Terry Purcell is a legend of the sport and when the Tower Running Hall of Fame is founded, he’ll be first in line to be inducted.

His outstanding contribution to the sport began in 1993 when he took part in his first race at Sydney’s Centrepoint Tower. Encouraged by friend, and fellow Australian, Geoff Case, who had won the Empire State Building Run-Up from 1991-1993, Purcell excelled from the very beginning.

Within two years he had destroyed Case’s record at the Sydney Tower by 24 seconds. In 1998 he won the ESBRU himself, and when he retired from competitive racing in 2011 he had won more elite races than any other climber before him. His record included five wins from five starts at Chicago’s AON Center (plus a long-standing course record that was only broken in February 2017) and nine wins from nine starts at the John Hancock Center (now 875 North Michigan Avenue).

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Terry Purcell winning the ESBRU in 1998.

Purcell came out of retirement in 2017 to race once more at the Hancock Center, and has been active on the US stair climbing scene for the past 18 months. In that time he’s secured wins, podium places and top five finishes in a spread of highly competitive races to take the number one spot at the top of the USA tower running rankings.

This is a cool video showing Terry Purcell MkII on his way to winning the Vertical Mile event at the Reunion Tower in Dallas back in January this year.

But it’s this next excellent video that we really want to bring to your attention. This interview is from around 2009, when Purcell had been racing and winning for 16 years. His knowledge and experience is invaluable and there are lots of useful insights here, ranging from how to pass rivals during a race to how he trains and his mental approach to stair climbing.

 

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The Empire State Building Run Up is the longest continuously running stair climb event in the world, and in 2019 it returns for its 42nd edition.

High on the wish list for probably every stair climber out there, the ESBRU is frustratingly difficult to get into, with some climbers applying year-on-year and failing to get a spot.

It’s traditionally been held in February, but there’s been a change for 2019. Read on to find out when the race is and how to enter.

When is the Empire State Building Run Up (ESBRU) 2019?

The 42nd edition of the Empire State Building Run Up will take place on Tuesday 14th May 2019 in New York, which is a big shift from it’s typical run date of the first week in February.

Like the similarly iconic Eiffel Tower Stair Climb, the event is run at night, with competitors setting off from 8pm, to as late as 10pm in previous editions.

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How to enter the Empire State Building Run Up (ESBRU)?

Entry to the ESBRU is through a lottery system that will be open from Monday 14th January to Sunday 17th February 2019, with successful applicants being notified by email on 20th February. Entry fee, which is taken if you are selected in the lottery, is $125.

There are also charity slots available each year, but the minimum fundraising requirement for these is pretty steep, so you might have to get friends and family to dig deep if you go down that route.

The number of available places has dropped a fair amount recently, so it will be interesting to see how many spots are made available for the 2019 edition.

Empire State Building Run Up 2019 lottery registration

Bookmark the ESBRU 2019 registration page so you can get your entry in from 14th January 2019.

What is the Empire State Building Run Up?

The Empire State Building is the historical home of tower running in the USA. The event was created by Fred Lebow in 1978, who also organised the first New York City marathon back in 1970. Follow the link to read about the first ever ESBRU in 1978.

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The race involves a climb up 1,576 steps (86 floors) to the viewing deck at the top of the building, usually ending outside when the weather permits.

Having been run by the New York Road Runners (NYRR) for years, the ESBRU is now organised by NYC Runs.

The winners list for the ESBRU reads as a who’s who of tower running greats. From Terry Purcell, Cindy Harris and Thomas Dold to Darren Wilson, Christian Riedl, Piotr Lobodzinski and the incredible course record holder Paul Crake, the ESBRU podium has been topped by most of the best athletes to ever climb the stairs to the top of a tower.

Nine-time winner Suzy Walsham is in a league of her own at the venue, although it’s Austria’s Andrea Mayr who holds the women’s course record of 11.23 at the venue, which she set back in 2006.

Walsham ESBRU 2018

Suzy Walsham made it a record nine ESBRU wins when she took victory in 2018

Empire State Building Run Up Records

Fastest times

Paul Crake (AUS) – 9.33  (2003)

Andrea Mayr (AUT) – 11.23 (2006)

Most wins

Suzy Walsham (AUS) – nine

Thomas Dold (GER) – seven

The Christie’s Tower Run returns to Manchester for its third edition on Sunday 24th February 2019 at the city’s 46-floor Beetham Tower.

Standing at 169m, and with 798 steps, Beetham Tower is the tallest UK building outside of London. It played host to competitive races in 2017 and 2018 and you can expect the 2019 edition to be another fantastic one.

Read on to find out more about The Christie’s Tower Run or head straight to the registration page to book your place at what might be one of the only stair climbs in the north of England in 2019.

Beetham Tower

Beetham Tower, Manchester’s tallest building

The Christie’s Manchester stair climb 2019
What is it?

This challenging, charity stair climb event returns for a third year, giving runners the chance to climb 798 steps to the top of Beetham Tower, Manchester’s tallest building.

Sign up before 1st December and entry is just £10 (after that it will be £15), with participants asked to commit to raise £150 sponsorship for the charity.

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 in 2017 the launch of this event heralded the welcome return of stair climbing to the north west of England. 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 and competitive event in 2017 and 2018, with climbers universally praising the organisation and atmosphere on the day. It’s definitely not one to be missed.

When is it?

Sunday 24th February 2019 at Beetham Tower, 303 Deansgate, Manchester M3 4LQ, with waves from 10am to 2pm.

Beetham Tower course record holders

Patrik Schneidgen (SVK) – 4.17  (2017)

Sonja Shakespeare (GBR) – 5.39  (2018)

How do I sign up?

The Christie Tower Run registration

Sarah Frost set a new women’s course record at the NSPCC Gherkin Challenge event in London last Sunday (28 October).

One of the most successful UK stair climbers on the circuit at the moment, Frost shattered the previous record by 30 seconds to set a highly impressive new time of 5.33, which was also enough to earn her third overall.

A relative newcomer to the sport, but already course record holder at London’s Broadgate Tower and Leadenhall Building, plus Portsmouth’s Emirates Spinnaker Tower, Frost was expected to take the win and break the course record, but it wasn’t an easy victory.

Only four seconds separated her from debutant Hannah Rhodes-Patterson, a competitive cyclist from the north-west of England. Former record holder, and last year’s winner, Sonja Shakespeare smashed her previous best by 13 seconds as she finished third in 5.50.

Sarah Frost Gherkin 2018

Sarah Frost (left, #049) in the stairwell ahead of her record-breaking run

David Harris wins NSPCC Gherkin Challenge 2018

Overall victory on the day went to David Harris, who took a massive 27 seconds off his second-place time last year and finished in 4.48. His win continues his long run of impressive UK performances and makes him one of the few people to have gone under five minutes at the iconic London building.

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NSPCC Gherkin Challenge 2018 winner David Harris alongside Sonja Shakespeare

 

To see lots more images of the day’s action check out the NSPCC Events Team photo album on Facebook.

Full Gherkin Challenge 2018 results

Focus in the UK now turns to the Broadgate Tower Run Up later this month on Saturday 24th November. That will serve as the London leg of the Vertical World Circuit 2018, where some of the world’s top stair climbers will be in attendance.

Like us on Facebook for updates on results and upcoming events.

With entries from the inspirational amateur to the expert elite, we run through five of our favourite stair climbing websites.

Considering how long stair climbing  has been around, it’s a bit surprising (and disappointing) that there aren’t more websites full of event news or training tips. But despite the dearth of sites, there are still some great ones out there worth visiting.

Read on to find out the sites we visit for expert stair climbing training tips and in-depth race reports.

5 – Keep It Up David

Since embracing an active lifestyle and healthy eating habits in 2010, David Garcia has managed to turn his life around and lose 160lbs (11 and-a-half stone/72.5kg).

Of course there have been several factors to his impressive transformation, but key among them has been his involvement in the stair running community.

He’s probably the closest thing to a celebrity there is in the tower running community – we certainly felt a little bit star struck when we spotted him in the holding area at the start line of La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel earlier this year. He’s featured on The Ellen Show!!

For the past eight years, David has documented his inspirational journey in a series of excellent blog posts. His first stair climb was in 2012 and he does an easy-to-read and interesting post-race write up of the stair races and running events he takes part in. We’ve been following his blog for five years now and always look forward to new posts.

The posts are always personal, so if you’re just looking for cold hard training tips his site may not be top of your list, but he offers some nice insights from the perspective of a regular climber leaving it all on the stairs at every race.

That said, his STAIR TRAINING 101: Want To Compete In A Stair Race? Here’s What You Need To Know post is a great place for beginners to start.

Visit Keep It Up David

4 – Stair Life

This is a new addition to the community of stair climbing websites. Well-presented and well-written, it’s the work of former journalist and keen stair climber Josh Jackett. It’s focused exclusively on the United States, so unless you live there, or you’re a general fan of the sport who likes to keep up to date with the international stair climbing scene, it might not have what you’re looking for.

Stair Life has race previews of most, if not all, of the upcoming races in the USA calendar. It has a page of stat sheets for lots of the major race venues in America, featuring course records, number of steps and lists of male and female winners from previous years. It even dabbled with a short-lived podcast, which we hope makes a comeback.

In a sport that lacks any serious, constant media attention at all, the efforts of sites like Stair Life don’t go unnoticed. We’re sure the race previews give competitors a little buzz of excitement as they prepare for their upcoming climbs. We’re excited to see how this site develops as the sport grows.

Visit Stair Life

3 – X Gym

PJ Glassey is the founding father of the small corpus of stair climbing training literature worth reading. When we got into stair climbing seriously in 2013, PJ’s X Gym website was the only real source of dedicated knowledge on stair climb-specific training and race-day preparation. It was truly an invaluable resource for a sport where a lot of time can be wasted in trial and error trying to figure out how to race efficiently.

When races at most buildings come around just once a year, minimising errors in pacing and technique is essential so you can make the most of your annual chance. The expert advice on the X Gym site definitely compressed our painful learning phase and if you’re new to the sport it will likely do the same for you.

X Gym’s material is packed full of essential tips for how to approach your stair climb event, how to master landing turns, how to target your legs with tough workouts that will set them up to handle the demands of a long climb, plus lots more. They’ve even got a link to a site that provides a detailed breakdown of the step layout in major US buildings, so racers can pre-plan their strategy ahead of the event (whoever put that site together is another legend).

The fact that it’s almost nine years since he uploaded some of his training videos on to YouTube, and they’re still  probably the best and most informative around, speaks to their quality and unfortunately to the unwillingness of the slow-moving tower running community to produce content. But fortunately that’s beginning to change, as you’ll see in the next entry in our list.

The trajectory of the popularity of tower running is an odd one, though. Five years ago Vice and Adidas did a three-part feature on the sport, with a focus on the scene in Seattle. It showcased Glassey and other well-known names including Kevin Crossman, Shaun Stephens-Whale and Kourtney Dexter as they prepared for and raced the Big Climb in Seattle’s Columbia Center.

You can watch the videos here.

The sport is definitely expanding, as demonstrated by growing participation globally and increased mentions – albeit small ones – in mainstream publications. But right now, despite this growth, the idea of Adidas, Vice or any other big brand/media channel doing anything with tower running seems like a dream. Glassey was at the forefront of the sport when it was at its zenith and the X Gym materials capture that.

The site’s stair running training materials haven’t been updated in a while and Glassey seems to have taken a step back from the sport, but his contribution to the sport is lasting.

Visit the X Gym stair climb training page

2 – Team Stair Climb

Although PJ Glassey’s training tips are thorough and comprehensive, this site probably just edges it for us in terms of usefulness for competitive stair climbers.

The reason is because it draws from the combined experiences of three of the best stair climbers in the USA: Terry Purcell, Eric Leninger and John Osborn. With dozens of wins between them at some of the toughest events in the USA, what these three don’t know about stair climbing isn’t worth knowing. The result is a rich body of knowledge spread over just a few pages in easily digestible nuggets of stair climbing gold.

There are full sections on pacing and technique, plus one page mysteriously titled The Secret, which has eight expert tips designed to help you lop heaps of time off your stair race PBs. They are excellent.

The site isn’t regularly updated with fresh content, but it really has everything you need to begin training and racing in earnest.

Visit Team Stair Climb

1 – Climbing to the Top

This blog by American stair climbing star Alex Workman was always going to be number one, because it was the inspiration for Tower Running UK.

Back in the barren years of the early 2010s, it was the personal blog of Alex Workman (alongside X Gym) that was keeping stair climbers informed with race day tips and training advice.

As his athletic endeavours have expanded to include other disciplines such as rowing, Workman has been largely absent from the stair running scene in 2018, although he’s recently begun racing and blogging again this month. But among his six years of intermittent blog posts are some of the most informative pieces on stair climb training you will find anywhere.

Made up largely of race reviews, his blog is full of expert post-race analysis. Workman takes a scientific approach to stair climbing – he climbs with a metronome to help maintain his pace throughout the race – and each race he competes in undergoes a thorough examination detailing how he felt through each stage of the event.

He has a very readable style and a knack for telling a good story, so you find yourself really drawn into his experiences. We read over 30 posts in one sitting after discovering his blog in 2013.

But Workman’s lasting contribution is in two training blogs he wrote back in 2014. These two in-depth training posts, combined with the technique and pacing information on Team Stair Climb, are all you need to take your stair climbing to a whole new level.

The first is Workman’s gym workout designed to target the muscles needed for fast stair climbing.

Part two details his interval training workouts, which he says ‘focus on increasing anaerobic threshold and VO2 max, which I consider to be the #1 ingredients to stair climbing performance.’

Make those workouts part of your preparation for your next stair race and you are bound to see improvements on your times.

Visit Climbing to the Top

 

This excellent, but unfortunately one-of-its-kind, three-part documentary gives a great insight into the sport of tower running.

It focuses on a group of stair climbers from the Pacific Northwest as they prepare for and race the Big Climb at Seattle’s Columbia Center.

It features well-known names from the stair climbing community, including Canadian superstar Shaun Stephens-Whale, and is definitely worth a watch.

adidas & VICE present: Tower Runners Part 1

adidas & VICE present: Tower Runners Part 2

adidas & VICE present: Tower Runners Part 3

 

La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel is one of the most prestigious stair running events in the world and in 2019 it returns for its fifth edition.

With just 130 entry spots up for grabs, with 40 of those set aside for elite athletes, competition just to take part is fierce. But the Eiffel Tower stair race is one of the best in the world and a joy to take part in. So if you’re free in March and want a challenge it’s well worth applying.

Read on to find out when the race is and how to enter.

When is the Eiffel Tower stair race 2019?

The fifth edition of La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel will take place on Wednesday 13th March 2019 at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.

The event will start at 8pm (local time) with amateur runners setting off first at around 8.15pm. The first athletes in the elite wave will likely set off around 9pm.

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How to enter La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel?

The pre-registration process is now open at verticaltoureiffel.fr where you should find answers to all your questions.

80 places are available for amateur athletes who will be selected via a lottery.

  • In order to be considered for the lottery you have to fulfill some pre-selection criteria, such as proof of participation in a stair race over 700 steps, or completion of a 10km road race in under 50 minutes, within the past two years.

40 places are set aside for elite athletes from stair racing, trail running and road racing, selected by a panel of judges.

  • When you pre-register you are asked to select elite or amateur entry. A panel of judges will select 40 elite runners from those who’ve applied. Those who aren’t selected will go into the lottery for amateur spots.

10 people will be selected by the event organisers as wildcards.

  • In order to be considered for one of these wildcard spots you’ll have to submit a letter explaining why you should get one. Historically they’re reserved for event partners, celebrities, disabled athletes or people who’ve overcome the odds to make it to the event. Even if you don’t think your ‘story’ is compelling enough, it’s still worth submitting a letter anyway, in case you don’t get picked in the lottery. You never know.

It costs €10 to register and if you’re selected you’ll then have to pay an additional €50 to secure your place. You’ll also need to make sure you provide a signed medical certificate to clear you to participate.

Pre-registration closes at 11.59pm on 11 December 2018.

What is the Eiffel Tower stair race?
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Four-time winner Piotr Lobodzinski

The Eiffel Tower is the historical home of tower running. The first recorded tower race in the world took place there in 1905 and another event was held again in 1906.

But stair climbing didn’t return to the tower again until 2015, when the first edition of La Verticale took place.

The modern race involves a climb up 1,665 steps to the third platform of the Eiffel Tower; considerably more than the earliest editions that covered around 730 steps to just the second platform.

The race has had only two winners. Suzy Walsham and Piotr Lobodzinski have both won the event four times in a row. They’ll be back in March to see if they can make it five on the trot.

Sign up now to be in with a chance of joining them.

You might also be interested in finding out when the Empire State Building Run Up 2019 is taking place.