Enrique Santamaria Martinez and Alba Xandri will return to the 2,180-step Montserrat Funicular in Collbató, Spain on Saturday 5th June to defend the titles they won at the event in 2019.

Santamaria Martinez, who also finished third in 2018, will face off against the returning course record holder and 2018 winner Joan Freixa Marcelo.

Enrique Santamaria Martinez sets off on his winning run in 2019

Freixa Marcelo won the Firefighter division at the 2019 event, completing the course in full safety gear. But this year the multi-athlete from Cardona will be back in the Open category, seeking to reclaim his crown.

He is one of only two athletes to have run the course in under 12 minutes, with his record standing at 11:38.

Runners will set off up the stairway at 90 second intervals, starting at 9am.

David Soler Sucarrats, who finished just eight seconds behind Santamaria Martinez in 2019, is also set to compete at Saturday’s event.

So too is veteran tower and mountain runner Ignacio Cardona Torres. He took second in the Masters category at the Spanish Trail Running Championship in April, so expect to see him put in a solid performance.

Freixa Marcelo will be the last man to set off in the Open division. Santamaria Martinez will start just ahead of him, guaranteeing a fantastic finish to the third edition of this stunning outdoor stair race.

Joan Freixa Marcelo winning Vertical Montserrat 2018

The race up the service stairs alongside the Montserrat Funicular was postponed twice in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The ongoing situation has reduced the field slightly, with fewer international runners in the line-up compared with 2019. French athlete Joris Jacquard is one of the familiar non-Spanish runners set to make an appearance.

In the women’s division, two-time winner Alba Xandri is back to try and make it three wins in a row.

Alba Xandri on her way to winning Vertical Monserrat in 2019

The impressive Spanish mountain runner and cyclist was a clear winner in 2019, finishing over 90 seconds ahead of Rosa Maria Nieto Zamora.

Her winning time of 14:17 is the course record.

Disappointingly, Zamora who was set to compete in 2020 is not on the list of runners set to take part in 2021.

Some familiar names to look out for are Cristina Bonacina (ITA), Laure Chardin (FRA) and Marta Cosp Morata (ESP), who won the Beetham Tower stair race in Manchester, England back in 2019.

Tower running world champion Suzy Walsham sat down for a chat with Coach Mike from Recovery Systems and it’s a great insight into the approach and attitude of the world’s number one stair runner.

In it Suzy discusses her earlier career in cross country and track and field, injuries and resilience, pacing for stair races, and how she makes use of cross training. There’s lots of good stuff in this chat, and it’s well worth a watch.

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This excellent documentary tells the story of Fred Lebow’s involvement in the New York Road Runners club and his work in establishing the New York City Marathon in 1970.

As President of the NYRR, Lebow also organised the first Empire State Building Run-Up in 1978. Faced with derision as the first race was branded a gimmick, he nevertheless persevered with the ESBRU.

He was determined to turn it into a firm fixture on the sporting calendar in New York. In 1979 he told reporters the race would soon become an event as accepted as the New York City Marathon and that a 10-minute climb up the Empire State would rival the legendary four‐minute mile as a goal for world‐class runners.

The sport of tower running owes Fred Lebow a lot.

The documentary is mostly about his life and work in promoting road running, but there is some archive footage from the Empire State Building Run-Up in there too, as well as interviews with former ESBRU and NYC Marathon champions Nina Kuscsik and Gary Muhrcke.

Spinnaker Tower, 530 steps, Portsmouth

2010 Mark Sims (GBR) 2:18**
2011 Mark Sims (GBR) 2:23** Sarah Wade (GBR) 4:52
2014 Mark Sims (GBR) 2:32 Karen Elphick (GBR)
2015 Matjaz Miklosa (SVN) 2:07* Jasmina Klancnik (SVN) 3:30
2016 Mark Sims (GBR) 2:29 Chiara Cristoni (ITA) 3:56 – results
2017 May – Mark Sims (GBR) Sarah Frost (GBR)
October – Mark Sims (GBR) 2:25 Sarah Frost (GBR) 3:01* – results

*course record
** 2010 and 2011 races were run on a shorter course of 506 steps

Find out all the winners from other events around the world in our historical tower running results database.

For over a decade the NSPCC Gherkin Challenge has been one of the most popular stair races in the UK. We take a look back at the first edition of the event in 2010.

Back then, the event (then known as NSPCC Step Change) was part of the newly established Vertical World Circuit (VWC) and attracted a spread of top international athletes.

In the women’s division, New Zealand mountain runner Anna Frost was there alongside Italy’s Daniela Vassalli and Cristina Bonacina.

The trio had been among a stellar field of tower runners that had battled it out in a double run in Milan two weeks before, in the first event of the VWC 2010.

Vassalli (winner of the inaugural Vertical World Circuit in 2009) had won that event in Milan, with Frost taking second.

In this new event in London, two runners were being set off at the same time every 30 seconds. Vassalli and Frost were paired together, so it was set to be a genuine side-by-side battle up the unique-looking tower’s 1,037 steps for top points

In the men’s event, Italians Marco De Gasperi and Fabio Ruga were the pre-race favourites and they too were paired together.

Ruga had already picked up points on the VWC, having finished second behind Thomas Dold in Milan a fortnight before. De Gasperi had yet to race in the series. It was guaranteed to be a close battle.

Other well-known tower runners in attendance included Spain’s Ignacio Cardona and Dario Fracassi from Italy.

Watch the video below (click here if embed not showing) to see Daniela Vassalli warming up (0:18), an interview with Anna Frost (0:30), De Gasperi and Ruga setting off (1:38), Vassalli and Frost starting (1:51), Fabio Ruga finishing (2:50), Vassalli finishing (2:58), Cristina Bonacina finishing (3:21) and Ignacio Cardona on the floor at the finish (4:06).

Fabio Ruga won that day, setting the fantastic course record of 4:07 that still stands. De Gasperi finished just four seconds behind his compatriot in 4:11. Ignacio Cardona was third in 4:18.

In the women’s race it was Daniela Vassalli who took top spot with a 5:42 finish. Anna Frost (who would go on to win Vertical Rush in London just over two weeks later) was just six seconds back in 5:48, while Rachael Orr (GBR) finished third in 6:13.

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The Covid-19 pandemic tore up the UK stair racing calendar in 2020, and it’s looking like it might write off much of the 2021 season too.

Read on for the updates we have on the stair races that likely would have happened in more normal times.

Vertical Rush @ Tower 42

Looking ahead to next year, perhaps the biggest disappointment is the news that Vertical Rush will not be happening.

The UK’s flagship tower running event was cancelled in March 2020 and Shelter have given us word that it won’t happen in March 2021 either. The loss of the biggest stair race in the UK is a huge one.

GOSH Walkie Talkie Tower Climb

The spring time event in London is currently up in the air.

Back in August, GOSH told us, “We are putting some plans in place to see how the tower climb can work in a COVID-19 world. The event is pencilled in for the beginning of March, so keeping all fingers crossed, it’s looking positive.”

We’ve heard nothing since and they’ve made no announcement as yet. Heading into the new year, and with London going back into Tier 3 measures again this week, it seems unlikely that a race will happen at the start of March. But let’s see.

Regardless, you can register your interest for the potential event here.

LOROS Tower Run, Leicester

This event typically happens in March, but not in 2021.

The organisers are optmistic they can still put on an event, but in 2021 they expect that if it happens it will be later on in the year.

Broadgate Tower Run Up, London

There’s been no word yet on this event happening in 2021.

The forced rescheduling and eventual cancellation of this event in 2020 was a major disappointment.

The organiser will obviously be super keen to have it run as usual in the summer, but it’s wait and see with this big event. Fingers crossed.

Spinnaker Tower Run-Up

Covid-19 put paid to this new event in 2020, but we got optimistic word from the organiser last month that this race would be going ahead in April 2021. But with things changing so quickly, you just don’t know.

We’re expecting to hear an update on this soon, so keep an eye out for that.

We’ll be updating our race calendar as and when news of events come in.

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Racing up stairs in 18th century London

A history of the Empire State Building Run-Up

Singapore has a long tower running history, with the first edition of the Swissotel Vertical Marathon taking place way back in 1987.

Over three decades later and a new group of tower running enthusiasts in Singapore are working to take the sport to new heights.

We caught up with the Towerrunning Association of Singapore to find out a bit more about who’s who in the organisation and what its goals are.

TRUK: Congratulations on getting officially registered earlier this year. Tell us about your plans for the Association and for the sport of tower running in Singapore?

TAS: Singapore is a recognised global hub for air travel, shipping, and finance and it’s our aim that one day it be considered an international hub of tower running. The Towerrunning Association of Singapore has managed to become a focal point of an already thriving underground tower running scene.

There are groups and individuals all over Singapore who are training in their local HDBs (Housing Development Board buildings) who often caught the tower running bug at one of the several high profile races which were (prior to COVID) taking place annually, such as the Swissotel Vertical Marathon, National Vertical Marathon and multiple other local community HDB and charity events.

Thomas Dold at the Swissotel Vertical Marathon 2009

There are many members of our association who have travelled internationally to races in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, USA, Malaysia and more, which makes us one of the most well travelled tower running associations in the world.

We plan to raise the profile of the sport in Singapore, develop a local stable of athletes and race against the best in the region (especially our close friends in the Malaysia Towerrunning Association who are developing their own group of strong athletes). Obviously, we’ll have to wait until the COVID situation improves so that races may open up again.

TRUK: What’s happening right now with TAS? From Instagram it looks like you guys are having regular meet ups and training sessions.

TAS: Since the virus has been brought under control in Singapore we are looking at relaunching our regular training sessions, and planning for future events. We host regular training sessions once a week on Saturdays, and have another training session during the week for the hardcore members who want to do more.

During this period we have to make sure to adhere to certain COVID restrictions still in place which mean we can train in one stairwell with a group of no more than five people, and keep proper social distancing measures.

Singapore is blessed with having ample training grounds for tower runners. To understand why, we have to go back a little in history. Prior to 1960, Singapore’s landscape was predominately low-rise, as local villages known as kampungs made up of wooden single houses known were the norm.

However, in 1961 after the largest fire in Singapore’s history gutted an entire kampung leaving 16,000 homeless, the Singapore government vowed to transform public housing with the establishment of the Housing Development Board, or HDB.

The end result is that Singapore went vertical, building thousands of high-rise concrete buildings in which 80% of Singaporeans live today. Many of these HDB buildings are 40 floors or higher with open stairwells, offering the ideal place to train. In fact Singapore has over 10,000 HDB blocks of over 10 storeys which people can use to stair train.

We’re lucky that we have access to multiple 40/50 storey HDB blocks (130m) and even a 69-floor private condo block to train (220m). We don’t think there are many training groups around the world who have such easy access to these high-rise buildings.

As we continue to train, we look to increase our membership and build more awareness toward our sport. We often see random people train on stairs when we train at different locations. Many are not aware of our Association, so we’d like to reach out and encourage them to join.

Singapore also has a large population of runners and sports enthusiasts of all kinds, and we hope to entice some to cross over to the world of tower running. Although tower running in general remains a niche sport, we hope to change that perception.

Back to our latest plans. We recently did a few time trial events that were successful and look to do more in the future. We also have the year end coming up and may do another Christmas climb which proved to be popular last year. We also have our AGM coming up in the spring next year.

TRUK: Tell us a bit about who’s who in the Towerrunning Association of Singapore

TAS: We have 13 founding Association members who come from all nationalities and backgrounds. Just to name a few, our President Eddie Tan is a seasoned veteran with 10+ years of tower running experience and many international races under his belt.

SC Tan, our Secretary, has been a dedicated stair climber for 10+ years as well. We have Michele Tan, one of the fastest female tower runners in Malaysia, Rich Sirrs, former UK number one who moved to Singapore a few years back, and Mateusz Dolata from Poland.

Charles Supapodok, an American, started stair climbing late in life but competes internationally and has posted some fast times recently. Mark Budweciz is an Aussie who has placed well in regional competitions so far. Kai Peng, our Association’s treasurer is the youngest in our group, but is a rising star.

Our remaining founding members came to know one another through regular tower running sessions. They too shared the same desire as the rest of us in promoting this sport further.

TRUK: How’s Singapore’s race calendar looking for 2021? Will you guys have events on over there?

TAS: So far it doesn’t look like there will be any events in 2021 until the COVID situation improves. Singapore moved into its Phase 2 reopening on June 19th, where it remains today. Phase 3 would increase the size for group activities from 5 to 8, but this does not seem enough to allow for races to resume. For the time being we don’t see any races happening in 2021, unfortunately. ■

You can keep up to date with the Towerrunning Association of Singapore on Instagram and Facebook.

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In the build up to his Guinness World Record run last month, Malaysia’s tower running superstar Soh Wai Ching took on a unique challenge at the offices of LILA in Kuala Lumpur.

The world number two took the stairs wearing a weighted vest, while the head of sales at LILA took the elevator to see if he could beat Wai Ching to the top of the company’s office building.

Watch the fun video below to see who came out on top. Or follow this link.

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Getting on the stepmill at the gym might well be the best part of your workout. But can you imagine being stuck on it for up to 10 hours a day, every day?

That was the daunting task that faced inmates at many British prisons in the 1800s.

William Cubitt, a British engineer, designed the stepmill as a means of preventing idleness among prisoners, with the resistance to the turning wheel provided by straps and weights. Later on, these prison mills were engineered to grind grain or power pumps.

Cubitt’s original design was a large hollow cylinder of wood on an iron frame, round the circumference of which were a series of steps about 7.5″ apart. Other accounts of prison stepmills say the rungs were “placed at the distance of one foot and a half from each other”.

Men and women climbing the stepmill could steady themselves by holding onto rails on the sides, or onto a bar running in front of them, depending on the design.

The stepmill pictured at the top of the page was at Brixton Prison in London and could accommodate up to 24 prisoners at one time.

Some, like the mill at Coldbath Fields Prison in London (pictured below), were fitted with partitions so that prisoners were isolated and could see only the wall in front of them.

There are a number of accounts of how much time prisoners spent rotating the wheel before they got a rest.

An entry in the Encyclopedia Brittanica from 1926 says “[The stepmill] revolved at a rate of 32 ft. per minute. The prisoner worked for six hours each day, three hours at a time. He was on the wheel for 15 minutes and then rested for five minutes. Thus in the course of his day’s labour he climbed 8640 ft.” That’s the equivalent of doing the Empire State Building Run-Up at least seven times.

But with the use of the stepmill as a form of prison punishment lasting for over 80 years in Britain the set up and rules involved obviously varied greatly.

One account says prisoners had to put in between 7 and 10-hour shifts on the mill, depending on the time of year. Another says male prisoners were climbing 10-14,000 vertical feet per day, with prisoners on the mill at Warwick Gaol once clocking an exhausting 17,000 vertical feet over 10 hours one summer. That’s more than half way up Mt. Everest.

Elsewhere it’s said that prisoners, “working in silence, would move from left to right so that the man furthest along could step off to take a break while a “rested” colleague got on at the other end. It worked out at around 12 minutes rest for every 60 minutes of climbing.”

Historian Geri Walton notes that “Each prisoner performed 864 steps and then rested being replaced by another prisoner for 288 steps. This rest period lasted about twelve minutes. After the rest period the prisoner then returned to the treadmill to continue his or her stair climbing punishment for another 864 steps.”

Among those subjected to hours on the mill was the playwright Oscar Wilde. He climbed the endless staircase every day for six months at London’s Pentonville Prison, as part of the two-year sentence he received in 1895.

This form of punishment was banned in British prisons in 1902 for being unduly harsh, but modern gym goers continue the grueling activity regardless.

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The seven-time winner of the Empire State Building Run-Up enjoyed a long and hugely successful tower running career. We take a look back through his races and pick out five of his finest moments.

With so many to pick from, we’ve selected the ones that stood out to us. Leave a comment to let us know which others you’d include.

5. 2004 Uptown Run Up, Munich, Germany

Hochaus Uptown Munchen – site of Thomas Dold’s first tower running victory

Already a mountain running star who’d represented Germany at the World Junior Mountain Running Championships in 2002 and 2003 (where he finished 11th), Dold was still a tower running novice when he took part in the Uptown Run Up on 2 October 2004.

He’d made his stair racing debut the year before, taking sixth place at the highly competitive Donauturm Treppenlauf  in Vienna, Austria. But it was in Munich that Dold recorded the first of his 45 career wins.

It was the first edition of the 780-step race, so it probably went unnoticed by many in the world of tower running. But soon they would sit up and take notice of the man from the Black Forest.

4. 2017 VertiGO at Tour First, Paris France

Thomas Dold at VertiGO in 2017 (©iancorless.com)

It might seem an odd choice to include a race where Dold finished second as one of his ‘top moments’, when he has 40+ wins to pick from. But there’s a reason.

Dold had stepped away from tower running for the 2015 and 2016 seasons, missing all the big races, including the World Championships in Doha.

Many thought they probably wouldn’t see him race again. Then in 2017 he returned for three races on the Vertical World Circuit: Tower 42 in London, Tour First in Paris and One World Trade Center in New York.

He finished second in London (to Piotr Lobodzinski) and would later take a controversial joint-first in New York alongside Australia’s Darren Wilson.

But it was the race up the 954 steps of Tour First in Paris that really stood out. 2015 world champion Piotr Lobodzinski clocked a new course record of 4:42 at the event, but the returning Dold finished just five seconds behind him.

14 years after his tower running debut, and following a two-year layoff, the brilliant Dold proved he could still hold his own with the rest of the best in the world.

3. 2012 European Championship final, Frankfurt, Germany

Thomas Dold leads the finalists into the stairwell at the 2012 European Tower Running Championships

A seven-time Empire State Building Run-Up champion and three-time Vertical World Circuit winner, Dold had a massive target on his back at every race he took part in throughout the 2012 season.

At the final of the European Tower Running Championships at the MesseTurm in Frankfurt, Germany, Dold was facing the best of the new cohort of European stair racers.

The championship event involved one full qualifying run up the tower’s 1,202 steps. Christian Riedl clocked the fastest qualifying time, with Dold taking second. Earlier in the year at the Empire State Building Run-Up 2012, Riedl had finished just eight seconds behind the winning Dold. He was definitely the athlete that could cause Dold the most problems.

In the semi-final the runner’s had to sprint just half way up the MesseTurm. This time Dold evened things out and came out on top.

Could Dold take victory in the final run up the full height of the tower? Christian Riedl, Tomas Celko, Piotr Lobodzinski, Milan Wurst and Viktor Novotny were all looking to stop him.

Below is a short clip taken from inside the building during the final run (click here if embed not working).

Thomas Dold once again proved he was still the best in Europe, pulling away from the field to finish in 6:30, ahead of Christian Riedl (6:53) and Piotr Lobodzinski (7:00).

2. Course record at 2012 Vertical Rush, London, UK

As part of the Vertical World Circuit 2012, Vertical Rush in London attracted a long list of top European tower runners.

Dold was making his debut at the 932-step Tower 42 and was expected to be squaring off with the 2011 winner, Fabio Ruga of Italy, for top honours.

Dold produced a performance for the ages, clocking a course record 3:58.

Eight years on and his incredible record still stands. Only Piotr Lobodzinski has come close to it, clocking 3:59 in 2017.

1. Personal best at 2009 Empire State Building Run-Up, New York, USA

Thomas Dold made the Empire State Building-Run Up his own during his stunning run of victories from 2006 to 2012.

There are plenty of memorable moments to pick from out of his seven wins, but the 2009 event stands out as the best.

The stellar line-up in the lobby included 2007 World Mountain Running Champion Marco De Gasperi from Italy and American Rickey Gates, who had finished just eight seconds behind Dold in 2008.

Both men pushed Dold hard throughout the course, driving him on to a 10:07 finish, the best time he ever ran at the Empire State Building.

But what stands out about this race in particular is what might have been.

Only Australia’s Paul Crake has ever completed the ESBRU course in under 10 minutes, managing it four times during his run of victories from 1999-2003.

But under different circumstances, Thomas Dold may very well have done the same in 2009.

At around the 40th floor (of 86), Dold caught up with the back end of the women’s wave that had set off five minutes before the men.

As a result he had to weave his way through scores of runners as he chased his fourth title.

Thomas Dold weaving his way through the women’s wave on his way to winning the 2009 Empire State Building Run-Up

It’s highly likely that given a clear run that day Dold would have broken the 10-minute mark. Unfortunately, we’ll never know for sure.

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Looking for stair climbing inspiration or hoping to keep up to date with the latest news from the the global tower running community? Well, we’ve got you covered with some recommendations for Instagram accounts to follow.

If you’re already following the five tower running accounts on Instagram we suggested last year, then you might be interested in these next five too.

Christof Grossegger @__stairs_up__

This Austrian multi-athlete was one of the most active stair climbers in the ruined 2020 season, taking wins at Pyramidenkogel and Tek Na Kalvarijo. Austria has produced some of the world’s top tower runners over the years and Grossegger is one of the country’s exciting new breed. His feed is full of regular action shots from his exploits in stair running, mountain biking and Red Bull 400.

Takaaki Koyama @mt.yamako

Another emerging star, this time from Japan. Takaaki Koyama has firmly established himself as one to watch in the growing Asian tower running scene. If you want to keep an eye on all things vertical running in Japan, then Koyama’s your man. Follow Tower Running Tokyo while you’re at it for even more insight.

Stair Climbing Australia @stair_climbing_australia

If you’ve been involved in stair climbing much you’ll know there’s a super-friendly community at all levels. Stair Climbing Australia’s account does a brilliant job of bringing those good vibes across virtually. Whether it’s funny, informative or inspirational posts, they’ve always got something worth checking in on. Its virtual stair climb challenges this year have kept many tower runners busy and entertained. Probably the most active stair climbing account on Instagram.

Tomas Celko @tomascelko

The ‘Wim Hof’ of tower running, Tomas Celko is never far from freezing cold water these days. So a word of caution, you might just find yourself stripping down and hopping into an ice bath soon after following his account. One of the sprint kings of stair climbing, Celko has battled back from injury this year to get back toward fitness. Join the 10k+ people following his journey back to the top in 2021.

Towerrunning Singapore @towerrunningsingapore

Singapore has a rich tower running history that dates back to 1987. The growth of the sport out there is now in the hands of the newly-formed Towerrunning Association of Singapore and we’re expecting exciting developments from them over the next few years. Its Instagram account is yet to blow up, but get in before it was cool and follow them now.

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Ryoji Watanabe set a new course record at Tokyo Tower on Sunday, becoming the first person to run the 500-step course in under two minutes.

Watanabe finished in a fantastic 1:59.98 to reach the top ahead of the chasing Takaaki Koyama.

Ryoji Watanabe Tokyo Tower
Ryoji Watanabe lies flat out after his winning run at Tokyo Tower

The exciting event more than lived up to pre-race expectations, with a close race highly anticipated.

The in-form Koyama set a personal best 2:07.09 as he followed shortly behind Watanabe.

You can see the strong finish from both athletes in the video below.

Behind Koyama, Akie Yajima finished third in 2:10.13, with 2016 champion Naoya Endo in fourth. Hiroichi Uesugi finished in fifth place.

Tokyo Tower hosts one of the final Asian tower races of 2020 this coming Sunday.

It’s the ninth edition of the popular event in Japan, that sees runners sprint up 500 steps.

In the men’s event there is potentially an exciting clash of former champions. Japanese number one tower runner Ryoji Watanabe (2017 and 2018 champion), Takaaki Koyama (2019), and Naoya Endo (2016) are all on the provisional start list.

Takaaki Koyama reaches the top of Tokyo Tower to win in 2019

Koyama is heading into the event following a strong win last weekend at the Sapporo TV Tower, so will definitely be in good form.

Ryoji Watanabe won the event in 2017 and 2018

Watanabe, who finished third overall on the Vertical World Circuit in 2019, hasn’t raced on the stairs for months but did win ahead of Koyama at the Building Climb Cup race in Niigata back in January.

If Watanabe is anywhere near being in top condition, he will be the man to beat on Sunday. He ran an incredible 2:01 to win in 2018, finishing 16 seconds ahead of Koyama.

Takaaki Koyama took first place at the first edition of the Sapporo TV Tower Vertical Run in Japan.

The new event, which had been rescheduled due to Covid-19 restrictions, involved two runs up 442 steps.

The experienced Koyama showed impressive consistency as he clocked 1:50 in his first run, followed by 1:49 in his second for a total winning time of 3:39.

Takaaki Koyama at the start line

Koyama finished narrowly ahead of Koki Tanaka (3:43), who clocked the fastest single run of the day, a time of 1:48 with his second attempt. But with his initial run a slightly slower 1:55, it left him four seconds behind overall.

A section of the stairs at the Sapporo TV Tower

The battle for the final podium spot was very closely contested. In the end it was Yusuke Tanaka who sealed it with his 3:59 total. Fourth spot went to Hirokazu Uesugi (4:01) and Hitotsubashi Seiya (4:02) was in fifth place.

Sapporo TV Tower

In the women’s division, Japanese international triathlete Airi Sawada proved herself a force on the stairs, taking victory in 5:23 (2:45 and 2:38). She was 20 seconds faster overall than second-placed Moeko Yasugahira.

Airi Sawada and Takaaki Koyama celebrate winning the Sapporo TV Tower Vertical Run 2020

When the Q1 Tower was completed in 2005, it became Australia’s tallest building. Shortly before its towering observation deck was opened to the public, the building played host to a star-studded elite stair race offering $10,000 to the winner. Here’s the story of how it went down.

Measuring 322.5m tall from street to spike, the new skyscraper in Gold Coast, Queensland dwarfed 120 Collins Street in Melbourne, which had been the country’s tallest building since 1991.

With Australia’s long and rich history of stair climbing – the Rialto Run-Up in Melbourne started in 1987 and the Sydney Tower Run-Up in 1990 – it was no surprise that the idea of holding a race up Q1’s 1,821 steps was quickly pitched.

The idea for the event originated during the breakfast radio show The Cage, which was broadcast out of Brisbane by the Triple M network.

Former Australian international rugby player Greg ‘Marto’ Martin was one of the hosts and suggested a stair race be held to celebrate the opening of the Q1 observation deck. Within hours the ball was rolling on getting it organised.

Greg ‘Marto’ Martin in action against the British Lions in 1989

Richard Barker, the general manager of Austereo – the media company then operating Triple M – said: “Triple M is currently talking to Australia’s top athletes to compete in the event which may well become an annual challenge and one we hope to build nationally as comparable to the famous Empire State Building stair race in New York.”

“Based on anecdotal research, the fastest runner is expected to complete the 1,821 stair race to the observation deck in around nine minutes.”

“This compares with the usual mode of transport to be used, one of the world’s fastest elevators, which will do the journey in 43 seconds.”

Austereo and the developers of Q1, Sunland Group, really put a lot behind the event, giving it the exposure it deserved and putting up a huge prize fund to try and attract a wide range of athletic talent.

The prize money on offer was completely unrivalled in stair racing. In fact it was one of the highest paying races of any athletic discipline at the time in Australia.

The winner of the race would take home $10,000 (AUD), second place would receive $5,000 and third, $2,500.

What’s more, in a national first, The Cage breakfast shows from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne’s Triple M stations were all set to broadcast live simultaneously from Q1 to celebrate the event.

Triple M – Q1 Run to the Sun

Within a few weeks a line-up of runners was assembled, a mix of elite Australian athletes and media personalities. The selection of athletic talent was huge, with multi-time Empire State Building Run-Up champions alongside long-distance swimming champions, up-and-coming AFL players, international triathletes and emerging track and field stars.

Belinda Soszyn was a highly experienced mountain runner, triathlete and stair runner who had won the Empire State Building Run-Up three times (1994, 1996-97) and the Sydney Tower Run-Up three times (1993, 1995-96).

She’d also won the Australian mountain running championship in 1996 and represented her country at the World Mountain Running Championships.

51 year old Soszyn had hung up her tower running shoes back in the 90s, but the lure of Australia’s new tallest building had pulled her back in.

Belinda Soszyn winning the 1994 Empire State Building Run-Up

Soszyn was set to face off against Vanessa Hill, who had previously placed at the Sydney Tower and Rialto Tower runs.

Although unmentioned in pre-race reports, mountain runner Hubertien Wichers also competed. Whether she was a late replacement for Hill or Soszyn, or an additional entrant is unknown.

Radio personalities Emma Maclean and Brigitte Duclos were the only other women at the race.

Among the men set to race was young Beau Tanton, a 19-year old AFL player who at the time was playing for Broadbeach AFC on the Gold Coast. Tanton had also represented the Queensland state team a number of times.

Beau Tanton in action for Queensland during the Northern Territory and Queensland AFL Under 18 National Championships in 2004

The experienced Sydney-based tower runner Jeremey Horne had also been invited. A sub-2:30 marathoner, Horne had won the Sydney Tower Run-Up in 2004 and had finished second at the Swissotel Vertical Marathon in Singapore earlier in 2005.

Australian international cross-country skiier Andrew Mock was also there. The 23-year old had won the Rialto Run-Up earlier in the year, so was expected to be in among those chasing for top spot.

Andrew Mock winning the 2005 Rialto Run-Up

From the world of triathlon there was Chris Stanton, who was part of the Australian World Championship team, and the highly-competitive elite Drew Westbrook who had won an ITU Age Group Aquathlon World Championship event in Honolulu a couple of months prior. Ben Holland, another successful age group triathlete, was also on board.

Another athlete new to stair running was Mark Saliba, a long-distance open water swimming champion who’d finished fifth at the 25km Open Water Swimming World Championship in 2004.

Mark Saliba on his way to winning a marathon swimming race in Hong Kong in 2004

The Australian under-23 5km champion Christopher Reeves was signed up too. Fellow Brisbanite Anthony Craig was alongside him. Craig was a middle-distance track star who’d won a silver medal at the Australian University Games.

They were joined by Gold Coast-based Andrew Ferris, who at the time was the best Australian under-23 athlete over 3,000m and 10,000m. He was also the Queensland State Champion over 5,000m.

PJ Bosch, a middle-distance runner from South Australia, was another super-fast young athlete invited to compete.

Others picked to take part in the race included Gerard Gosens, a totally blind elite athlete who had run from Cairns to Brisbane three times; climbed to Everest Base Camp three times and was the Deputy CEO of the Royal Blind Foundation based in Brisbane.

Greg Martin, whose on-air suggestion had gotten the whole event moving, also laced up his running shoes to scale the 1,821 stairs.

2005 Australian and USA Men’s Open Water Ski Racing Champion, Peter Proctor was racing, as was Richard Barnes, a veteran of 15 Sydney Tower Run-Ups who had placed second at the two most recent editions.

Although there was a wealth of young athletic talent at the Q1, it was fully expected that the winner on the day would come from among the remaining four athletes.

Troy de Haas from Gisborne had won a bronze medal at the World Junior Orienteering Championships in 1999 and had gone on to represent Australia at senior championships.

He’d also won the Great Pyramid Race earlier in the year, a 12.2km run up and down Walsh’s Pyramid in Cairns, Queensland.

Although new to tower running, de Haas was predicted to put up a strong challenge to the pre-race favourites.

Troy de Haas at the 2007 Taipei 101 Run-Up

Mountain runner Daniel Green wasn’t well-established on the stairs like some of his rivals at Q1, but the 2000 Australian Mountain Running champion, who’d also finished fifth at the 2004 championships, was a threat, regardless.

The next entrant on the start list had been a star of mountain running and stair climbing for well over a decade.

David Osmond had won the 1994 and 1996 Sydney Tower Run-Ups. He’d also placed second twice at the Empire State Building Run-Up (1995, 1997).

David Osmond (seen here in 1995) was one of the pre-race favourites at Q1 Tower

Winner of the 1996 Australian Mountain Running Championships, Osmond had also been on the podium at the nationals in 2002, 2004 and 2005.

In excellent shape and with the experience required for successful stair climbing, Osmond was certain to be one of the front runners on Thursday 1 December.

Perhaps only one man stood a really solid chance of stopping Osmond claiming the $10,000 prize money, and unfortunately for him that man was the unrivalled king of tower running, Paul Crake.

Five-time winner and course record holder at the Empire State Building Run-Up, Crake was now a professional cyclist with the Corratec-Graz-Cyl team in Austria.

Paul Crake sets the course record of 9:33 at the 2003 Empire State Building Run-Up

Crake was also course record holder at the Sydney Tower and less than a fortnight before the event at Q1 he had won the inaugural race at what was then the world’s tallest building, Taipei 101.

Earlier in 2005 Crake had finished third at the Australian National Road Race Championships.

As expected from a pro cyclist, the Canberra man was in phenomenal shape.

Crake was alerted to the race by a friend in Canberra and headed back to Australia after the Taipei 101 Run-Up to try and score himself some extra funds, having already bagged himself a handsome £3,500 for winning in Taipei.

“I have the strength from cycling to go up the stairs and based on my result in Taipei I should be able to come out and have a good solid run,” Crake told reporters ahead of the race.

“Based on number of steps, number of floors, and the height of the building you can basically work it out but I don’t go into many details. My running time in the stairwell should be 7min 30sec, but you have to run around the block first. A time under 9min is definitely achievable.”

“Stair running is not actually that hard on the legs. It seems to be a lot harder on the lungs”, he added.

Paul Crake (right) on the podium at the 2005 Australian National Road Race Championships

The race began with a mass start and a run around the building before the athletes headed inside and onto the stairs.

By the time they hit the steps, Paul Crake was near the middle of the pack, having lost position on the run in. But with his experience and superior conditioning he was able to slowly work his way towards the front.

Paul Crake (#1, white hat) during the run in at Q1 Run to the Sun

“The most important part of a stair race is to get a good start and the race around the building made that difficult for me,” said Crake.

“I’m not much good at running on the flat these days so when I got into the stairwell there were about seven or eight guys ahead of me. I was a bit apprehensive because it’s hard to judge how far they get in front.”

The Q1 Tower on Australia’s Gold Coast

Troy de Haas was first into the stairwell and held the lead for around two thirds of the way up the tower.

By the 50th floor, Crake had almost reeled him in.

“The Today Show had a camera there and they asked how I was going,” said de Haas.

“I said the bad ‘f’ word and literally I was gone already. From there on, I could hear Paul Crake coming. I didn’t know who it was but I assumed it was him.”

Pre-race speculation was that the winning time would be around the nine minute mark.

Crake surprised everyone by reaching the observation deck in 7:42 to claim the $10,000 winner’s prize.

“There was a bit of elbowing in the stairwell but nothing like what I’ve experienced overseas. I found a few other races more aggressive overseas,” said Crake after his win.

“The Aussies seem to be pretty good. When you go overseas and you have different cultures, different people have different standards of what’s right and wrong.”

“We were rubbing shoulders but I thought it was a fairly clean race. Australians know their manners.”

Second-placed David Osmond (8:15) picked up $5,000 and third-placed Troy de Haas (8:22) won $2,500.

The organisers also had some surprises at the awards ceremony.

The first woman to finish, mountain runner Hubertien Wichers (11:12), was handed a $3,000 cheque and two nights’ stay at Sunland’s Palazzo Versace.

Gerrard Gosens, the blind runner, clocked an impressive 12:04, and was thrilled to be awarded $5,000 along with a holiday at Palazzo Versace by Soheil Abedian, the managing director of Sunland Group which developed Q1.

Abedian hailed Gosens’ determination to overcome obstacles and said he was a true winner, even if he was not the first to cross the finish line.

“What do you mean I didn’t win? I didn’t see anyone in front of me,” joked Gosens, leaving the crowd in stitches.

Despite Austereo’s general manager Richard Barker’s hope before the race that the event would become an annual challenge, it would be 10 years before another race happened at Q1.

The new star of Australian mountain and tower running, Mark Bourne, would win that race in 2015.

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