Burj Khalifa

This story was an April Fools’ Day joke – unfortunately there is no scheduled race at the Burj Khalifa.

The Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, will host a stair race on Wednesday 2 December 2020 to celebrate National Day in the United Arab Emirates.

‘We are excited to announce this event in celebration of 49 years of independence’, announced Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, head of the UAE Ministry of Culture, Youth, and Social Development.

‘We want to deliver something that makes people feel really proud about what we are as a nation, our ability to do these things. And at a time when the world is a pretty difficult place for a lot of people, I think we also know we have a responsibility to try and help lift people’s spirits.’

‘We hope this announcement can give people something to remain optimistic about in the coming months and we look forward to welcoming some of the world’s best athletes to compete at the world’s best tower in December.’

The 828m tall structure in Dubai has long been the dream race venue for tower runners. It’s 2,909 stairs will lead climbers up to the 160th floor.

Full details on the event and registration are yet to be announced.

The Empire State Building Run-Up (ESBRU) was first held in 1978. Since then each race has been packed full of exciting moments, surprises and disappointments.

Here are five of our favourite Empire State Building Run-Up moments. Feel free to share yours in the comments below.

1979: Last to the lobby, first to the top

ESBRU 1979

The second edition of the Empire State Building Run-Up took place at 10:30am on the morning of Thursday 15 February 1979.

At 9:40am the eventual winner was still sitting at the desk in his Manhattan office at 58th Street and Park Avenue, a mile-and-a-half from the Empire State Building.

Financial analyst Jim Rafferty had earned his invite to the ESBRU off the back of some solid road running performances in 1978. He was 25th at the New York Marathon in October and then in December he’d finished fourth in a 30km race organised by the New York Road Runners, the same organisers of the ESBRU.

Rafferty was one of just 20 men and four women that had been invited to the second edition of the new stair running event. But on the morning of the race he was in two minds about taking part. He was due to race in the Boston Marathon in April and was worried about picking up an injury in the unusual and novice event.

With less than an hour before the start, still sitting at his desk, he seemed to have settled on not running. But then he had a sudden change of heart.

‘I was worried about twisting an ankle on the stairs’, he said. ‘But then I thought it’d be a lot of fun. It’s not your everyday competitive event, you know.’

At 9.45am Rafferty asked his boss if he could have a couple of hours off, jumped in a cab and reached the building just before the start. You can see him on the far right in the picture above.

In the race, he took the lead fairly on and held it to the finish line, crossing it in a new record time of 12:19.

Eight weeks later Jim Rafferty set a personal best of 2:18.55 at the Boston Marathon.

Read more about Rafferty’s race at the 1979 ESBRU.

1987: The drive for five – Waquie vs Kenny

1987 Waquie finish

Heading into the 1987 race, Al Waquie already had four ESBRU wins to his name.

Typically he’d have been a firm favourite for a fifth win on the trot. But a knee injury sustained in July 1986 had prevented him from running properly for seven months.

As he and others toed the line in the first of two waves at the 1987 ESBRU, nobody knew what sort of shape Waquie was in.

Alongside him was the emerging stair climbing star from Indianapolis, Joe Kenny, who had won the 1986 Bop to the Top in his home city, plus other stair races in the USA.

Despite getting a good start, Waquie was already struggling by the 20th floor. Kenny passed him at the first crossover and began to pull away, looking set to put an end to Waquie’s winning streak.

But Waquie had different ideas. He powered on, while up ahead Kenny and another climber began to fade. With 14 floors to go, Waquie finally caught up with them and showed them both exactly why he was a four-time champ.

‘He just blasted by me at the 72nd floor’, Joe Kenny said. ‘I think he stayed back at the start and saved his big move for the end. He really knows those stairs’.

Waquie’s gutsy fifth win would be his last at the Empire State Building Run-Up.

Read more on the battle for top spot at the 1987 ESBRU (plus the story of Waquie’s 1984-1986 wins).

2003: One run to rule them all

2003 crake wins

With one eye on a pro cycling career, Paul Crake was ready to call time on his incredible run at the Empire State Building when he got set to race on Tuesday 4 February 2003.

Unbeaten in each of his four appearances at the ESBRU, Crake had become the first man to run the course in under 10 minutes when he clocked 9:53 in 2000. The following year he shocked the stair running world again by winning in 9:37.

But Crake had saved his best for last. His final run at the iconic New York tower was magisterial. He set an untouchable new record of 9:33.

‘To win five years in a row has been fantastic. It’s been a dream run,’ said Crake.

When asked why he kept returning year after year even though the race has no prize money, he responded: ‘It’s for the trophy, the honour and the glory.’

Read more about Crake’s record run in 2003.

2006: Faster, Mayr, Stronger

2006 Mayr wins

Already a two-time winner at the ESBRU, and the only woman to have run the full 86 floor course in under 12 minutes, Andrea Mayr was the firm pre-race favourite at the 2006 event. There was no suggestion that she might be beaten, instead the talk was all about how much faster could she go.

Three months before the ESBRU, Mayr had won the inaugural Taipei 101 Run Up in a time of 12:38 (a record that still stands). She was in outstanding form coming into the race.

The Austrian ran the course virtually unchallenged. She finished in an incredible new course record of 11:23, which was fast enough to place her fifth overall. Her record still stands.

2006 was the last time Mayr ran at the Empire State Building. Seven months later she went on to win her first World Mountain Running Championship title and began another history making run in that athletic discipline.

Read the story of Andrea Mayr’s record breaking ESBRU run in 2006.

2009: The Comeback

2009 ESBRU Walsham pushed

Although in February 2009 Suzy Walsham was a little over two years into her tower running career, she’d already established herself as the one to beat in Manhattan. She was going for her third straight ESBRU.

In 2007 and 2008, Walsham had been joined on the podium by Cindy Harris and Fiona Bayly. Both were once again expected to be among Walsham’s toughest challengers. Debutants Jessamy Hosking (AUS) and Daniela Vassalli (ITA) were also anticipated to be in the mix for the top spots.

When the claxon went off in the lobby, the mass of women dashed headlong for the door.

Running side-by-side towards the entrance to the stairs, Walsham and Vassalli were battling for space.

Nearing the door, it seemed like Walsham was going to pass the Italian, but Vassalli had other ideas. She reached up and shoved the Australian, causing her to lose her balance and smash face first into the stone door frame. You can see Walsham’s falling figure (yellow top) in the picture above.

Bruised and bashed with the front runners now well ahead, Walsham found herself in around 30th place by the time she had got off the floor and onto the stairs.

What followed was one of the defining moments in Walsham’s amazing ESBRU story.

She started picking off runner after runner, slowly pulling in the leaders. By the 50th floor she caught Vassalli. Hosking and Harris were still up ahead.

At the 65th floor Walsham took the lead and then held it all the way to the top. Her knee injured and her face swollen, she crossed the line in obvious pain just 13 seconds ahead of Vassalli who had surged into second place.

That comeback victory in 2009 was the slowest of the 10 ESBRU races Walsham would eventually win, but without doubt it is one of the best.

Read the story of the 2009 Empire State Building Run-Up.

You might also be interested in:

Soh Wai Ching Loros 2020

Last weekend saw the fifth edition of the LOROS Tower Run at St George’s Tower in Leicester.

In an exciting event, Soh Wai Ching set a new course record and Sarah Frost secured her third win in a row.


Soh Wai Ching smashes course record at LOROS Tower Run 2020


Every year the organisers have an excellent photographer on hand capturing all the action on the stairs and around the building.

The photos from this year’s race have just been uploaded and you can find them all through the link below:

LOROS Tower Run 2020 photos

Malaysia’s Soh Wai Ching broke the LOROS Tower Run course record by three seconds at Saturday’s event in Leicester.

Soh powered to the finish in 1:24.8 to eclipse the previous best time of 1:27.9 set by Elliot Slaughter (GBR) in 2018.

View this post on Instagram

Took part in Loros Tower Run 2020. Running almost in the last heat. Completed the first full run up of 20 floors, 351 steps, 64m Elevation Climb with a time of 85 seconds, exactly my target right before the run. Broke the previous course record – 87.9 seconds with exact 85 seconds. Came back down, and decided to go up one more round as I knew I can go faster for it. With about 20 minutes rest, I gave it another shot, and came back with a 84.8 seconds. Broke my previous record by .2 seconds! Great Run! Thanks Organizer for a well organized race, clear the course before my attempt. Down to one final race – Hyde Park Spring 10k Run tomorrow at 9.30am (5.30pm Malaysia Time). #MasTowerRunner #TenagaNasionalBerhad #GreenAcreCapital #MalaysiaAirlines #MMTF #BauerfeindMalaysia #BlackrollMalaysia #MeridianSY #JayBirdSport #BeetItSportMalaysia #RudyProjectMalaysia #Towerrunning #MalaysiaTowerrunningAssociation #AdidasRunners

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

It was the second course record for Soh in the space of a week, following his new best time at the Sibu Tower Run in Malaysia the weekend before.

Poland’s Kacper Mrowiec finished second in 1:29.7, becoming only the third man to have run the 351-step course at St George’s Tower in less than 90 seconds.

Laurence Ball (GBR) was third in 1:31.4.

Soh Wai Ching and Kacper Mrowiec

Soh Wai Ching and Kacper Mrowiec

Frost makes it three in a row on return from injury

Sarah Frost was the fastest woman at the LOROS Tower Run, winning in a time of 1:52.8 to secure her third win in a row at the venue.

It was the first race of the season for Frost following an ankle injury that had her sidelined at the start of the year.

Frost had been due to race at La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel on Wednesday 11 March, but with the postponement of that event she kicked off her season in Leicester.

Although Frost’s time on Saturday was the slowest of her three wins, it was still significantly faster than her rivals.

Kimberley Etherington-Bates was second in 2:28.3 and Sonja Shakespeare took third in 2:38.9.

Full LOROS Tower Run 2020 results

LOROS Tower Run race day photos

You might also be interested in:

LOROS Tower Run 2020

It’s the shortest stair race in the UK, but the LOROS Tower Run is also one of the most exciting. Back on Saturday 14 March 2020 for its fifth edition, all eyes will be on Leicester as top international speedsters get ready to race flat out against some of the UK’s best.

The athletes will face 351 steps at St George’s Tower, and the leading men will have one eye on the course record of 1:27.9 set by Elliot Slaughter in 2018.

Slaughter won’t be in attendance on Saturday and neither will three-time winner (2016-17, 2019) Mark Sims.

That leaves the door wide open for a new champion to be crowned and three men in particular are among those expected to be in close contention for the top spot.

Loros Tower Run1

St George’s Tower, Leicester – venue for the LOROS Tower Run

Kacper Mrowiec – Poland

Mrowiec blew onto the tower running scene a little over a year ago and has already proven himself as a prospect to watch.

Back in early February 2019, the Polish athlete kicked things off at the 593-step Altus Cup race in Katowice, Poland. His 3:11 finish was fast enough to earn him third spot. Mrowiec clearly has good speed on the stairs.

But he really established himself a few weeks later at the highly competitive Rondo 1 race in Warsaw. The 836-step race always attracts top European stair runners.

Kacper Mrowiec towerrunner

Mrowiec took sixth overall, finishing ahead of far more experienced tower runners, including Ralf Hascher, Andreas Fruhmann, Rauno Tiits and Pavel Holec.

He followed this up later in the year with a second-place finish at the 723-step ‘sprint race’ at the Star Challenge in Gdasnk, Poland. Less than a second separated him and the winner, Mateusz Marunowski.

People began to sit up and take notice of the young Pole.

Jump forward to 2020 and Mrowiec already has a win under his belt. He took top spot at the 29-floor Ideal-Hochhaus in Berlin in January.

He’s not long back from a winter training camp in Spain, and since his return to Poland he’s been training on the stairs alongside world number one tower runner Piotr Lobodzinski.

Mrowiec was due to race at Vertical Rush on Thursday (12 March), but with the cancellation of that race he can focus his attention, and completely fresh legs, on the 351 steps of St George’s Tower.

Expect him to put in a very fast time; somewhere close to if not better than the course record, for sure. Will it be enough to win him the race? That’s to be seen.

Henrik Holstad – Norway

The name Henrik Holstad may be unfamiliar to the casual reader, but the Norwegian is a legitimate tower runner who secured a bunch of wins and podium finishes last year.

In Norway he won the 600-step Kollentrappa in May and then in September he finished second at the 303-step Barcode Challenge and second at the KollenOpp.

Henrik Holstad towerrunning

Henrik Holstad (793) on his way to winning the Kollentrappa 2019


The following month he took top spot at the Run Up Berlin, which takes place at the city’s 770-step Park Inn Hotel and has been venue to some great battles over the years between Germany’s top tower runners.

Holstad has demonstrated his complete stair running versatility, giving a good account of himself at various distances and formats. Whether traditional races with landing turns or races straight up the stairs alongside ski jumps, Holstad has proven himself capable of handling it all. But how will he get on in Leicester?

Tower running math isn’t always the most accurate predictor of finishing places, especially at a sprint event like this where the margins between places will be super slim. But having punched the numbers, we’ll be surprised if Holstad takes top spot. A podium place is a reasonable expectation, but first might be out of reach, and the next man on our list is one of the reasons why.

Laurence Ball – Great Britain

Laurence Ball tower running

Like Mrowiec, Laurence Ball is a relative newcomer to tower running, having made his stair race debut a little over 12 months ago.

He won that race and went on to put in some more cracking performances throughout the rest of the year. He was second at the stacked Broadgate Tower Run Up in July and then smashed the course record at the Leadenhall Building in November.

In the summer he showed off his speed at the UFO Vertical Sprint in Bratislava, Slovakia. In the three-run format, he managed to finish sixth in among far more experienced tower runners.

Laurence Ball Mark Howard Grate48 2019

Laurence Ball (left) after setting the course record at the Leadenhall Building in November, 2019

The LOROS Tower Run will be Ball’s first stair race of the 2020 season, so it will be interesting to see exactly where he’s at.

He’s been putting in a lot of track work and recently competed at the Vertical Up Kitzbühel, which involves running up a ski slope in spiked shoes. We know he’ll be in great shape, but how will he handle the flat out sprint?

We’ll be surprised not to see Ball in the top three.

Update (12 March 2020, 9.30pm)

Since we wrote this article, the world number two Soh Wai Ching has announced that he will be heading to Leicester to take part in the race, having previously ruled himself out. The Malaysian had come to Europe to race at La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel and to defend his Vertical Rush title in London. With both events cancelled he has now apparently decided to take on the LOROS Tower Run.

Soh becomes the firm pre-race favourite now. We firmly expect the course record to fall if he makes it onto the start line.

This race has now become an even more exciting prospect than it was this afternoon. Roll on Saturday.

Like us on Facebook to keep up to date with the full results and race report on the weekend.

Vertical Rush cancelled

Vertical Rush is the latest tower run to be cancelled amid growing concerns about the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19).

The event will not be rescheduled for later in the year.

Shelter, the charity that puts on the event, has released the following statement:

Unfortunately we regret to inform you that as a result of safety precautions being put in place by Tower 42 to try and prevent the spread of coronavirus, we have had to cancel Vertical Rush on Thursday 12th March 2020.

The Tower have not taken the decision to cancel lightly, and it has been made with the health and safety of everyone involved in mind. The care of our runners, staff and volunteers is always our main priority. We sincerely apologise for any inconvenience the cancellation causes.

We understand that this is disappointing news for you, and we share that disappointment, as we know how much effort you have put into your training and fundraising. Sadly, we will not be rescheduling this year’s event for another date.

The cancellation follows the postponement of the Taipei 101 Run Up (World Championship race) and the Eiffel Tower stair race.

It’s becoming increasingly likely that the 2020 tower running season will not materialise in any meaningful fashion.

The early Vertical World Circuit races scheduled for Milan (April) and Paris (May) are likely to be cancelled next. The Empire State Building Run-Up will probably be cancelled in the coming weeks, too.

Follow us on Facebook for all the latest tower running updates as and when they come in.

tower-42-shelter-vertigo-challenge-2016

Update: within an hour of publishing this article, the 2020 edition of Vertical Rush was cancelled. Read more on the cancellation here.

Malaysia’s Soh Wai Ching will be back in London on Thursday to defend the Vertical Rush title he won last year.

Soh won the 932-step race at Tower 42 in March, 2019, in a time of 4:17. In doing so he became the fourth fastest person to ever race the tower, with only Thomas Dold (3:58), Piotr Lobodzinski (3:59) and Fabio Ruga (4:11) having run faster in the 11 editions of the UK’s biggest stair race.

The world number two has made massive improvements in the past 12 months and established himself as a legitimate contender to world champion Piotr Lobodzinski with a win over the Pole in Dubai in February.

Soh Wai-Ching Vertical Rush 2019

Soh Wai Ching was the winner of Vertical Rush 2019

Coming off the back of a record-breaking run at the Sibu Tower Run, Soh had been scheduled to race at La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel in Paris on Wednesday. But following the postponement of that race he will now race in London on completely fresh legs.

As such, he is expected to run even faster at Vertical Rush this year and could well eclipse the time of Italy’s Fabio Ruga. The 3:58 course record certainly isn’t out of reach, either, and it would be no big surprise to see the young Malaysian get very close to it.

Soh’s closest British competition on Thursday is likely to be newcomer Laurence Ball, the rising star of UK tower running. He will be expected to take a huge amount of time off the 4:49 he clocked on his Vertical Rush debut last year, which earned him fourth spot. It’s Ball’s first stair race of the year, so it will good to see what form he is in.

Laurence Ball tower running

Laurence Ball

Unfortunately, Mark Howard (3rd last year) will not be racing, so fans will have to wait for the next installment in the ongoing Ball vs Howard rivalry.

Another relative newcomer to the sport who’s also anticipated to be in the mix for the podium is Poland’s Kacper Mrowiec.

He already has a 2020 win under his belt, having taken victory at 29-floor Ideal-Hochhaus in Berlin back in January.

View this post on Instagram

Czasem tak sobie rozmyślam, że moje zamiłowanie do ekstremalnego wysiłku jest wręcz niepokojące. I to nie tylko na schodach – wszędzie tam, gdzie może się do swego HR maxa zbliżyć, sprawia mi uśmiech Chelsea. Wystarczy myśl o samym mocnym planowanym treningu i micha się cieszy. Albo zawody: jeśli gdzieś na zdjęciach zobaczycie mnie z uśmiechem na twarzy, to bardziej prawdopodobne będzie, iż przeszedłem już fazę grymasu i mam załączony tryb pełnej walki, a nie lecę bo lubię i lajcik. Cokolwiek jest powodem Waszego uśmiechu, róbcie to i nie przestawajcie! 😀 #polishboy #towerrunning #towerrunner #runner #run #bieg #bieganie #biegacz #biegambolubie #garmin #asics #adidas #royalbay #kalenji #winter #train #training #ambasadorzyfb #verticalrush #lorostowerrun #uk #greatbritain #leicester #london #compressport #adrunaline

A post shared by Kacper Mrowiec (@kmtowerrunner) on

Mrowiec is not long back from a winter training camp in Spain, and since his return to Poland he’s been training on the stairs alongside world number one tower runner Piotr Lobodzinski.

Like Ball, Mrowiec is a little over a year into his tower running career and beating the more experienced Soh might be just out of reach right now. But expect a very close battle for the remaining spots on the podium.

You might also be interested in: