Susie Drinkwater took the win at Shelter’s Vertical Rush in London, in her debut tower race.

The all-round endurance athlete transitioned seamlessly into stair running, taking victory in a time of 6.11.

She saw off fellow Briton, and tower running rising star, Sarah Frost (6.12), with Italy’s Cristina Bonacina third (6.35).

‘I had absolutely no idea I would win. I was really chuffed with my time, but I hoped for maybe top 10 female in my dreams’, Drinkwater told Tower Running UK.

‘I found the race incredibly hard from the outset. The only thing I can compare it to is a VO2 max test…I felt ill for a good hour afterwards.’


Warrior’s war paint: victorious Susie Drinkwater at the top of Tower 42, the seventh tallest building in the UK.

Her background in cycling, triathlon and ultra-running obviously gave her a strong base to launch an attack on the leaderboard when she set off in the 10am wave, but she told Tower Running UK she had no idea about pacing or technique.

‘I genuinely had no idea of time or pacing, but had an idea from training I could go near 6.30. I’ve never run up a skyscraper before. I had no idea of technique, I just went for it.’

‘I only trained on a stairclimber – the stair-mill kind – about once a week. I always use it completely hands free and do intervals on it. I started using it at the gym to practice for a hilly ultra last year, and with no real big hills nearby I thought it was a good substitute. But training on it was so much harder than anything I’d done so I kept it up, and when I saw this race it looked like a real challenge, which I love. I will definitely do more.’

She combined this weekly session of stair-mill intervals with yoga, running, cycling and additional strength training, as she prepares for other events this year.

It’s interesting to see what can be achieved without training on actual stairs. We know that the top-level men and women have high-volume training schedules away from the stairs. Piotr Lobodzinski, for example, puts in a massive weekly running mileage alongside his stairwell sessions. But they almost all still work in sessions on the stairs, if only to work on technique.

But Drinkwater’s winning performance suggests you don’t need access to stairs at all to do well in the sport.

Her time and win were all the more impressive given she was caught up in a congested stairwell during her run.

‘I thought I was at the front of my wave when we went out to start for the warm up, but then we turned round and I ended up in the middle, which I took as a lesson for next time because I went out hard but found it really congested for a few floors at about level 15 where I had to walk.’

With plans to race again at some point, Drinkwater is undoubtedly one to keep an eye on for the future. Given this debut showing, she clearly has the potential to challenge some of the top ladies in the world.

Manzi takes overall win at Shelter’s Vertical Rush 2018
Manzi VR


In the men’s division it was Italian mountain-runner and elite stair climber Emanuele Manzi who raced to victory in a blistering time of 4.38.

With the bulk of Europe’s top racers in Paris for La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel, and Vertical Rush no longer on the Vertical World Circuit tour, there was a dearth of elite level competition in attendance. The race was Manzi’s to lose.

His closest competition was expected to come from the British pair of Mark Sims and Elliot Slaughter, who had gone head-to-head in Leicester the weekend before.

Setting off in the 8am wave, in what was only his third stair race, Slaughter set an impressive benchmark of 5.01. This was a huge 10 second improvement on the time he clocked in his debut race at Vertical Rush 2017.

Manzi and Sims both set off in the 11am wave, and it was the Italian who pushed the pace. He reached the top of the 932 steps in 4.38, slightly slower than the time he ran last year.

Sims, who had actually finished ahead of Manzi at Vertical Rush in 2016, failed to dip under the five-minute mark for the first time since 2012. However, his finishing time of 5.00 was enough to push Slaughter back into third place.

Vertical Rush 2018 results

The full results are available here.

A selection of photos from the day can be viewed on the Shelter Facebook page.

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Elliot Slaughter and Sarah Frost took the overall victories at the LOROS Tower Run at St George’s Tower on Saturday, and smashed the men’s and women’s course records in the process.

It was the third edition of the LOROS Tower Run, and fast times were expected at the 351-step sprint event in Leicester city centre, which welcomed close to 400 runners.

LOROS Tower Run 2018


In only his second stair race, Kent athlete Slaughter held off a strong challenge from last year’s event winner, and previous record holder, Mark Sims to take the win in a new record time of 1.27.9.

Sims, who was previously undefeated at the venue, finished just behind in a time of 1.32.3. David Harris, coming off the back of two wins last weekend, ran Sims close and finished third in 1:35.6.

In the ladies division it was race favourite Sarah Frost who took victory ahead of strong competition from Sonja Shakespeare and Chiara Cristoni.

Having set a course record last year at the 530-step Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth, speedster Frost was hotly fancied to chase down the St George’s Tower record. She succeeded in destroying the previous record of 2.06.93 as she finished in 1.49.

Following her was the in-form Shakespeare in 1.51, who also went well under the previous record, while Chiara Cristoni made it three under the previous record as she finished in 2.06.7.

Full results here.

Attention now turns to Thursday’s Vertical Rush event at London’s Tower 42 where Slaughter and Sims will clash again. They’ll be joined by Italy’s Emanuele Manzi, who will be among those pushing for top spot in the absence of other elite European stair climbers who will be racing at the Eiffel Tower that same evening.

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The UK tower running season so far

Posted: March 6, 2018 in News

With four races already run, and another to come this Saturday in Leicester, the 2018 UK tower running season is off to a flying start. We round up all the results so far.

Conquer the Tower 2018 – Action on Hearing Loss,  Broadgate Tower, London

The season kicked off on February 17th at London’s Broadgate Tower. In the absence of top European competition, it was reigning UK tower running champion Mark Sims who was the favourite heading into the event.

But having recently returned following a knee injury, there was anticipation that Sims, who has routinely been the fastest Briton at the venue in recent years, may be ripe for the taking. David Harris was tipped to push him all the way.


Indeed, the pair were the only ones to dip under the coveted sub-five minute mark. Sims took overall victory in 4.36, with Harris second in 4.59. Cameron Collier completed the podium in 5.28.

In the women’s division, the rising star of Sonja Shakespeare showed no sign of fading as she took victory in 5.41. Chiara Cristoni took second in 5.49, with Elaine Battson taking third in 6.17.

The Christie Tower Run 2018 – Beetham Tower, Manchester

The following weekend the action headed north to Manchester. Again Sims was expected to be up among the top finishers, but with the sport growing in popularity the chance of new talent being unearthed increases with every event.


As it happened it was a complete newcomer who took the win. Local-man John Tullo stormed to victory in 4.27, pipping Sims by just five seconds. Jamie Ellis Marsland took third in 4.45. Hopefully Tullo will be seen at other events this year, as he’s an obvious talent that could do well in the sport.

Sonja Shakespeare made it two wins from two 2018 UK races as she reached the top in 5.39, taking an impressive 1.17 off her time last year in the process. The win was all the more impressive considering she has raced a heat and final at the highly competitive Rondo 1 race in Warsaw, Poland the day before.

Last year’s winner Elaine Battson secured second place in 5.59, a 34-second improvement on her PB. Marta Cosp was just behind in 6.04.

GOSH Walkie Talkie Tower Climb (20 Fenchurch Street), London

The action returned to London this past weekend (3rd March), where we saw two races on the same day. The Walkie Talkie Building played host to the first event.

David Harris set himself apart from the competition as he was the only racer to dip under the five minute mark. His speedy finish of 4.53 was more than enough to take victory in the men’s division from James Montgomery in 5.12 and Nishad Manerikar in 5.26.


Sarah Frost, a relative newcomer to the sport but already an established force, raced to victory, and third place overall, in 5.17. The ever-present Sonja Shakespeare had to settle for second place this time around as she finished just slightly behind in 5.22. Chiara Cristoni was third in 5.48.

Step Up: Ellenor’s Tower Run Challenge, Broadgate Tower, London

Just a short time later the action began again up the road at Broadgate Tower, with many stair climbers heading straight from the Walkie Talkie Building to race the double.

Once again it was the impressive Harris who took victory in a PB of 4.55. He held off a strong challenge from Slovakia’s Patrik Schneidgen (5.05) who was returning to action after some time away from the sport. Will Obeney took the final podium spot in 5.25.

Sonja Shakespeare and Sarah Frost went head-to-head once more for honours in the ladies division, and it was Shakespeare who managed to reverse fortunes and take victory in a time of 5.35.

Sarah Frost took second in 5.44, ahead of Elaine Battson who finished in 6.08.

Check out our results page to find links to all the results so far in 2018.

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Tower running is celebrating its 50th anniversary in the UK this year, with the first recorded stair race having taken place in April 1968 at the GPO Tower (now BT Tower).

With the stair racing season about to start, we take a look back to 1968 to find out a bit more about that historic and trailblazing race.

Read on to find out more about the sport’s history in the UK, including who took part in that first race and what the winning time was.

The GPO Tower

The tower had been commissioned by the General Post Office to support microwave aerials carrying telecommunications transmissions from London to the rest of the country.  Work began in June 1961 and was finished in July 1964, at a cost of £2.5 million.


The tower under construction in 1963.

Upon completion the tower became the tallest building in the UK – a title it would hold until the completion of the Natwest Tower (Tower 42) in 1980.

It wasn’t until October 1965 that it would officially open, in a ceremony with then Prime Minister Harold Wilson in attendance.


Prime Minister Harold Wilson officially opening the tower, with former Prime Minister Clement Atlee (seated) and a young Tony Benn watching on.

The first tower race in the UK

The race took place on Thursday 18th April 1968. It was organised by students from nearby University College, London as part of the RAG Committees activities that year. RAG is a longstanding, and still popular, tradition at UK universities, where students engage in a variety of activities, including sports events and sponsored challenges, to raise money for charitable causes.

Unfortunately, there is a limited amount of information to be found about this monumental event in this sport’s history. We did find a couple of short excerpts below when searching through newspaper archives, both of which appear to be based on a GPO press release.

The small piece pictured below featured in the Aberdeen Evening Express on Wednesday 10 April 1968, just over a week before the event.

tower run 68

The next one is taken from the Coventry Evening Telegraph on Friday 12th April 1968.

Coventry evening tel_10 Apr 1968

Details about who was involved at the University of London, and how they managed to organise the event, have proved hard to come by. But we do know an invite/challenge was extended to students at the University of Edinburgh, who tied it in with their own Charities Week initiative up there.

By the time the event finished, the Londoners may well have regretted their choice of competition. Edinburgh sent down a team made up of members of the athletics and cross-country teams. They were among the best athletes in the country at the time.

Earlier in 1968, the University of Edinburgh Hare and Hounds cross-country team had won the British Universities Cross Country title. They had also won the team title at the Scottish National Cross Country Championship, becoming the first and only university team to have done so.

The Edinburgh team that attended that first UK stair climb event was made up of: Hugh Stevenson (high hurdles), Jack MacFie (800m and cross-country), Iain Hathorn (400/800m and cross country), Andy McKean, John Exley and Ken Fyfe (all cross country). Also in attendance was Sheila Duncan, but we were unable to find out what athletic events, if any, she was involved in.

The seven-person Edinburgh team completely dominated the event. The men filled the top six places on the leaderboard, with cross-country athlete and 800m track specialist Jack MacFie taking the overall win, and establishing the course record, in a time of 4.46.

Sheila Duncan took victory as the fastest woman in a time of 7.06. She may well have been the only woman who took part.

Memories of the race

We managed to get in touch with Andy McKean, a first year architecture student at the time, to find out what memories remained of that race 50 years ago. Following the event, Andy went on to win four Scottish Cross Country titles, represented Scotland at international races, and competed in the inaugural World Cross Country Championship in 1973.


Andy McKean in action (image courtesy of

“I think our participation may have been in some way associated with the Edinburgh Charities Week – i.e as a kind of charity stunt. I recall receiving a t-shirt emblazoned with the GPO Tower and a charity name, although I cannot remember which one. It must have been organised rather at the last minute and on a shoe string: we all traveled down by car the night before (fortunately with other friends driving), and back to Edinburgh again overnight the night after; so I was absolutely knackered when we got home!”

For those of you who have raced the BT Tower in recent years, you will recall how narrow the stairwell is. A problem that hindered McKean on the day:

“In truth I was a bit too tall for it, as the space was fairly confined and actually felt quite claustrophobic at times.”

But he recalls the victorious Jack MacFie was well suited to it:

“Yes, Jack was indeed the fastest on the day, and I remember us all reflecting afterwards that he had exactly the right build for the event, slightly stocky (by distance running standards) but sufficiently strong and agile for managing the steps and turns at the stair landings.”

Yes, those pioneers immediately recognised the importance of quick landing turns to success in stair running.

The event organisers managed to run the event again in 1969 and 1970. A bomb at the BT Tower in 1971 is the likely reason it didn’t continue beyond that, as the venue was closed to the public.

Unfortunately, it would be decades before tower running returned to the UK. In the intervening years the sport took off in the USA, with the 1978 Empire State Building Run-Up being their first event, and now the longest continuously running stair climb event.


Suzy Walsham returned to New York City on Wednesday night to secure a record ninth victory in the women’s race at the Empire State Building. In the men’s division, it was Colombia’s Frank Nicolas Carreno, the current world number two, who took the overall win.

Having won the event every year since 2013, Australia’s Walsham was widely tipped to take victory again. However, last year’s runner-up, American Cindy Harris, who has competed at the event over 20 times was expected to push her hard the whole way.

Former top-three finishers Shari Klarfeld and Stephanie Hucko were also expected to be in the mix at the close of play.

With the impressive Harris coming off  back-to-back victories last month at the Dallas Vertical Mile and the Bop to the Top event in Indianapolis, there was anticipation that she could get a lot closer to Walsham than she had in previous attempts.

In 2016 she finished almost three minutes back from the reigning world champion, as she took third place.

Last year she closed the gap significantly, cutting the time between her and Walsham to just over a minute, securing second place in the process.

The veteran Harris, who is a four-time winner at the ESBRU, did not disappoint. Only a mere 20 seconds stood between her and world number one Walsham when the race was finished.

In what was the third slowest finishing time of all her victories, the almost invincible Walsham made it nine in a row, in a winning time of 12.56.

Embed from Getty Images


‘This year was a bit tough for me’ said Walsham. ‘It felt a little bit harder than previous years. I’ve had a bit of an interrupted build-up, so I think it might have been a smile of relief when I crossed the finish line today’.

When asked if she planned to return in 2019 to attempt to claim a record 10th victory, Walsham replied, ‘I’d love to get 10, so yes!’.

Shari Klarfeld took third place in 13.43, cutting an impressive 18 seconds off her 2017 finishing time, and setting a personal record in the process.

ESBRU debutant Carreno secures a straightforward win
Embed from Getty Images


In the absence of any of his fellow top-10 world-ranked stair climbers, Frank Nicolas Carreno was a clear favourite going into the men’s elite event, despite it being his first time racing at the 86-floor building in Midtown Manhattan.

In what turned out to be one of the slowest races in recent history,  he took a comfortable victory in an official time of 10.50. Although it was the slowest winning time since 1989, it was more than enough to secure the win for the young Colombian.

Belgium’s Omar Bekkali took second in 11.53, the only other sub-12 minute finishing time on the night. American veteran Sproule Love secured his fifth ESBRU podium finish in a time of 12.10.

The full race results are available here.

The 2018 UK stair racing season gets under way in just over five weeks, and here are three of the best events we think you should be looking to sign up for in the coming months:

1. The Christie Tower Run



Beetham Tower has 798 steps and is the 11th tallest tower in the UK.

What is it?

This challenging, charity stair climb event returns for a second year, giving runners the chance to climb 798 steps to the top of Beetham Tower, Manchester’s tallest building. Entry is £15, with participants asked to commit to raise £150 sponsorship.

Why should I do it?

Firstly, it’s an excellent cause and charity that deserves support. The Christie charity is one of the largest hospital charities in Europe. It exists to raise funds for all those extra special services that help patients to cope with the impact of cancer on their daily lives.  Donations also contribute towards their cancer research programmes, capital building projects and the purchase of state of the art medical equipment.

Secondly, if you’re in the north of the country you’ll know that stair races are thin on the ground up there. We’ve seen more events popping up outside of London year-on-year, and last year this event heralded the welcome return of stair climbing to the north west. For those north of the Midlands this is a brilliant and easily accessible race to try. For stair climbers in the capital, it’s a welcome chance to escape London and climb one of the other tallest buildings in the UK.

Thirdly, it was a really popular event last year, with climbers universally praising the organisation and atmosphere on the day. It’s definitely not one to be missed.

When is it?

Sunday 25th February at Beetham Tower, 303 Deansgate, Manchester M3 4LQ.

How do I sign up?

The Christie Tower Run registration

2. Step Up: Ellenor’s Tower Climb Challenge


What is it?

A challenging, charity stair climb up the 877-step Broadgate Tower in the City of London.

Why should I do it?

It’s hard to get into one of the big London towers for a race without committing to fundraising a sizeable minimum amount of money for a charity. But this event has no minimum fundraising amount, although fundraising is encouraged to help this brilliant charity that works to support people with a terminal illness, and their families.

Broadgate Tower is one of the big London towers and is a great venue to climb.

It’s also a great chance for those signed up for Vertical Rush on 15th March to make sure they’re in race shape while experimenting with race-day planning and stair climb pacing.

When is it?

Saturday 3rd March at Broadgate Tower, 201 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 3AB.

How do I sign up?

Step Up: Ellenor’s Tower Climb Challenge event details and registration information.

3. LOROS Tower Run


What is it?

A sprint event up the 351-step St George’s Tower in central Leicester.

Why should I do it?

It’s cheap. Just £17 entry with no fundraising commitment, or free entry if you can fundraise £50 or more for LOROS. With most UK races requiring you to raise sponsorship in excess of £100 on top of your entry fee, this friendly and very well-organised event is an absolute bargain.

The 351-step building is one of the the shortest courses in the UK, so is a great introductory climb for those who want to try out stair climbing but are maybe a bit daunted by the challenge of one of the bigger towers.

For more experienced climbers, it’s a rare opportunity to go all out in a sprint and throw off the shackles of pacing that is sometimes so hard to get right during climbs in taller buildings.

It will make a great warm-up race for those doing Vertical Rush for Shelter in London on 15th March.

When is it?

Saturday 10th March at St George’s Tower, 1A St Georges Way, Leicester, LE1 1SH.

How do I sign up?

LOROS Tower Run registration


For a full list of upcoming stair races in the UK check out our 2018 race calendar.

Sonja Shakespeare set a new women’s course record at the NSPCC Gherkin Challenge event in London last Sunday (22 Oct).

One of the rising stars of UK stair climbing, Shakespeare shattered the existing record by over 30 seconds to set a new time of 6.03 and continue her success in 2017.

She was challenged strongly by the in-form Sarah Frost who set off 45 minutes after in a later wave of runners. Frost was coming in to the race off the back of two strong wins at the ArcelorMittal Orbit in September and Spinnaker Tower earlier this month. She also managed to blow past the previous course record, finishing a mere second behind Shakespeare in 6.04.

Sonia Shakespeare towerrunner

Sonja Shakespeare celebrates with Sarah Frost (l) and fellow Total Motion Towerrunners teammate Chiara Cristoni (r)

‘I actually enjoyed the race’ said Shakespeare. ‘I was really quite nervous before, which is normal for me, although I was confident in what I needed to do and stayed completely in control during the climb.’

A relative newcomer to the sport, she has been chopping away at her PBs constantly in 2017, improving from event to event.

‘I’ve been improving, but I’ve also had some really bad races where I completely blew up on the stairs. It’s the most painful thing ever and I’ve learnt from that. I’m learning with each race.’

With the experience of a number of international races already in the bag, Shakespeare is keen to explore her limits and see exactly what she is capable of in the coming months.

Her next event will be the Shanghai Tower International Vertical Marathon on 26th November, where she will compete against a lineup of some of the biggest names in the sport.
Mark Sims wins NSPCC Gherkin Challenge 2017
The Gherkin Challenge was the fourth race in the ongoing UK Championship series. Organised by the charity NSPCC, it attracted over 400 competitors, but the battle for overall winner was really a two-man race as reigning UK champion Mark Sims went head-to-head with David Harris. Sims is one of only a handful of people to have completed The Gherkin in under five minutes and was determined to secure another victory following his win at Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth on 8th October.

Two-time UK champion Sims won in a time of 4.43, taking four seconds off the second-place time he set in 2015. A fast improving Harris, who has set a number of impressive PBs in 2017, took second place in 5.15.

Mark Sims Gherkin Challenge

David Harris and Mark Sims on the podium at the Gherkin Challenge 2017

Focus in the UK now turns to the final race of the 2017 UK Championship next month. The Broadgate Tower Run Up takes place on Saturday 25th November at London’s Broadgate Tower. Not only will it feature a double-climb main event, but it also boasts the first ever vertical mile event in the UK – 12 climbs of the 877-step tower! There’s still plenty of time to sign up to the Broadgate Tower Run Up.

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