UK only. Tower runners around the world face the same issues, whether its the dominance of charities in the organisation of races or just general issues with access.

Hope for the future?

Hopefully, the fantastic London-based Total Motion Events will continue their excellent work putting on events at Broadgate Tower, regardless. Their Total Motion Towerrunners group has seen a big rise in interest and they’re now hosting training sessions at Broadgate Tower in London two nights a week. The relationship between Total Motion and Broadgate Tower is certainly a cause for much needed optimism.

broadgate-tower39bf77a1f42264a8875eff0000c536f5

London’s Broadgate Tower is host to weekly tower running training sessions

Participation at Vertical Rush, LOROS Tower Run, the Gherkin Challenge is all on the rise, so that’s another positive. But if the number of events held each year continues to fall, the tower running eggs begin to drop into one basket held by the charities, and that’s a problem. If they call time on their respective events, the bottom falls out of it all.

The loss (still to be fully confirmed) of the Christie Tower Run is a blow, but 2020 may yet see the return of other races, such as the popular UpSlideDown event at the ArcelorMittal Orbit in London’s Olympic Park which didn’t run this year. It’s to be seen.

Perhaps as tower running garners increased attention, more race organisers will sit up and explore options for putting on stair climbs at alternative venues. There are certainly enough options in London. Tower running doesn’t just have to function around the high-profile towers – although it would be nice.

People have been running stairs in the capital since at least 1730 and one of the first competitive stair races in London was organised back in 1968. Ideally, with this rich base, the sport would be further along in its development.

Ultimately, towers aren’t purposely built for people to race in, so, in order to take part in their chosen sport, tower runners will always be reliant on people whose main interest isn’t tower running. Benevolent real estate moguls with a diehard passion for stair running aside, that means the power will forever be out of the hands of tower runners.

Tower running could have a bright future in the UK, but unfortunately achieving that doesn’t rest solely with those who have a love for it. And that’s a real tough spot to be in.

Lobodzinski Empire State Run Up 2019

Piotr Lobodzinski is unbeaten so far in 2019 and now appears practically invincible. Is it a problem for tower running or does it add to the excitement of following the sport?

Speaking after winning silver in the 400m final at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, GB athlete Roger Black admitted that he and six of his fellow athletes had been competing for second place. They all knew they stood no chance against the incredible Michael Johnson from the USA, who won the gold medal in a new Olympic record.

Johnson didn’t finish any lower than second in a 400m race from the start of the 1993 season to the Olympic final in 1996 (a total of 37 races). And those second-place finishes were in the heats or semi-finals of major championships where he was likely just doing enough to qualify.

This is just one example of extreme one-sidedness in athletics. Usain Bolt had a 45-race win streak from 2013-2017, which came after his complete dominance at the World and Olympic finals before that period.

Going back a little further, Ed Moses dominated the 400m hurdles for a full decade, amassing a win streak of over 100 races.

Great runners

Moses, Johnson and Bolt all dominated for years

But dominance in the track and field sprint events is a little different. Even when Moses, Johnson and Bolt were winning repeatedly, the margins of victory were quite often small. That’s expected in the 100m and 200m (although Bolt of course had some famously massive wins in those events), but in the 400m races, Johnson and Moses were also often only winning by less than half a second.

That is, their races were still highly competitive…for the most part.

What about tower running?

Two-time tower running world champion Piotr Lobodzinski has been on top of the sport for over five years.

He’s been beaten before – Tomas Celko, Christian Riedl and Mark Bourne have all bested the Polish star over various distances on occasion in recent years.

But this season Lobodzinski seems to have elevated himself to another level that has him out of reach of almost all of his rivals.

Has the competitiveness gone out of men’s tower running at the very top?

Is a sport dominated by one person in danger of becoming boring, or does this display of individual brilliance serve as a welcome inspiration for tower running fans and participants?

Lobodzinski’s season so far

After winning his second Towerrunning World Championship title in 2018, the Polish superstar headed into the 2019 season with confidence high.

He got things underway in February in Dubai, with a perfunctory win at the 1,600-step Vertical Run Almas Tower, where he finished 91 seconds ahead of the second-placed male. High level international competition was largely absent from the event.

Next was the Rondo 1 race in Warsaw, Poland. Back on home turf, Lobdodzinski was expected to be pushed a bit harder on the mid-length course by some of Europe’s top tower runners, and he was.

But he still came out on top relatively unscathed, finishing 14 seconds ahead of runner-up Görge Heimann. Although it may not seem that big a gap to the uninitiated, considering the length of the course – 836 steps – it is fairly significant.

In March, he was back in Paris at La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel to attempt to win the event for the fifth time in a row.

A very serious test was anticipated ahead of this race. Only Mark Bourne was absent from the full list of elite tower runners from around the world in attendance.

At previous editions it had been Germany’s Christian Riedl who had come closest to toppling Lobodzinski. In 2016, less than six seconds separated the pair. In 2017, the margin of difference was just under 10 seconds, while in 2018 it was 15 seconds. Although the gap was growing, it was still manageable, and an improving field of competitors was expected to launch a stiff test.

Lobodzinski La Vertical Tour Eiffel 2019

La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel 2019

But Lobodzinski finished an unbelievable 50 seconds ahead of Jakob Mayer in second to secure a fifth straight title. Conditions on the day were bad, and it clearly impacted the runners, but Lobodzinski was unfazed. Once again he dipped under the eight minute mark, clocking a time very consistent with all his other wins.

It was this performance that made keen observers sit up and really take in how supreme he was becoming. Yes, he had been on top for some time, but this win was different.

Dominating the Vertical World Circuit

With a couple of solid wins at European venues in the bag, Lobodzinski headed to Asia to compete on the Vertical World Circuit.

First up was the 2,919-step Lotte World Tower International Sky Run in Seoul, Korea and a face-off with Australian star Mark Bourne.

Lotte World Tower run up race 2019

Lotte World Tower, Seoul, Korea

Bourne was the record holder at the tower, having set the best time of 15:44 in 2017.

Lobodzinski had beaten Bourne at the 2018 edition in a personal best of 15:53.

At the race on 6th April, Lobodzinski set a new course record of 15:37 – a huge 16 second improvement on his previous fastest time. Bourne himself ran a magnificent race to finish just two seconds behind in 15:39.

A week later the pair went head-to-head again in Milan in another leg of the Vertical World Circuit. The 1,027-step Allianz Tower serving as the venue this time.

At the finish, less than a second separated them. But once again it was Lobodzinski who came out on top, setting a new course record of 5:16 in the process.

Allianz Vertical Run 2019 Lobodzinski win

Lobodzinski celebrates his win in Milan alongside fellow winner Suzy Walsham

Bourne was proving Lobodzinski’s biggest rival. Each time coming so close, but just not getting the breaks.

Two weeks later the Australian had another chance to attempt to beat his rival. The action returned to Asia for the inaugural Vinpearl Luxury Landmark 81 – Race to the Summit in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. 2,383 steps stood between the bottom and the top of the world’s 14th tallest tower.

Bourne and Lobodzinski had been splitting victories for a number of years now in some of the regions tallest towers, so another close contest was anticipated. Especially after the particularly tight race in Seoul.

But once again Lobodzinski pulled out a performance for the ages. His finishing time of 11:35 was a massive 50 seconds faster than Bourne’s.

Pulling away in May

A week later on 5 May it was the Taipei 101 Run Up, where Lobodzinski had won his second world title in 2018.

He completely dominated again. This time running a personal best 10:46. Bourne was once more his nearest rival, but he finished 41 seconds back in 11:27.

A gap was opening up.

Taipei 101 Run Up 2019 Lobodzinski

Piotr Lobodzinski wins the 2019 Taipei 101 Run Up

On 14 May the Empire State Building Run-Up welcomed Lobodzinski. There was no Bourne in attendance, but Soh Wai Ching and Fabio Ruga were there to keep Lobodzinski on his toes.

But in reality they didn’t. Lobodzinski ran one of the fastest times ever at the venue (becoming the second-fastest man ever behind only Paul Crake). He crossed the line in 10:05, a full 1:13 ahead of Wai Ching in second place.

Lobodzinski Empire State Run Up 2019

Lobodzinski crosses the Empire State Building Run-Up finish line in the fifth fastest time ever

Had there been a shift in the dynamics of the competition? Were the other runners competing for second place? It was beginning to appear that way. Three races on the trot and nobody had come even close to challenging Lobodzinski.

At the end of the month he returned to Wroclaw, Poland where he clocked another straightforward win, this time against almost exclusively Polish competition.

A quiet June and July followed, with a break from tower running.

Another level of dominance

On 24 August he returned to action at the 1,704-step Ostankino Tower in Moscow.

Lobodzinski had finished second there in 2018 behind Christian Riedl, trailing the German by just a second.

Riedl was absent this time around, but even if he had been in attendance it probably wouldn’t have mattered anyway. Lobodzinski was on another level and he set a new course record of 9:36, taking 15 seconds off the previous best time.

The perfect season?

So let’s ‘punch the numbers’, so to speak.

  • Ten races
  • Ten wins
  • Four course records (Lotte Tower, Allianz Tower and Ostankino Tower, plus default record at the inaugural race at Vinpearl Luxury Landmark 81)
  • Two additional personal bests (Taipei 101 and Empire State Building)

Lobodzinski has been on top for a number of years now, but this season he is showcasing an unprecedented degree of dominance. It feels like he is now competing on a level all of his own. There may even be more PBs in some of the races, such as Wroclaw, we’re unaware of. It’s unbelievable.

As a fan of the sport it’s exciting to see an athlete at the top of his powers, breaking records and getting closer to marks such as the mythic sub 10-minute ESBRU finish.

Personally, we like to see athletes like Lobodzinski raising the bar, bringing new levels of excellence to the sport and showing what’s achievable. But there’s a limit to how long it can go on for before things start to get a little dull, and we think men’s tower running is fast approaching it.

A key element of the appeal of following elite level sports is the competition. Take that away and what’s left?

To be fair, it’s not 100% clear that Lobodzinski has completely pulled away. But he’s been winning almost everything there is to win for close to five years and his most recent set of performances this year do indicate a shift of some kind.

If he completes the ‘perfect’ season by going unbeaten in 2019, and does so by continuing to clock significant winning margins along the way, it will be hugely impressive, but it might also have a negative impact on the appeal of the sport from the fan’s perspective.

Yes, Mark Bourne was just one or two seconds away from winning a couple of those races earlier in the year, but Lobodzinski has since opened up a gap. Bourne is capable of getting back to winning ways, but if he will or not remains to be seen.

Christian Riedl is off the scene, only dipping in for the occasional race here or there.

Soh Wai Ching and Ryoji Watanabe are making great gains, but they still appear some way off being considered strong enough rivals to topple Lobodzinski.

There are four races left in the Vertical World Circuit where we might get to see Lobodzinski and Bourne go head-to-head again. Other races outside of the VWC will also likely see Lobodzinski face the best in the world.

Will they be able to rein him back in or will we all just be following the Piotr Lobodzinski Show until he calls time on his glittering career?

But let’s be clear. Despite the slightly provocative title of this post, we are massive fans of Showtime Lobodzinski. He is a brilliant ambassador for the sport and we thoroughly enjoy following his stair climbing exploits around the globe. He’s making the most of his powers to reap the rewards and accolades of years of hard work and training, and long may it continue.

We’d love to see him complete a perfect, unbeaten run in 2019, but maybe he could falter at least once in 2020…just to keep things interesting.

Valentina Belotti 2019

Valentina Belotti set a new course record on her way to victory at the Valle Camonica Vertical in Malegno, Italy on Saturday (31 August).

The in-form Italian was untouchable as she climbed the 2,975 steps (with 750m of vertical gain) in a new record of 25:51, taking a massive 1:20 off the previous best time.

The victory made it two wins from two races (plus two course records) in just seven days for the 2009 world mountain running champion.

It followed her stunning victory the weekend before (24th August) at the 1,704-step Ostankino Tower in Moscow. There she set a new course record of 10:54, easily beating a stacked field of international tower runners that included the world number one Suzy Walsham (second in 11:40) and American Cindy Harris (third in 12:46).

ostankino-tower-tour

The Ostankino Tower in Moscow

Belotti has become a dominant force on the emerging Italian outdoor stair climbing scene. Last year she won at the 535 in Condotta event in Moio de’ Calvi, in similarly dominant fashion. She is now taking this form back indoors more consistently now, securing wins and podium places around the world.

It’s somewhat of a renaissance for the mountain running star. A four-time winner at Taipei 101 (2011-2014) with multiple VWC stage wins to her name as well during that period, Belotti was the dominant force on the global tower running scene in the early to mid-2010s.

She focused her athletic endeavours elsewhere for a few years, popping up occasionally for races, but not committing fully to the stair running circuit.

However, in 2018, her second-place finish at the tower running world championship event at Taipei 101 heralded the return of one of the best stair climbers ever.

If Belotti can maintain this type of form throughout the winter and into the World Championship year of 2020, she may prove to be the greatest challenge to the dominance of reigning world champion Walsham.