La verticale de la tour eiffel 2020

The organisers of La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel have announced a massive change to the 2020 edition of the race, due to renovation work at the Eiffel Tower.

Instead of the traditional climb to the top of the 1,665-step tower, the new format looks like this:

  • 1st qualifying round – 131 competitors – 665 steps (to the second level)
  • 2nd qualifying round – 131 competitors – 665 steps
  • Final – 30 competitors (20 men, 10 women) – 665 steps

Qualifying rounds:

These will be held in a time trial format (runners set off every 10 seconds), with starting positions determined by the organisers.

The times from each run will be added together and the 20 men and 10 women with the shortest cumulative times will advance to a final run up to the second level of the tower.

You can see the timings between the two qualifying rounds and the final below. There will be 40 minutes between qualifying rounds and 60 minutes between the final qualifying run and the final.

La verticale de la tour eiffel 2020

The Final:

The final will be held in a pursuit format with the fastest athlete from the qualifying rounds setting off first. The time gap between setting off racers in the final is yet to be announced.

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The news will come as a disappointment to those who had applied with the hope of racing to the top of one of the world’s most iconic towers and the historic home of stair running.

Those who have pre-registered will have received an email with the news and have the option of cancelling their application for a full refund.

The pursuit format of the final could make for an interesting twist, especially if there is live coverage on the night showing the battle. However, the top level participants will be running the 665 steps in under three minutes and on the narrow stair case of the Eiffel Tower, there won’t be much too many opportunities for passing.

It’s unfortunate news, but it could lead to a more exciting event. It also increases the chances of someone other than five-time winners Suzy Walsham and Piotr Lobodzinski winning again.

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Shanghai Tower International Vertical Marathon 2019

Mark Bourne and Valentina Belotti put in showcase performances yesterday to take victory at the Towerrunning Tour Final at Shanghai Tower.

Australian Bourne clocked a PB of 17:33 to take first place in the world’s second-tallest building, finishing ahead of Piotr Lobodzinski (POL) who reached the top of the 3,398-step tower in 17:57.

It was the fourth win from four races in a little over four weeks for the sensational Bourne. With recent wins over Lobodzinski at Shanghai IFC (Oct. 20) and Osaka (Nov. 10), plus victory over world number two Soh Wai Ching at Melbourne’s Eureka Tower, Bourne headed into the race as favourite.

In the first half of the season, Bourne had lost four times on the trot to Lobodzinski, at Lotte World Tower (Seoul), Allianz Tower (Milan), Landmark 81 (Ho Chi Minh city) and Taipei 101.

But the Australian mountain running star stepped away from the stairs for five months, before returning in October to begin a run of dominating performances that culminated in his win yesterday at the biggest race of the year.

MarkBourne Shanghai 2019

 

‘After a busy week and not feeling 100%, I felt quite ordinary during the warm up. Luckily I trusted my training, got into a good rhythm and even managed a PB,’ said Bourne.

China’s Wenbo Zeng took third in 18:15.

Shanghai Tower International Vertical Marathon 2019 top five men:

1. Mark Bourne (AUS) 17:33
2. Piotr Lobodzinski (POL) 17:57
3. Wenbo Zeng (CHN) 18:15
4. Qinhua Liu (CHN) 18:19
5. Wai Ching Soh (MYS) 18:26

Belotti wins super-close battle

Victory for Italy’s Valentina Belotti was a much closer affair. Her winning time of 20:50 was just four seconds ahead of Suzy Walsham (AUS).

The in-form Belotti, who already had a confidence-boosting win over Walsham at Ostankino Tower (Moscow) in August, managed to take 54 seconds off the time she clocked at the Shanghai Tower last year.

Shanghai Tower International Vertical Marathon 2019 top five women:

1. Valentina Belotti (ITA) 20:50
2. Suzy Walsham (AUS) 20:54
3. Muhua Jian (CHN) 21:23
4. Linming Chen (CHN) 22:02
5. Brooke Logan (AUS) 22:28

Suzy Walsham and Piotr Lobodzinski win Towerrunning Tour 2019

Beyond the focus of the head-to-head clashes between Bourne/Lobodzinski and Belotti/Walsham was the business of seeing who would end up top of the Towerrunning World Association rankings for 2019 and secure the title of Towerrunning Tour champion.

The combined total of the top eight results of each athlete throughout the year determine their position in the final TWA rankings.

With 240 points on the table in Shanghai a lot of positions were still up for grabs, in the men’s race in particular.

With her dominance throughout the year, only a complete disaster could have prevented Suzy Walsham taking her ninth title.

In order for the Australian to lose her grip on the trophy, Cindy Harris (USA) would have to win the race, and Walsham would have to finish in 16th place or lower. Given that Walsham hasn’t finished off the podium all year, this was never going to happen.

So, Walsham’s second-place finish was more than enough to see her win the title.

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I’m pretty happy to finish 2nd 🥈today (even though it was a close 4secs from the win and 20sec off my course record from last year) as I achieved my aim of sub-21min. My injury interrupted year means I’ve struggled a bit in the “super towers” (the 100+ floor buildings) and today I felt strong for about 90 floors…but when the race is 119 floors that just wasn’t enough!! * But today’s performance was more than enough to secure my 9th Towerrunning World Tour Championship 🏆 and finish the year with the World #1 ranking. * Big congrats to @markbournerun and @valerun80 for their stellar wins today, and to @towerrunner for securing yet another Towerrunning World title. It was great today to see so much depth in both the men’s and women’s races with 60 elites racing and big congrats to all – it’s one long, tough race. #world1 #worldtitle #worldtour #towerrunning #towerrunningworldtour #9worldtitles #toughrace #verticalrunning #stairrunning #athletelife #friends #nike #nikesg #alpnutrition #alpnutritionsport #chiroworkssg #chiroworksathlete #justdoit #shanghaitowerverticalmarathon #theonlywayisup

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Towerrunning Tour 2019 women’s standings:

1. Suzy Walsham (AUS) 1126
2. Cindy Harris (USA) 850
3. Muhua Jian (CHN) 750

For Piotr Lobodzinski the permutations were a little more pressing.

Having been forced to skip the 120-point race at the Menara TM in Kuala Lumpur in favour of the rescheduled Vertical World Circuit final in Osaka (Nov. 10), Lobodzinski had gifted Soh Wai Ching – who won that Kuala Lumpur race – an excellent opportunity to take the overall title in Shanghai.

If Lobodzinski finished in second as current form suggested he might, Wai Ching needed to finish in fourth to take the 2019 Tour title.

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The calm before the storm! Being flag off at the 2nd last with a 30s gap before the World No. 1 @towerrunner from Poland. The main objective is not to let him overtake me, and aim to overtake @alexistrujillo_atl from Mexico, where he started 30s in front of me. Started at a 113 bpm, maintain the whole journey comfortably and I knew I can hold this pace for a super long journey. Decided to speed up at some point of time as I found out the landing part took me 3 steps instead of 2 steps from what I forecasted or predicted based on the floor plan I have. You will never know whether the floor plan you have are actually the exactly correct one. So you have to always subject to variable change and adapting from time to time, react and respond fast when you see an odd number of steps in the flight, hop on triple steps so that you can save a beat, which in long term wise will lead to a big gain in time. It was a tough challenge and I started to love this course and understand more of it after 2nd time of running it. I will definitely be back next year to revenge for a sub 18 at least! Thanks everyone for the support! More stories up next. Thanks once again. #MasTowerRunner #MalaysiaTowerRunningAssociation

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Alternative finishing positions could have let Alexis Trujillo (MEX) and Görge Heimann (GER) sneak in for the overall title, too. There was a lot on the line.

But Wai Ching’s 18:26 finish was only good enough for fifth place, a mere seven seconds separating him from Qinhua Liu in fourth.

Lobodzinski’s second-place finish, then, was enough to secure him his sixth Towerrunning Tour title. Just 10 points separated the top two at the end of the season.

Towerrunning Tour 2019 men’s standings:

1. Piotr Lobodzinski (POL) 964
2. Wai Ching Soh (MYS) 954
3. Alexis Trujillo (MEX) 864

Full Shanghai Tower International Vertical Marathon 2019 results

Towerrunning UK 2019

From super-close battles between the UK’s best to record-breaking runs from international visitors, the 2019 UK tower running season has been an eventful one.

We reflect on the highlights from this year’s home races and consider what we can look forward to in 2020.

Sims still winning

The season got underway back on the 24th of February at The Christie’s Tower Run in Manchester.

UK veteran Mark Sims went head-to-head with David Harris for bragging rights at the 798-step Beetham Tower.

Having finished second at the event in 2017 and 2018, the Liverpool-based Sims was eager to finally make it to the top of the podium at the third attempt.

He took the first win of the year with a time of 4:29. Harris was mere seconds behind, clocking a massive PB to finish in 4:33.

The Christie Tower Run 2019 Mark Sims winner

In the women’s division, Spanish runner Marta Cosp set an event record with a winning time of 5:36. Cosp was followed by the previous event record holder Sonja Shakespeare in 5:55, while Elaine Battson was third in 6:03.

Unfortunately, we were to see no more of Cosp for the rest of the year. Another athlete with great potential lost to other disciplines because of a lack of tower running opportunities outside of London.

Laurence Ball makes his debut

One of the highlights of this season has undoubtedly been the emergence of Laurence Ball as a fantastic new tower running talent.

He made his debut on 2 March at the Great Ormond Street Hospital Stair Climb in London’s Walkie Talkie Building.

walkie_talkie_building_01

His 4:19 finish was the quickest on the day. Just a week after taking second in Manchester, David Harris was back in action, but had to settle for silver once again. This time the margin to top spot was just two seconds, as he crossed the line in 4:21.

laurence ball GOSH 2019

David Harris, Laurence Ball and Jamie Hall

In the women’s division, the UK’s top stair climber Sarah Frost got her season underway with a blistering sub five-minute finish that earned her first woman and fourth overall.

Sims vs Harris battle it out in Leicester
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St George’s Tower Leicester, venue for the Loros Tower Climb

It’s an unfortunate tradition of late that the bulk of the races in the sparsely-filled UK tower running calendar are crammed into February and March. So just two weeks after the season kicked off, we were already onto our third race.

A week after London’s first event of 2019, the action headed north to Leicester for the Loros Tower Climb (Mar.9).

Winner of the event in 2016 and 2017, Mark Sims had been narrowly beaten by Elliot Slaughter in 2018. With Slaughter absent from the line up (and disappointingly absent for the whole season), the race was expected to be a two-man battle between Sims and David Harris.

It took Sims two runs before he managed to clock a faster time than Harris, who had gone out in front with an excellent time of 1:33.26.

On Sims’ second climb he pulled out a PB to finish in 1:31.96 and take his second victory of the year.

Sarah Frost was also in Leicester. She smashed her own course record by almost six seconds, reaching the top of the 351 steps in 1:43.82.

Sarah Frost Loros Tower Run 2019

Sarah Frost sets off on her record breaking run in Leicester

Soh Wai Ching in London for Vertical Rush

Vertical Rush at Tower 42 is the flagship event of UK tower running and since 2009 it has played host to some of the world’s very best stair climbers.

Less than a week after the Loros Tower Run, all eyes were on the 932-step tower for the most popular race of the year (Mar. 14).

The world number two, Soh Wai Ching from Malaysia, was in attendance following his race at the Eiffel Tower the day before. So too was fellow elite runner, Michal Kovac.

Wai Ching took top spot in 4:17, followed by Kovac in 4:28.

Soh Wai-Ching Vertical Rush 2019

Soh Wait Ching – Vertical Rush 2019 winner

Rising star Mark Howard got his season off to a brilliant start, taking third in 4:48 – just a second ahead of Laurence Ball.

This race marked the first clash between Howard and Ball, which has been another highlight of the season.

In the women’s division, Susie Drinkwater defended the title she’d won on her tower running debut in 2018. She clocked a 30-second PB, to finish in 5:41.

Despite all the brilliant performances from emerging UK talent, there was the slightly depressing fact that over the course of less than three weeks, half of the big UK stair races in the 2019 calendar had already been run.

Vertical World Circuit in London

The London leg of the Vertical World Circuit (VWC) was held on 20 July at Broadgate Tower.

A solid contingent of top internationals were in the capital looking to secure points at the sixth event in the 10-race VWC series.

In the men’s division, Ryoji Watanabe from Japan was the biggest name on the start line. But Omar Bekkali, Takaaki Koyama, Mickael Pourcelot were also expected to feature among the top finishers.

Laurence Ball and Mark Howard were leading the charge for the UK.

In a massively fast race, which saw 16 men run under five minutes, the previous course record of 3:58 was smashed by Watanabe, who reached the top of the 877 steps in 3:41.

In the women’s division, Sarah Frost continued her excellent run of form to obliterate her own course record. She crossed the line in 4:40, a massive 24 seconds faster than her previous best time.

Four other women also ran under the previous record of 5:04, including the constantly improving Susie Drinkwater

All things being well, the Vertical World Circuit will return to Broadgate Tower in summer 2020. It’s a fantastic opportunity (the only one really) for UK runners to compete against top stair climbers from around the world on home soil.

Issues at the Gherkin

The 10th edition of the NSPCC Gherkin Challenge (Oct. 27) saw some controversy over the timing of the event. With live updates at the finish being cut on the day, runners were left in the dark about exactly how they’d got on.

When the results eventually went online the next day, there were big discrepancies between some of the times runners had clocked themselves doing and what their official listed time was.

After a bit of chopping and changing on the leaderboard by the timing company, the final standings showed that debutant Tommy Bryant had won the 2019 NSPCC Gherkin Challenge.

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Tommy Bryant – winner of the NSPCC Gherkin Challenge 2019

It was great to see David Harris back on the podium again after recovering from back surgery earlier in the year.

In the women’s division, Jasmine Van Niekerk, also making her tower running debut, took the win.

Hopefully we’ll see Bryant and Van Niekerk back on the stairs in 2020.

Ball and Howard battle at Leadenhall

The ‘final’ race of the season took place earlier this month (Nov. 7) at the Leadenhall Building (there’s another race on Nov. 27 at 1 Churchill Place aka Barclay’s Tower in the Docklands, but it’s only open to Barclay’s employees).

A much-anticipated end-of-season showdown between Laurence Ball and Mark Howard was the focus of the event.

The course record of 6:56, set by Howard in 2018, was expected to fall – but who was going to break it?

In a lightning-fast race, both men ran under that time, but it was Ball who set the new course record.

He climbed the 1,258 steps in 6:30, with Howard finishing slightly slower in 6:36.

Laurence Ball Mark Howard Grate48 2019

Laurence Ball and Mark Howard

It was a wonderful high to finish the season off on. A course record, a cherry on top of Ball’s amazing debut season and another exciting chapter in the Ball vs Howard rivalry we hope will continue across many more races for seasons to come.

In the women’s division, newcomer Nicola Henderson secured her first tower running victory. Building on her sixth place finish at the stacked Broadgate Tower Run Up in July, she ran a solid 8:33 at Leadenhall.

Nicola Henderson towerrunning

Henderson is another one to keep an eye on next year.

Looking forward to 2020

There are definitely things to be excited about as we head towards 2020.

Sarah Frost’s big push into international races this year was one of the best parts of 2019. She has been out as far as Japan to race and it’s fantastic to see a UK tower runner routinely making the top five in highly competitive international events. She only narrowly missed out on third place overall in the Vertical World Circuit.

The big race experience she’s gained this season will certainly benefit her in 2020, so we look forward to seeing more of Frost flying the flag for UK tower running next year.

Back in August, Laurence Ball put in a great showing at the UFO Vertical Sprint in Bratislava, Slovakia.

ufo vertical sprint 2019

In the three-run format, he managed to finish sixth in among far more experienced tower runners.

Hopefully he, and Mark Howard, will head out to more international races in 2020 to fly the flag for the UK.

The World Championship race at Taipei 101 in May would be a perfect place for all three of those to showcase their talents against the world’s best.

International athletes in London

The anticipated return of the Vertical World Circuit to London in July 2020 at Broadgate Tower is another thing to look forward to.

With Vertical Rush once again the day after La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel, we might get to see some international stars in London in March.

But, we’re almost guaranteed to see a big group of them at the Broadgate Tower Run Up in July. With international racers almost never attending UK events anymore, having a decent bunch in attendance at at least one event is definitely a good thing.

Declining fortunes?

Earlier in the year we asked, does UK tower running have a future?

We’ve seen above that there’s plenty to be optimistic about in the UK tower running community. But there are problems, and how much impact some of those may have down the road remains to be seen.

First off, the Christie’s Tower Run in Manchester won’t be returning in 2020. That was one of only two races outside of the capital this year and its absence from next year’s calendar means people in the north of the country will have to travel down to Leicester or London if they want to race. Just as the sport looked to be genuinely expanding around the country, it’s now reversed that healthy position and appears to be shrinking.

Right now there are only five events confirmed for 2020 in our race calendar. At least a couple more will follow on – NSPCC Gherkin Challenge and probably Grate48 again – but it’s not exactly indicative of a growing sport when you only have a handful of opportunities to compete each year.

Two of those five events are scheduled to happen on the same day, and four of them will take place within a two week period from Feb.29 – Mar. 14.

It’s gotten to the point where we’re grateful there are any races at all, but having so many crammed within such a short amount of time is frustrating and disappointing.

There will be four months of inactivity until the Broadgate Tower Run-Up in July and then another long break until the Gherkin Challenge probably happens in October.

But let’s focus on the positives as we head into 2020. Hopefully we’ll see even bigger numbers than ever before at all of the listed events, growing interest in the sport and UK athletes making a mark on the global scene.

Thanks to all the tower runners and race organisers who’ve made the 2019 season a great one.

Eureka Tower stair climb 2019

Mark Bourne remains undefeated at the Eureka Tower in Melbourne after picking up his eighth win yesterday.

The Canberra man clocked his second fastest time at the tower since his debut in 2011, reaching the top of the 1,958-step building in 7:45.

Eureka Tower has played host to some great battles between the best Australian tower runners of the past decade. Between 2011 and 2017, Bourne went head-to-head with Darren Wilson and Scott McTaggart.

Bourne came out on top in each of those contests, setting the course record of 7:34 back in 2013.

With Wilson and McTaggart absent from the race in 2016 and 2017, Bourne had fairly straightforward, and slower, wins those years, failing to run under eight minutes for the first time since his first race at the building in 2011. He then skipped the 2018 edition.

Yesterday, with world ranked number two, Soh Wai Ching (MYS) behind Bourne on the start line, there was hopeful anticipation for a return to tight and competitive racing in Melbourne.

But Bourne was on another level as he pulled away from the Malaysian, who finished second in 8:58.

bourne and wai ching

Mark Bourne and Soh Wai Ching

It’s the third win in less than a month for the magisterial Bourne, after recently beating world number one Piotr Lobodzinski in Shanghai (Oct. 20) and Osaka (Nov. 10).

After taking more than a four-month break from tower running over the summer months, his return to the stairs in the past four weeks has been nothing short of astounding.

Next weekend he heads back to Shanghai for the TWA Tour Final, where you can expect to see him on the podium. If he wins, whatever the final rankings say, it will be hard to argue that he isn’t the top stair climber in the world right now.

Eureka Tower stair climb 2019 results

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2009 men's start

In 2009, a controversial incident during the start of the ladies race led to one of the greatest comebacks in ESBRU history. In the men’s division, after the anti-climax of 2008, there was a much-anticipated re-run of the showdown between three-time winner Thomas Dold and mountain running star Marco De Gasperi.

If you missed the first installment of this series on the history of the Empire State Building Run-Up covering 1978-1980, you can read it here. Or jump back to 1981-19831984-19871988-19901991-19931994-19971998199920002001200220032004200520062007 or 2008 instead.

Otherwise read on for the next installment in the series and find out what happened at ESBRU in 2009.

The rivalry continues

Just under three weeks after he won his third ESBRU title, Thomas Dold headed for Milan, Italy, for another showdown with Marco De Gasperi on Sunday 24th February 2008. The venue this time was the 710-step Pirelli Tower, which was hosting its second event.

De Gasperi had won the inaugural event at the tower in 2007 in 3:44. After the disappointment of his fall in the lobby of the Empire State Building Run-Up at the start of February, which had denied him a proper shot at Dold, he was eager to mount a challenge against the German on more familiar territory.

But disaster struck again. Two days before the race De Gasperi picked up an injury that ruled him out.

Even though the pre-race favourite was out, Dold certainly wasn’t guaranteed top spot. With mountain running stars such as Fabio Ruga and Alberto Gramegna on the start list, the young German would still have to work extremely hard for his win. And he did.

Dold reached the top in 3:30, setting a new course record and finishing a massive 14 seconds faster than De Gasperi had the year before.

Dold Pirelli 2008 winner

Thomas Dold crosses the line to set a new course record at the Pirelli Tower, Milan, Italy

Back in Germany

The next big race on the calendar for Dold was the SkyRun Berlin at the 770-step Hotel Park Inn at Alexanderplatz on Whit Monday, 12 May 2008.

He was going for his third win in a row at the tower. In 2007 he had beaten training partner Matthias Jahn by just 0.57 seconds, and with Jahn in attendance once more, Dold would need to be at his very best to secure the triple.

It took a record-breaking performance for him to win. He crossed the line in 3:14.2, with Jahn’s finishing time just 1.8 seconds slower.

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The Park Inn Hotel in Berlin

Subida Vertical Gran Hotel Bali

Next up was a trip to Benidorm, Spain to race up the 936-step Gran Hotel Bali on Saturday 17 May. Paul Crake had set the course record of 4:35 there back in 2003, at the first edition of the event, a few months after he set the ESBRU record.

Dold took the win in 4:40, trailed by Ignacio Cardona who finished in 4:58.

Dold Benidorm 2008

Greetings from Benidorm: Thomas Dold celebrates his fourth win from four starts in 2008

Less than a week later, on Friday 22nd May, Dold was home in Germany where he was aiming to secure back-to-back wins at the 850-step Stuttgart TV Tower.

He held off the challenge of Matthias Jahn to make it five wins from five starts in 2008.

Dold Stuttgart Tv Tower 2008

Thomas Dold celebrates his win at the Stuttgart TV Tower

Taipei 101 Run-Up 2008

The first three editions of the Taipei 101 Run-Up had been held in November, but in 2008 the race switched to the summer.

At the 2007 edition, Marco De Gasperi had created a shock when he won the prestigious race in his debut year of tower running. On that day he had beaten Dold by 17 seconds.

On Sunday 17 June 2008, the pair were back in Taiwan to do battle again. After the upset the year before, and then the question marks that lingered after the 2008 ESBRU, Dold was determined to make a statement that he was the best tower runner in the world.

He absolutely blitzed the 2,046-step course, becoming one of the only men to have run it in under 11 minutes. His winning time of 10:53 was a massive 46 seconds faster than De Gasperi’s second-place 11:39.

Taipei 101 Run Up Dold

Dold exits Taipei 101

Taipei 101 Run Up Dold4

Taipei 101 Run Up Dold3

Roar power: Dold cries out after winning Taipei 101 Run-Up 2008

Dold wins Taipei 101 Run Up 2008

Still undefeated after six events, 2008 was shaping up to be Dold’s most successful season to date.

Chasing records in Singapore

After a summer breaking his own world records for running 800m (2:31) and 1,000m (3:20) backwards, Dold returned to the stairs on Sunday 16 November to attempt to break the course record at Swissotel The Stamford in Singapore.

The record there had been set way back in 1989 by Balvinder Singh, who had run up the hotel’s 1,336 steps in 6:55.

Thomas Dold Singapore Vert Marathon 2008

Thomas Dold at the start line of the Swissotel The Stamford Vertical Marathon 2008

Dold managed to do what no one else had been able to in 18 previous editions. He shaved three seconds off Singh’s time, crossing the line on the rooftop finish in 6:52. The win earned him a trip to New York and a spot at the 2009 Empire State Building Run-Up.

The 2008 season had been an absolute triumph. Seven races, seven wins and three course records. Dold was in supreme form.

He would head into the Empire State Building Run-Up 2009 full of confidence. And he would need to be at his best, because the lobby in February would be packed full of talent.

Suzy Walsham: racing as a two-time champion

Also at the Swissotel Vertical Marathon was two-time ESBRU champion Suzy Walsham. Like Dold, she too had been enjoying a successful season up until that point

After securing her second Empire State Building Run-Up title in February, Walsham returned to her adopted home of Singapore and spent the rest of the year competing in road races in Asia.

In June, the Australian athlete took part in the Anlene Orchard Road Mile in central Singapore.

Walsham, who had won the inaugural race in 2007, retained her title with a speedy 4:39 finish.

walsham Orchard Mile winner 2008

Suzy Walsham (third from the left) celebrates winning the 2008 Anlene Orchard Mile

Walsham upped the distance to 10km the following month, as she lined up for the Shape Run in Singapore on Sunday 20 July. She clocked 35:18 to take first place.

On Sunday 10 August, she was in Bali, Indonesia, for another 10km road race. She put in another mammoth performance to set a new PB of 34:11 and take second place.

juara-bali-10-k-putri-k5d31p-prv

Walsham with the rest of the top 5 women at the Bali 10km

In October the action returned to Singapore for the Great Eastern Women 10km event.

Walsham would be up against pre-race favourite Anintha Kiptum of Kenya, who held a 32:12 PB.

Although it was actually a slower race than anticipated, both women pushed themselves to the limit and paid for their exertions at the finish line.

Kiptum finished in 34:55, but collapsed shortly after and was later hospitalised.

Walsham followed 20 seconds later in 35:15, and was also in bad shape.

Walsham stagger

An exhausted Suzy Walsham begins to stagger at the finish line of the Women 10km

Walsham stagger 2

Supported by her partner David and a race official, Walsham is led away to the medical tent

Finishing the season on a high

Walsham was going for her third straight win at the Swissotel Vertical Marathon in November, the event at which she’d made her tower running debut in 2006.

Swissotel Vertical Marathon 2008

She duly came away with another win, reaching the rooftop finish in 8:19. Like Dold, she would now be heading back to New York to defend her title in February, 2009.

Her final race of 2008 was the Singapore Half Marathon on Sunday 7 December. Walsham put in a brilliant run to win in 1:17:42.

walsham singapore half marathon 2008

Suzy Walsham crosses the line to win the 2008 Singapore Half Marathon

The 2008 season had been an excellent display of athletic diversity by Walsham. She typically stayed away from longer distance races, because with her history of stress fractures and calf strains she feared the training volume required would take too heavy a toll. But she had pushed herself into running up to half-marathon distance and been rewarded for her hard work.

Still a relative newcomer to tower running, Walsham had barely focused on the stairs at all throughout the 2008 season. She was obviously in excellent shape, but would she be able to transfer that flat-level speed to the stairwell when she headed back to Manhattan to defend her title?

Empire State Building Run-Up 2009

So, the reigning champions were in New York for the 32nd edition of the ESBRU, but who else was in the building on Tuesday 3 February?

Four-time winner, Cindy Harris (née Moll) was back. She had finished second to Walsham in 2007 and 2008, and would be expected to provide one of the biggest challenges to the Australian.

Harris had been maintaining her stair climbing dominance throughout 2008, continuing her win streaks at the Hustle up the Hancock (where she set a new course record) and Sears Tower stair climbs in Chicago.

Just under two weeks before the ESBRU, she retained her title at the Bop to the Top event in her hometown of Indianapolis.

A couple of other former ESBRU champions were also in attendance.

The 1995 champion, Michelle Blessing, was in the building.

Michelle Blessing 2009 ESBRU

1995 winner Michelle Blessing at the 2009 ESBRU

So too was three-time winner Nina Kuscsik (1979-1981). Although neither would be in contention for a podium spot, it was good to see the former champions back for another run.

2009 Nina Kuscsik

Three-time winner Nina Kuscsik at the 2009 ESBRU

But three new faces would very likely be in contention for the podium.

In May 2008, Australian Jessamy Hosking had won the Australian Mountain Running Championship. She had placed second in those championships in 2006.

Jessamy Hosking

Jessamy Hosking

Three months later, she won the Sydney Tower Run-Up to earn herself a trip to New York to race at the ESBRU. She had been third there in 2007.

But five weeks before the ESBRU, Hosking had broken a bone in her toe and was unable to walk. She maintained her fitness with work on the bike and in the pool, and headed to New York in pain, but hoping for the best.

Italy’s Daniela Vassalli was another debutant Walsham and Harris would have to look out for.

An accomplished marathoner and mountain runner, Vasalli had recently turned her attention to tower running.

She had been the fastest woman at the Pirelli Tower in Milan back in February 2008, setting a new course record of 4:31.

Daniela Vassalli 2008 ESBRU

Daniela Vassalli

The final dark horse in the lobby was American runner Emily Kindlon. She had won the Run the Rock stair climb at the Rockefeller Center in 2007 and 2008. She would likely be in among the top finishers.

Emily Kindlon 2008

Emily Kindlon (with fellow winner Chris Solarz) at the 2008 Run the Rock

Another Italian, Cristina Bonacina, was also on the start line, as was ESBRU veteran Fiona Bayly.

Funnily, there was an Andrea Myers in the line up. Not sure if she got a shout out by the announcer in the lobby, but if she did it probably put a split-second jolt of shock through some, until they realised it wasn’t three-time champion and course record holder Andrea Mayr hiding at the back.

After her massive winning margin in 2008, Walsham was the obvious favourite. But the new faces added a touch of uncertainty to the proceedings. Overall it looked to have the ingredients for being a tight, competitive race.

As the starter’s claxon went, Walsham’s right foot gave way on the marble floor. Despite stumbling, she managed to stay on her feet, but Harris (and we believe Abby Woods on the far wall) got a jump on her and got out in front.

2009 womens start

Bridget Carlson (#106), Lynda Hubbard (108), Fiona Bayly (black gloves), Suzy Walsham (yellow vest), Daniela Vassalli (head visible above Walsham’s), Emily Kindlon (red vest along the far wall) and Cindy Harris out in front.

Walsham got upright again and drew alongside Daniela Vassalli. Neither was prepared to give an inch and their arms were catching each other as they vied for space.

Harris reached the door first, followed by Woods.

Next came the critical point of the race. With Walsham and Vassalli shoulder to shoulder, and only room for one to go through the door next, something had to give.

Walsham made a move to pass first, but Vassalli was having none of it.

She set her hand on Walsham’s shoulder and as the Australian went to make her pass, Vassalli shoved her hard out to the side. At the speed they were going, Walsham didn’t stand a chance. She lost her balance and smashed face first into the stone door frame, while Vassalli carried on and passed through the door in third place.

2009 ESBRU Walsham pushed

Suzy Walsham hits the deck after being pushed into the door frame by Daniela Vassalli

The following mass of runners ran into and over the prostrate Walsham. Eventually she was hauled to her feet by some of her competitors and bundled onto the stairs.

Walsham, her face already beginning to swell badly from the impact, and her clattered knee causing her serious pain, had a very quick decision to make. Pull out or carry on?

Of course the indomitable two-time champ soldiered on. She was now back in around 30th position, injured and in shock. Could she rein Harris and the other front runners back in before they got to the 86th floor?

Slowly but surely Walsham began to pass the women who had rushed pass her in the lobby.

2009 Cindy Harris

Cindy Harris out in front at the 2009 Empire State Building Run-Up

It took Walsham 50 floors before she caught up with Vassalli, who was chasing Harris and Hosking for top spot.

Revenge is sweet.

She passed the Italian and that was it. She wouldn’t let it slip now.

She powered on and caught up with Harris at around the 65th floor. An incredible show of determination, strength and will had led her to her third straight title.

Walsham crossed the line in 13:27, while Vassalli, who had surged pass Harris and Hosking in the final quarter of the race, finished 13 seconds back in 13:40.

Cindy Harris took third in 13:49 and Jessamy Hosking, with her broken foot, was fourth in 14:00. Emily Kindlon finished fifth in 14:22.

2009 Walsham finish2

2009 Walsham finish

Suzy Walsham wins the 2009 Empire State Building Run-Up

‘I thought, “What should I do? Do I stop or keep going?”‘, Walsham said after the race, holding an ice pack against her damaged knee.

‘I decided, I didn’t come all this way to pull out, so just did the best I could – power up. It was very hard. My knee was in a lot of pain and I was worried about my nose, that it was broken, but the adrenalin kicked in.’

2009 walsham trophy

Bruised but not beaten: a swollen-lipped Suzy Walsham holds up her winner’s trophy

Walsham’s fellow Australian, Jessamy Hosking, had also suffered throughout her climb.

‘I started off and I was in huge pain the whole way just hoping no one would step on my foot. I got to the top and I got 4th place. I was so happy, but so sore at the same time.’

Hosking would later refer to her fourth place finish with a broken foot as her most memorable athletic achievement.

Daniela Vassalli returned to a hero’s welcome in Italy. The athletics media was full of praise for the excellent debut run that got her on the podium. She would go on to win numerous stair races around the world over the following two or three years, including the inaugural NSPCC Gherkin Challenge in London in 2010.

In the immediate aftermath of the race, Walsham’s fall was still being considered an ‘accident’ and there was no mention of an intentional shove from Vassalli.

Daniela Vassalli 2008 ESBRU 2

Daniela Vassalli – second place at the 2009 ESBRU

But tellingly, Vassalli was never invited back to race at the ESBRU again. Perhaps somebody reviewed the footage or had been in the lobby and seen exactly what happened. *ed. note: pretty sure the race director became aware of the incident and I read that he said explicitly that Vassalli would never be invited to race the ESBRU again, but am currently unable to find the source for that.

The following year, padding was erected around the door frame to try and limit the danger of similar incidents.

Dold goes for a fourth straight win

There was some serious talent in the men’s division at the 2009 ESBRU.

Matthias Jahn, Dold’s training partner, was back. He’d finished second in 2007 and third in 2008. Could he go one better this year?

Matthias Jahn 2008 towerrunner

Matthias Jahn training in Franfurt in May, 2008

Also returning was American trail runner Rickey Gates. He had also been on the podium in 2007 and 2008, alternating positions with Jahn, while Dold took top honours.

It had been a mixed 12 months for Gates since his second place finish at the 2008 Run-Up.

A couple of weeks after the ESBRU he’d won the Run the Register stair race in Denver, Colorado.

Later in 2008 he had won trail and mountain races at home and abroad, and had placed an excellent 12th at the World Mountain Running Championships in September. But he had failed to defend the USA Trail Running Championships (10km) title he’d won in 2007, finishing in 17th place at the 2008 edition.

Rickey Gates 2008

Rickey Gates wins the 2008 Grintovec mountain race in Slovenia

Gates’ fellow Americans, Tim Donahue, Dan Casper, Eric Blake and David Tromp, were also in the lobby. They would all be hoping to make it into the top ten.

Dan Casper was a decorated track and road cyclist (as well as a fireman) who had finished in ninth place on his ESBRU debut in 2008.

Eric Blake, who was making his debut, was a mountain runner and marathoner. He had taken part in the 2004 US Olympic trials for the marathon and had also been part of the US team that took part in the World Mountain Running Championships in 2004-2006 and 2008.

In July, 2008, he had won the US Mountain Running Championship. He would be one to watch out for.

Eric Blake 2008 US champion

Eric Blake crosses the line to win the 2008 US Mountain Running Championship

Although Marco De Gasperi had been soundly beaten by Thomas Dold at the Taipei 101 Run-Up back in June 2008, the rest of his season had gone pretty well. He finished third at the European Mountain Running Championships in July and then eighth at the World Championships in September.

After the disappointment of the 2008 Run-Up, when he fell in the lobby and had to battle his way back from around 50th place to make it into the top 10, De Gasperi was hoping for much better luck this time around. All eyes were on him.

His Italian mountain running team mate, Emanuele Manzi, was on the start line as well.

Germany’s Christian Riedl, just starting out on his tower running journey, was making his ESBRU debut.

Javier Santiago from Mexico was back for the second time, looking to improve on the 16th place he’d earned in 2008.

Poland’s Tomasz Klisz was back for the sixth-straight time.

Other names that will be well familiar to many American stair climbers were also in attendance: Henry Wigglesworth, Paul Curley, Jeff Dinkin, Bruce Yang, Syd Arak, James Harris and Stephen Marsalese, to name a few.

From Australia, Scott McTaggart was back. In August 2008, he had won his third straight Sydney Tower Run-Up title, earning himself a trip to the ESBRU.

He’d also won his fourth straight Australian Mountain Running crown a few months before, so was in fantastic shape.

He had made a brilliant debut in New York the year before, finishing fourth. Could he get on the podium this time around?

1980 and 1982 ESBRU winner, Jim Ochse, was also in the building that morning, although not in the elite wave. He had taken part in the preliminary wave that ran at 9am (90 minutes before the elite women set off), with his 16:18 finish earning him 11th place there.

A lesson in the perfect ESBRU start

On the start line, Marco De Gasperi had sensibly positioned himself right out to the side, to avoid getting tripped by the charging runners behind him. But it meant he pretty much gave up getting through the door first.

To his left was cyclist Dan Casper, who had US mountain runner Eric Blake (bib #2 in the final video at the bottom of the story) just off his left shoulder.

Next along were Matthias Jahn and Thomas Dold. Scott McTaggart (red vest in the final video at the bottom) was on Dold’s left-hand side.

Rickey Gates, Tim Donahue, Duncan Lonsdale (who finished in 17:08 and should have been nowhere near the front) and Paul Curley made up the rest of the front row.

In a comical moment in the final video below (@0:11-0:16), the announcer calls out, ‘From Austria…Rudolf Reitberger’.

Matthias Jahn and Thomas Dold have a WTF? moment as they whip their heads around looking to find the two-time champion. Of course, he wasn’t there. Rudi still got a nice round of applause though.

2009 men's start

Marco De Gasperi (#37), Dan Casper, Matthias Jahn (3), Thomas Dold, Rickey Gates, Tim Donahue (in gloves and visor), Paul Curley

As always, master starter Thomas Dold reached the door first. It’s really interesting to watch the start in slow motion (0.25 playback speed on the final YouTube video at the bottom). Dold looks totally unprepared. He’s standing upright, no forward lean like his rivals and he looks relaxed. All the others are tensely staring straight ahead waiting to hear the claxon.

Dold, instead, is watching the starter (far right of the screen). At 0:22 seconds into the final video you see the starter’s arm going up with the claxon in hand. Watch Dold’s eyes track the hand up to the highest point. He then lets his weight fall forward and is already almost through pushing off his back foot as the claxon sounds.

Compare his footwork with Rickey Gates, two along from him (to the right as you look at it). Dold is almost on his third step before Gates has fully finished his first.

It’s actually masterful, and watching it this way it’s clear why Dold almost invariably made it to the door first in every ESBRU race he won. That, coupled with the spread out arms holding others back, of course.

Is it a truly false start? There’s a lot of twitching going on on the front line – Matthias Jahn also appears to jump the gun. It wouldn’t wash at an IAAF event that’s for sure.

Dold was followed through the door by Dan Casper, Matthias Jahn, Tim Donahue and Marco De Gasperi, in that order.

Just behind them, Rickey Gates had been twisted sideways by passing runners and then his legs had gone from under him. He hit the deck, with Scott McTaggart almost being taken out as well. You can see the incident beginning at 0:24 in the video below (slow it down).

Fortunately for Gates he landed on his backside and just slides along the floor right to the doorway, where he pops back up again. McTaggart did well to not go down, and you can see the mini-pause at the door as McTaggart braces against the following runners to give Gates time to get up properly.

2008 ESBRU mens lobby

Thomas Dold reaches the door first, followed by Dan Casper (#6), Matthias Jahn (3), Tim Donahue (7) and Marco De Gasperi (37). In the centre you can see Rickey Gates (87) turned sideways and heading for the floor.

2009 ESBRU men at door

The fast and frenetic battle for the door at the 2009 Empire State Building Run-Up

By the 20th floor (where we believe the image below was shot), Gates had picked up at least one place as he hunted down Dold and the other front runners.

He’s followed by Scott McTaggart, while Tim Donahue can be seen coming into the picture.

Rickey Gates ESBRU 2009

Rickey Gates, Scott McTaggart and Tim Donahue

Up ahead, Thomas Dold was running the race of his life. Marco De Gasperi was bringing out the very best in him.

At around the 40th floor, Dold caught up with the back end of the women’s wave that had been set off five minutes before the men.

The German, who led from the start, had to weave his way through scores of runners as he chased his fourth title.

Thomas Dold ESBRU 2009

Dold weaves through a crowd during the second half of the race

It’s a shame the organisers didn’t leave 10 minutes between the women’s and men’s wave, because it’s quite possible that given a clear run Dold could have become the second person (after Paul Crake) to have finished in under 10 minutes.

He pulled away from De Gasperi and the chasing Rickey Gates in the final quarter of the race to cross the finish line in 10:07. He had taken a second off the personal best time he set in 2008.

2009 Thomas Dold finish

Thomas Dold 2009 ESBRU finish

Marco De Gasperi finished second in 10:29. Rickey Gates made it back onto the podium for the third year in a row by finishing third in 10:40.

De Gasperi and Dold ESBRU 2009

Marco De Gasperi congratulates Thomas Dold

Thomas Dold 2009 Empire State Building Run Up

‘This is such a special win for me,’ said Dold. ‘You have to train a lot to get a victory like this, and it gets harder every year—lots of guys want it.’

2009 Dold celebrates

Thomas Dold celebrates his fourth ESBRU win

Dold had to fight to hold onto the finish tape he took as a souvenir. In the video below (posted by Javier Santiago who finished in ninth place), you can see Santiago’s finish (he crashes into reporters as Dold is being interviewed) and then you see the doorman trying to yank the finishing tape out of Dold’s hands as he heads back inside.

2009 winners colour

Empire State Building Run-Up 2009 winners – Suzy Walsham and Thomas Dold

This is a really good video from NYRR and has some different angles of the start, plus more in-race footage than the one underneath it. You can see Walsham running at 1:20-1:35, and you can watch Thomas Dold working his way past some of the slower finishing ladies at 1:44-1:52.

This final video is the one that was referenced throughout this piece, i.e. where you can see Dold’s start and Rickey Gates’ fall, etc.

 

2009 Empire State Building Run-Up results

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walsham VWC 2019

Suzy Walsham and Piotr Lobodzinski retained their Vertical World Circuit (VWC) titles yesterday at the grand finale in Osaka, Japan.

It was the eighth straight title for Australia’s Walsham, who first won the series back in 2012, and a sixth title for Piotr Lobodzinski.

The ten-event series has seen close races around the world throughout 2019. Starting in Seoul back in April, runners have since done battle in Milan, Ho Chi Minh City, Paris, New York, London, Beijing, Shanghai and Dubai before the final race on Sunday (Nov. 10) in Osaka.

The 1,610-step Abeno Harukas was the venue for the final event.

Heading into the race, Lobodzinski needed to place at least second to be certain of retaining his title. With a resurgent Mark Bourne (AUS) in the mix, and Ryoji Watanabe (JPN) seeking his first VWC title it was not an easy situation for the Polish world champion.

But in the end he did enough. Mark Bourne took the win with a new course record of 8:29 and Lobodzinski followed in 8:43. His second-place finish enough to earn him the overall Vertical World Circuit 2019 crown.

Harukas Skyrun men’s results:

  1. Mark Bourne (AUS) – 8:29
  2. Piotr Lobodzinski (POL) – 8:43
  3. Ryoji Watanabe (JPN) – 9:02
  4. Kato Satoshi (JPN) – 9:19
  5. Liang Liang He (CHN) – 9:41

‘Of course, I wanted to win today, but my shape is not as good as in spring. Mark was better and I had no chance to win the race but the points I collected in the first part of the season were enough to secure my sixth title in a row so I’m very happy and glad to be on top for so long,’ Lobodzinski told reporters after the race.

Eight straight for Walsham

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And then there were 8! 🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆 When I was first crowned Vertical World Circuit champion at the end of the 2012 season, it was my first full successful year after pregnancy and I was excited to see where this newish sport would take me. While I try not to put limits on myself, I still never really expected to still be competing and doing well 8 years later! Despite my advancing years and the body not quite holding up like it used to, I still aim for improvement and I’m still as motivated and determined as ever in my training and racing. It’s not possible to have this kind of success year in, year out without an amazing team behind me. So a big thank you to: – @david_freer for your love, support, guidance, encouragement and for holding the fort at home when I am frequently away racing. – my family, friends and fellow athletes from all over the world who also encourage, support and motivate me. – the companies who help me be the best athlete I can be: @nike @drgarytho @alpnutrition_official @simplyactiveasia – the @verticalworldcircuit for organising the Circuit and supporting the athletes. A special shout out to @sportingrepublic and @dshinhk for managing/directing so many of the races. I’m already excited for 2020! #worldchampion #8times #verticalworldcircuit #vwc19 #nolimits #consistency #motivation #determination #beyourbest #neverstoptrying #nevergiveup #goals #dreams #fitnessmotivation #towerrunning #verticalrunning #justdoit #seeyouinthestairs #theonlywayisup

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In the final of the women’s event, Suzy Walsham only needed to finish in fifth place to be sure of winning an incredible eighth VWC title.

Giving her the title, then, was in part mere formality, as you probably have to go back to 2011 to find the last time the Australian star didn’t finish on the podium at a tower run.

But the race still had to be run and Walsham put in a blistering performance to take the win and finish in 10:18, just four seconds off the course record set by Japan’s Yuri Yoshizumi in 2017.

Harukas Skyrun women’s results:

  1. Suzy Walsham (AUS) – 10:18:
  2. Laura Manninen (FIN) – 11:07
  3. Yuko Tateishi (JPN) – 11:30
  4. Kumi Kinoshita (JPN) – 11:59
  5. Mie Takahashi (JPN) – 12:02

‘I’m thrilled to win here in Osaka at the 2019 Vertical World Circuit final and achieve my eighth straight world title,’ said Walsham. ‘I had a strong run, although I was a little disappointed to just miss the record, but it’s hard to be at your absolute peak for every race. It’s been a great year of racing and I’m already looking forward to VWC 2020!’

2019 Vertical World Circuit final standings:
Men

  1. Piotr Lobodzinski (POL) – 567 points
  2. Mark Bourne (AUS) – 561 points
  3. Ryoji Watanabe (JPN) – 539.5 points
  4. Emanuele Manzi (ITA) – 454 points
  5. Omar Bekkali (BEL) – 420 points

Women

  1. Suzy Walsham (AUS) – 600 points
  2. Laura Manninen (FIN) – 533 points
  3. Yuko Tateishi (JPN) – 461.5 points
  4. Sarah Frost (GBR) – 449.5 points
  5. Cristina Bonacina (ITA) – 359 points

Leadenhall Building Grate48

Laurence Ball set a new course record at the Leadenhall Building in London yesterday (Nov. 7), taking victory at the Grate48 stair climb event.

The emerging star of UK tower running set a new best time of 6:30 at the 1,258-step and 48-floor tower in the City of London.

The previous record of 6:56 had been set by Mark Howard in April, 2018. Howard also managed to go well under that time yesterday, as he clocked 6:36 to take second place. Will Obeney was third in 7:21.

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Congratulations to these two for taking victory at @rainbowtrustcc #Grate48 at The @cheesegraterldn yesterday with @lb_2020 building on his victory at The Walkie Talkie earlier this year, and second at Broadgate Tower, with a win and new course record! (Congrats to @howardhike too for also smashing his own course record to finish second). . Massive congratulations also to @nicolahendersonofficial who recorded her first race victory to cap what has been a remarkable year. . 🏃🏃🔝🔝🙌🙌🧡🧡 . Grate48 closes the Towerrunning season in the UK for 2019, but expecting big things from these two and all @tm_towerrunners in 2020. Rest, recover, go again! . 📸 @lb_2020 . #totalmotiontowerrunners

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It was Ball’s second win of the year, after he finished in top spot at the Walkie Talkie building back in March. He also managed fourth place at Vertical Rush, and second at the stacked Broadgate Tower Run-Up in July.

Given that this was the final UK race of 2019, it was a fitting end to what has been a stellar debut year for the UK athlete.

The growing rivalry between Mark Howard and Laurence Ball is definitely the most exciting development in UK tower running right now. Expect more close-run battles and new course records in 2020.

You can find the full Grate48 2019 standings in our results hub.