Piotr Lobodzinski and Suzy Walsham took the first victories in the 2018 Vertical World Circuit on Sunday at the Lotte World Tower International Sky Run in Seoul, Korea.

Just a week on from their respective World Championship wins in Taipei, the pair raced up 2,917 steps to the top of the world’s fifth tallest building to kick off the nine-race VWC series.

Lobodzinski extended his unbeaten run in 2018 by holding off the challenge from Australia’s Mark Bourne and Japanese star Riyoji Watanabe.

The Bull of Bielsk Podlaski reached the top of the 550+ metre tower in 15.53, with Bourne behind in 16.16. Watanabe finished in 17.19.

It was Lobodzinski’s 123rd stair climb event, and coincidentally and fittingly the race covered 123 floors.

 

For Walsham it was a more comfortable victory as she finished over a minute faster than her nearest rival en route to setting a new course record of 18.45, two seconds faster than the time she set at the tower’s inaugural race last year.

Korea’s Ji Eun Kim gave the locals something to cheer about as she took second in 19.49.

Alice McNamara from Australia came in third in 20.08. Having missed the World Championship last weekend due to illness, McNamara will surely be extremely happy with taking a hefty 12 seconds off her time from 2017. A great return to competition.

The next stage in the series takes place on Thursday 24th May at Tour First in Paris.

London, which was announced last week as host for the penultimate event in the nine-race series, will be the only other European venue.

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The Vertical World Circuit will return to London on Saturday 24th November with an event at Broadgate Tower in the heart of the City of London.

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Returning for its third edition, the Broadgate Tower Run Up will see some of the very best tower runners in the world race up the building’s 35 floors and 877 steps.

The event takes over from Vertical Rush as the London stage of the multi-race series held at towers across the world. The Broadgate Tower Run Up will be valid for an extra 25% bonus points on the VWC final ranking, a competition that sees the world’s top stair climbers compete for the VWC Champion title and cash prizes.

The other eight races in the series will take place in towers in Korea, France, USA, Philippines, China, Japan and Hong Kong.

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The London event is being organised by Total Motion Events, the leading stair race organiser in the UK.

‘Total Motion are honoured to be hosting the London leg of the prestigious Vertical World Circuit at The Broadgate Tower in November 2018. We look forward to welcoming the world’s top stair climbers to the UK where they will be competing for valuable points in the last 2018 VWC event before the grand final in Hong Kong,’ said Total Motion CEO, Matt Hudson.

Aside from the elite race, the Broadgate Tower Run Up will also have new family categories, with options for one adult plus one child, as well as two adults and two children.

We’ll also see the return of the ¼ Vertical Mile and full Vertical Mile races to the UK. Most stair climbing events consist of one climb to the top however Total Motion are offering the chance to climb Broadgate Tower three times to reach a quarter vertical mile, or 12 times to reach a full vertical mile.

Nobody else offers this in the UK, so if you’re really keen to push yourself out of your comfort zone, and one climb just won’t cut it, then this is definitely the event for you.

With the popularity of stair climbing rising year-on-year, demand is likely to be high for this high-profile event so if you’re considering it, it’s probably best to get your place booked up early.

Registration is now open on the Total Motion Events website and there’s currently a 20% discount on entry fees up until 31st May.

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In her 100th tower running event, Suzy Walsham added the title of World Champion to her long list of achievements on Saturday in Taiwan.

There were no surprises as the Australian won both races in the two-part championship format.

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Suzy Walsham, Tower Running World Champion 2018 (image – Suzy Walsham)

The event began with a climb up the first 35 floors of Taipei 101. Walsham was first into the stairwell and powered up 824 steps in just 4.31. Behind her in the initial standings was the expected competition of Zuzana Krchova (4.53) and Valentina Belotti (5.01).

With Walsham very rarely beaten over longer distances, it seemed like she had the Championship wrapped up with that clear victory in the shorter race. Only a complete disaster in the following full-length race up 91 floors would have prevented her from securing her first world title.

There would be no disaster, though, and amazingly, with only around 90 minutes rest between races, Walsham managed to pull out a PB at Taipei 101 as she stormed up 2,046 steps in 13.01, securing her fourth win at the iconic building in Taiwan.

The absence of 2015 world champion Andrea Mayr and Japanese mountain running star Yuri Yoshizumi from the Championship meant the most significant challenges to Walsham were removed, but in this sort of form the Australian appeared unbeatable anyway.

‘[It’s a] big milestone for me today, it is my 100th stair race,’ said Walsham, ‘I’ve achieved a lot over the years, it’s been an incredible journey, and so i’m thrilled to be here for that 100th race’.

With 100 races in a 12-year stair climbing career, Walsham is a six-time Vertical World Circuit winner, seven-time Towerrunning World Tour winner, nine-time Empire State Building Run-Up winner and is now a worthy and unrivalled World Champion.

Her attention now turns to the Vertical World Series that begins at Lotte Tower in Seoul this coming Sunday. Walsham won there last year and will return there again to seek out another victory and kick off her attempt to retain her Vertical World Circuit title.

Piotr ‘Showtime’ Lobodzinski stormed to victory at Taipei 101 on Saturday to secure his second consecutive tower running world title.

In a dominant performance, the 32-year-old Polish star won both races in the two-part championship format to finish well clear of second-placed rival Christian Riedl.

The championship event began with a ‘sprint’ up the first 35 floors of Taipei 101. Although Lobodzinski was a clear pre-race favourite, it was in this shorter race that he was expected to face his toughest test. But in the end it wasn’t nearly as close as some had anticipated.

Setting off first at just before 7.30am local time, Lobodzinski powered up 824 steps in just 3.39. He was followed into the stairwell by known speedster Frank Carreno, who some had anticipated winning the sprint event.

However, the Colombian athlete, who won the Empire State Building Run Up 2018 back in February, was some way off the blistering pace set by Showtime. Carreno finished in 3.50, with Germany’s Riedl third in 3.55.

Less than 90 minutes later the athletes were back at the start line ready for the second race of the day. This time they would be going up 2,046 stairs to the 91st floor of Taipei 101.

With Lobodzinski undefeated in 2018, and rarely beaten in longer races, he was largely expected to take the win in the longer race. Pre-race speculation had considered the chances of Mark Bourne, one of the only men to have beaten Lobodzinski in a tall tower in recent years, presenting a challenge, but it wasn’t to be.

Lobodzinski reached the 91st floor in 11.11, with Riedl just behind in second (11.15) and Japan’s Riyoji Watanabe in third (11.48). Carreno was fourth in 11.49 and Bourne fifth, just a few hundredths of a second behind the Colombian.

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The top six men at the tower running World Championship 2018: (l-r) Riyoji Watanabe, Christian Riedl, Piotr Lobodzinski, Frank Carreno, Mark Bourne, Gorge Heimann.

With maximum points from both races, Lobodzinski was crowned World Champion. A third-place and second-place finish across both races secured Christian Riedl second place overall, while Frank Carreno did enough in both races to take third place.

With his win in Taipei, Lobodzinski adds a second world title to the one he won in 2015 in Doha.

What next for the Polish superstar? The nine-event Vertical World Circuit (VWC) begins next week in Seoul at the Lotte Tower. Lobodzinski was beaten there last year by Mark Bourne, so will be expected to return to Korea to exact revenge and set himself up on the way to another VWC title. In this sort of form, who would bet against him?

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David Harris says he will ‘enjoy every painful minute’ as he prepares for the World Championship race at Taipei 101 on Saturday.

Harris is in Taipei with fellow Team GB athlete Sonja Shakespeare, with the pair the only British representatives at the championship.

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‘I did the Taipei race last year, so at least know what to expect,’ said Harris, who is hoping to beat his 2017 finishing time of 18 minutes.

‘I’m feeling pretty relaxed and fit. I’ve not done quite as much training as I’d hoped but have stayed injury free and feel in pretty good shape for the race.’

It’s been a solid start to 2018 for Harris. He kicked off the UK race season with a second-place finish at Broadgate Tower, followed quickly by a top-five placing at the competitive Beetham Tower Run in Manchester.

He then pulled off an historic achievement in March, winning two London races just hours apart. The first at the Walkie Talkie Building saw Harris impressively dip under the coveted five-minute mark.

His second victory was at Broadgate Tower, where he set a new PB of 4.55, beating Slovakia’s Patrik Schneidgen in the process.

Having traveled to high-profile races around the world multiple times, including La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel in March, Harris is no stranger to elite-level international competition.

The Briton is all too aware of the vastly different challenge posed by Taipei 101, compared with UK towers.

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David Harris at the finish line of La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel 2018

‘[The Taipei 101 Run Up 2017] was without doubt the toughest stair race I’d done at that point. I definitely went out too fast and remember getting to around floor 30 feeling pretty awful and thinking “I’ve still got 60 odd floors to go!”

‘In terms of goals for this race, my primary aim is to beat my time from 2017. The male field is undoubtedly one of the highest quality fields ever assembled, as you’d expect for a world champs. As such to even get near to the top 30 would be a massive achievement for me. Being familiar with the fabled steepness of the course will hopefully help. The ‘sprint’ race will add a different dynamic, though,’ said Harris.

‘I’ll be giving it my best shot and will be leaving it all in the stairwell. I’m looking forward to the event hugely and aim to enjoy every painful minute!’

Shakespeare ready for ‘a hard race’

Alongside Harris, Sonja Shakespeare has the most international race experience of all UK tower runners, including runs this year at Rondo 1 in Warsaw and the Eiffel Tower.

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And like her GB team mate, she has had an excellent start to the domestic season; two wins, at the Beetham Tower Run in February and the Broadgate Tower in March, plus three second-place finishes at St George’s Tower in Leicester and the Walkie Talkie and Leadenhall Buildings in the City of London.

But the course record-holder for London’s Gherkin Building admits to feeling ‘nervous’ ahead of her World Championship debut. Why?

‘Mainly because I’ve heard how hard this race is. All stair races are hard so it’s difficult to gauge what ‘hard’ is. But when a number of top stair runners tell you ‘it’s a hard race’, I feel I need to respect this one,’ Shakespeare said.

‘As a result my training has stepped up this year ready for this race but the last two weeks I have been focused more on recovery due to an ankle and calf injury.’

‘Today I’m as ready as I can be so I’m really looking forward to the race tomorrow morning. Having a short race first will be a good test of my fitness before the long race.
My individual goal is to make it to the top knowing I’ve given all I have. There is a good quality field racing so I have no expectations of a finishing position, but my finishing time will only be a consequence of my hard work.’

The tower running World Championship starts at 12.30 BST on Saturday at Taipei 101, Taiwan.

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In less than 48 hours time the 2018 tower running world champion will be crowned. Who will it be?

2015 world champion and current world number one Piotr ‘Showtime’ Lobodzinski is the understandable pre-race favourite. In March, the Polish star took victory at La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel, holding off the challenge from most of the same top-level rivals he’ll face in Taipei on Saturday. In fact, Lobodzinski finished a fairly comfortable 15 seconds ahead of second place Christian Riedl in Paris.

The best in the world have been fairly quiet since that talent-stacked race in March. Jakob Mayer, Frank Carreno and Tomas Celko were in Valtellina last month taking on the 2,700-step course there, but Riedl, Bourne and Lobodzinski have kept a fairly low profile as they prepared for this weekend’s championship.

Based solely on recent form, and specifically the result from Paris, picking Lobodzinski to retain his world title appears to be the smart bet. The Pole seems to be in almost unbeatable form.

But taking a look at results going back the last few years, it starts to look a lot less straightforward.

Who can beat Lobodzinski?

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The World Championship format consists of two races. Race one is up 824 steps of Taipei 101 and race two, 90 minutes later, will be a full run of the tower up 91 floors/2,046 steps. Points will be assigned to the top 50 and the person with the most combined points after the two races will be world champion. If points are tied after the two rounds, highest finishing position in race two will determine the overall winner.

With the most prestigious races on the tower running circuit happening at towers with more than 1,500 steps it’s not so easy to find shorter events where the world’s elite have gone head-to-head. But there have been some races that give an indication of how the top male stair climbers fare against each other in shorter races.

The Rondo 1 event in Warsaw, Poland is run over 836-steps/38 floors; very close to the distance of race one at the World Championship. Back in February, Lobodzinski took a fairly comfortable win there, finishing 11 seconds ahead of Germany’s Christian ‘The Eclipse’ Riedl.

But go a bit further back to the Grand Prix of Europe races in Vienna and Brno in September 2017 and Showtime looks a lot more mortal over the shorter distance.

At the 779-step Danube Tower in Vienna, Lobodzinski beat ‘The Zilina Avalanche’ Tomas Celko by just one second. The following day in Brno, Czech Republic, at the 700-step AZ Tower, it was Celko who came out on top, finishing three seconds ahead of Showtime.

Mark Bourne tends not to compete at shorter distances, purely because the towers with races in Australia and Asia are massive. Estimating how he might do over 824 steps is an all-important unknown.

But Lobodzinski can be taken on the short course. Celko and Riedl will be pushing him hard for sure, and he is in no way guaranteed maximum points in that first race. On the long course, his dominance is a bit more established and he is very rarely beaten. But Bourne can beat him over that distance and he has done it several times before.

Bourne vs Lobodzinski: a recent history

These two have clashed multiple times, and the Australian has probably beaten Lobodzinski in the mega-towers more times than any other stair climber on the circuit has managed to do (to be fair, very few have).

In April 2017 the pair faced off at the 1st Lotte World Tower Skyrun in Seoul, Korea. The race at the fifth tallest building in the world goes up 2,917 steps. Bourne kept Lobodzinski in second place there, finishing 14 seconds ahead of him.

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Mark Bourne wins the Lotte World Tower Sky Run 2017

Then in October 2017, Bourne took victory ahead of Showtime when they raced at Two Shanghai IFC in China. That was over 1,958 steps and Bourne won by nine seconds.

Three weeks later they met again at the 1,621-step Harukas Tower in Osaka, Japan, and Lobodzinski exacted revenge on ‘The Canberra Assassin’, finishing 13 seconds ahead.

Two weeks after that, it was Lobodzinski again who took the spoils, this time at the mammoth 3,398-stair Shanghai Tower, the second-tallest building in the world. Bourne was pushed back into third by Christian Riedl.

La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel in March was the last time the pair met. Lobodzinski made it four wins in a row at the iconic Parisian landmark, while Bourne finished in fourth.

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Lobodzinski on his way to winning La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel 2018

So, despite Lobodzinski having the upper hand in their last three races, Bourne has shown on multiple occasions that he is more than a match. He has the ability to win the full-length race on Saturday.

How do they compare at Taipei 101?

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If we go back a little further and compare the two at Taipei 101, we add another potentially significant element to the discussion.

In 2013 Bourne beat Lobodzinski by 20 seconds on his way to setting the third fastest time ever clocked at the tower. Riedl was third.

In 2014, the podium looked exactly the same. This time, though, Lobodzinski had significantly narrowed the gap and was only four seconds behind Bourne.

Bourne was missing from the race in 2015, and Lobodzinski took his first and only win at the venue.

Neither man was there in 2016, and Bourne returned last year to take victory, with Lobodzinski absent.

So, between the two, Bourne has the fastest time at the World Championship venue and the most recent win. This is sure to give him the confidence to look beyond the most recent results between them at other towers.

If Bourne can stay within touching distance of Showtime in the shorter distance race, i.e. no more than one place behind him, then he will put himself in genuine contention for seriously competing for the title in the final race on Saturday morning.

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Italian mountain running legend Valentina Belotti will attempt to add a tower running world championship title to her long list of achievements when she races at Taipei 101 on Saturday.

The in-form Belotti returns to the venue where she won from 2011-2014, with the hopes of mounting a challenge against race favourite Suzy Walsham.

A four-time medallist at the World Mountain Running Championships (one gold and three silver), Belotti’s participation in tower running events has been sporadic in the last four years.

But she returned to winning ways this past weekend, taking victory at the second edition of the 535 in Condotta event in Moio de’ Calvi, Italy.

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Belotti on her way to victory at 535 in Condotta (photo by Demis Milesi)

 

The course is very similar to that at the popular Valtellina Tube event and consists of a continuous staircase, 1.25km long, 2,527 steps straight up, with a 535m height gain.

Belotti finished the race in 20.53, ahead of Nives Carobbio (22.30) and Cecilia Pedroni (22.44).

The course at Moio de’ Calvi has very deep steps and an almost 80% incline at its maximum point, plus a 75% incline for the final 400m. That’s perfect preparation for the notoriously tall steps at Taipei 101.

Belotti is one of only two women to have run Taipei 101 in under 13 minutes. She set her fastest time of 12.54 back in 2013, although she hasn’t competed at the venue since she won in 2014.

But despite her absence from the competitive tower running scene in recent seasons, this performance on a particularly demanding course, plus her extensive experience in Taipei, puts her firmly in the mix for any discussion about who might come out on top at Saturday’s World Championship.

Even with reigning world champion Andrea Mayr out of the championship through injury, it will definitely not be plain sailing for Suzy Walsham. The Australian world number one will have to be at her very best to hold off strong challenges from Belotti, the Czech Republic’s Zuzana Krchova and American Cindy Harris.

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