Sonja Shakespeare set a new women’s course record at the NSPCC Gherkin Challenge event in London last Sunday (22 Oct).

One of the rising stars of UK stair climbing, Shakespeare shattered the existing record by over 30 seconds to set a new time of 6.03 and continue her success in 2017.

She was challenged strongly by the in-form Sarah Frost who set off 45 minutes after in a later wave of runners. Frost was coming in to the race off the back of two strong wins at the ArcelorMittal Orbit in September and Spinnaker Tower earlier this month. She also managed to blow past the previous course record, finishing a mere second behind Shakespeare in 6.04.

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Sonja Shakespeare celebrates with Sarah Frost (l) and fellow Total Motion Towerrunners teammate Chiara Cristoni (r)

‘I actually enjoyed the race’ said Shakespeare. ‘I was really quite nervous before, which is normal for me, although I was confident in what I needed to do and stayed completely in control during the climb.’

A relative newcomer to the sport, she has been chopping away at her PBs constantly in 2017, improving from event to event.

‘I’ve been improving, but I’ve also had some really bad races where I completely blew up on the stairs. It’s the most painful thing ever and I’ve learnt from that. I’m learning with each race.’

With the experience of a number of international races already in the bag, Shakespeare is keen to explore her limits and see exactly what she is capable of in the coming months.

Her next event will be the Shanghai Tower International Vertical Marathon on 26th November, where she will compete against a lineup of some of the biggest names in the sport.
Mark Sims wins NSPCC Gherkin Challenge 2017
The Gherkin Challenge was the fourth race in the ongoing UK Championship series. Organised by the charity NSPCC, it attracted over 400 competitors, but the battle for overall winner was really a two-man race as reigning UK champion Mark Sims went head-to-head with David Harris. Sims is one of only a handful of people to have completed The Gherkin in under five minutes and was determined to secure another victory following his win at Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth on 8th October.

Two-time UK champion Sims won in a time of 4.43, taking four seconds off the second-place time he set in 2015. A fast improving Harris, who has set a number of impressive PBs in 2017, took second place in 5.15.

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David Harris and Mark Sims on the podium at the Gherkin Challenge 2017

Focus in the UK now turns to the final race of the 2017 UK Championship next month. The Broadgate Tower Run Up takes place on Saturday 25th November at London’s Broadgate Tower. Not only will it feature a double-climb main event, but it also boasts the first ever vertical mile event in the UK – 12 climbs of the 877-step tower! There’s still plenty of time to sign up to the Broadgate Tower Run Up.

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The UK tower running race calendar explodes back into life again in the coming months, after a relatively quiet summer. We run through four of the best stair climb races to sign up for this coming September and October.

1. Upslide Down
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The winding stairs and slide of the unique ArcellorMittal Orbit

What is it?

This is the third and final run of this exciting new event for 2017, following its two successful runs in June and July. It’s a 455-step climb up the iconic ArcelorMittal Orbit in London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, followed by a hair-raising slide down the helter-skelter that’s been erected around the UK’s largest sculpture.

If you’ve been watching the World Athletics Championship over the past fortnight you’ll no doubt have seen images of the towering structure. If you were fortunate enough to be in the stadium, you might even have seen it peering over the top of the London Stadium.

Why should I do it?

It’s a fantastic opportunity to fuel your own athletic ambitions in the Olympic Park, and 455 steps is a great entry-level distance. If you’ve been debating doing a stair climb, but have been put off by the height of taller buildings, then Upslide Down is an excellent choice. The height is suitable for all fitness levels and the relatively shallow steps should prove slightly less demanding than some of the steeper steps you’ll find in other UK towers. What’s more, unlike most UK stair races, there’s no fundraising requirement for this one so you can pay your fee (£30 individual, or £28 pp for a team of 5) and just race.

It’s also a unique race in that the stairwell is built around the outside, curling its way up to the top of the sculpture. So, you get excellent views on the way up and exposure to cooling air that can delay you getting overheated, plus you don’t have to worry about taking any landing turns – because there aren’t any.

Then there’s the thrill of a fast-paced slide down the helter-skelter that’s been erected around the outside, which definitely offers more bragging rights and conversation opportunities than a bog-standard lift ride to the bottom.

When is it?

Wednesday 20th September – 6.30pm and 7.30pm waves – ArcelorMittal Orbit, Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, London, E20 2AD

How do I sign up?

Upslide Down registration

2. Spinnaker Tower-thon
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Emirates Spinnaker Tower, Portsmouth

What is it?

An extremely well-run, and well-established, stair climb at Emirates Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth. It’s 530 steps up a unique, triangular staircase and is usually less than £20 to enter.

Why should I do it?

First off, we love the vibe at this event. All the staff are very friendly and welcoming and it’s usually brilliantly organised. They are very accommodating of regular tower runners, so you should be able to take a look at the stairwell before the event and will also get a clear run up the stairs at the front of your wave if you ask for one.

While there’s no denying the 530 steps to the top are demanding, there are still far fewer than most stair climbs in the UK, so the Tower-thon makes for a decent entry-level race. It’s always a very competitive event at the business end of the standings, and is one of the more popular stair climbs among UK stair climb regulars. Times have been getting faster and faster in the last few years here, so it’s a good venue to try and measure yourself against some of the quickest UK male and female stair climbers.

There are usually considerably less people at the Emirates Spinnaker Tower-thon than you’ll find at big London races. This makes for a friendlier environment at the top, where you’ll find elites and first timers chatting and cheering on finishers well after they’ve finished their run.

Finally, entry is usually very reasonably priced and there is no fundraising required. A win-win.

When is it?

Sunday 8th October – Emirates Spinnaker Tower, Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth, PO1 3TT

How do I sign up?

Spinnaker Tower-thon registration

3. Step Up: ellenor’s Tower Run Challenge
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The 33-floor Broadgate Tower in London

What is it?

A challenging, charity stair climb up the 877-step Broadgate Tower in the City of London. Early bird entry of £20 is available until 31 August, and after that the fee rises to £25.

Why should I do it?

It’s hard to get into one of the big London towers for a race without committing to fundraising a sizeable minimum amount of money for a charity. The minimum for this event is just £87, which is definitely manageable. The money you raise will go to helping a brilliant charity that works to support people with a terminal illness and their families.

Broadgate Tower is one of the big London towers and is a great venue to climb. What’s more, this event is being organised on behalf of Ellenor by Total Motion Events. They are the leading stair race organisers in the UK, so you’re pretty much guaranteed an excellent day out, with accurate results and complete attention to detail.

When is it?

Saturday 14th October – Broadgate Tower, 201 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 3AB

How do I sign up?

Step Up: ellenor’s Tower Run Challenge registration

4. MHA Radisson Blu Hotel Stair Climb Challenge

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What is it?

A super-sprint event up the 300-step Radisson Blu Hotel in central Bristol.

Why should I do it?

Firstly, it’s only £10 to enter, plus a commitment to fundraise a minimum of £50. That’s very reasonable for a UK stair climb.

Secondly, this is the only stair climb event (we know of) in the West Country. So, if you live down that way this is your best chance to do a stair race without having to worry about a trip to London or beyond.

Thirdly, it’s the shortest race in the calendar this year by quite a few steps, which makes it a unique offering. Sprint races ask many different questions of your fitness and technique than longer climbs, and if you’re a regular tower runner this will challenge you in new and varied ways.

Finally, there are prizes for the fastest climbers so if you fancy yourself a speedster it’s worth heading to Bristol to try and claim them.

When is it?

Sunday 15th October – Radisson Blu Hotel, Broad Quay, Bristol, BS1 4BY

How do I sign up?

MHA Radisson Blu Hotel Stair Climb Challenge registration

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Rich ‘Beyond Human’ Sirrs is the fastest UK stair climber on the circuit. He first blew onto the UK tower running scene in 2015 after a successful run of results while working in China. The Hull native caught the tail end of the inaugural UK Tower Running championship that year, and managed to set two British records in the process – at the Gherkin and the Heron Tower.

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In May 2016 he set a new British record at the Broadgate Tower and then departed our shores once again, this time heading for Singapore. We caught up with Beyond Human to see what he’s been up to since he left. Read on to find out how a grip strengthener and training alongside the best in the world have transformed him.

TRUK: We haven’t seen you racing in the UK for a while now – where have you been and what’s going on?

RS: I moved over to Singapore in June 2016 and haven’t had a chance to get back over to the UK yet. I’m living and working here with my girlfriend and really can’t say enough good things about the place. Plenty of training opportunities and chock-a-block with sports facilities – I have two Olympic sized pools within five minutes walk of my house! I’ve taken some time out from stair racing in 2017 and trained for my first aquathlon. I’ve enjoyed mixing it up and also seeing some benefits from adding swimming to my training. I’ve recently raced another aquathlon and ended up with podium place in my category, so quite pleased with that as my swim is still a little pedestrian.

My last race in the UK was at Broadgate Tower in May 2016 where I finished second behind an inform David Robles. I’ve seen there have been some close, competitive battles in my absence and I’d like to get involved in those races.

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Beyond Human salutes a victory in 2015 from the top of the winner’s podium

TRUK: So, how is training going?

RS: I’ve been suffering with shin and Achilles injuries from running for a couple of years now and I’ve made the commitment to try and injury proof my body with a regimen of strengthening and balance exercises, plus some custom orthotics, and so far it seems to be going in the right direction.

I’ve been doing a fair bit of trail running out here, and even managed to win a trail race in Malaysia earlier in the year, despite only being able to put down 10-15km a week running for the six months before it (lots of stairs and swimming though). Further proof stair climbing is a great way to maintain/enhance fitness.

I’ve been listening to podcasts when I’m open water swimming here at the beach in Singapore (big recommendation to swim and get MP3 on) usually Tim Ferriss or Joe Rogan and usually sports or nutrition related. Anyways I came across this guy called Pavel Tsatsouline and he was talking about strength training and how all the muscles can be recruited to fire together to greatly increase strength of a movement. For example, you can grip harder if you flex your glutes at the same time! It’s called muscle irradiation and it got me thinking that perhaps it could be an important factor in stair racing where you are literally powering up the stairs and firing so many muscles at the same time. The force you can pull on the rail and how the legs can fire you upwards must be an important factor and I realised then that strength training must be a key element and was one I was overlooking.

I’ve basically added a range of body weight exercises – chin ups, dips, press ups, leg raises…and grip training using bar and also a sprung grip trainer. I’m trying to give myself a more stable and efficient movement base to increase the force I can recruit to power myself up the stairs, but also to try and move and run more efficiently.

I was actually told all of this in 2014 by an inspirational P.E teacher and former Valencia CF (when they were good) strength and conditioning coach during my time as an English teacher in Northern Spain, but at the time I didn’t act upon his advice.

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TRUK: You’ve been training with Tomas Macecek (Czech stair climber, current world number 7) and Suzy Walsham (reigning ladies tower running world champion) out in Singapore. How has it been training with the world’s best?

RS: I took Suzy and Tom on my stair running tours of Singapore. It’s basically a 5km loop of Singapore CBD, which takes in 4 or 5 open access buildings of varying height 150-225m, with a variety of stairwells. We run to a building, ascend, come down in the lift, run to the next building, and repeat.

We go at a steady pace, not killing each other but also not slow. The key thing I noted from following them up was how stable and compact they looked in the stairs. There was an assuredness to their movements. No energy was being wasted hopping around or flailing arms around the corner. It just looked compact and stable and the turns were tight and controlled.

Tom is more of a power walker and seems to sort of sit into his stride. I’ve seen something similar in videos of the Colombian stair climber Frank Carreno (current world number two). I’m guessing that lowering the pelvis helps recruit more glute to the movement. Try it next time you walk up stairs, it feels weird but you feel kinda powerful as you stride up. Anyways I was running behind Tom, but still having to work pretty hard to keep up even though he was walking.

Suzy employs a technique where she has real quick feet as she ascends the stairs and then sort of takes a mini rest on the stairwell, which involves lifting the head slightly and opening the lungs up and then popping her head back down and whipping around the turn to do the rapid feet again up the next flight.

I don’t think we are anywhere near understanding what is the best way to climb stairs, however I’m personally starting to transition my training away from a bouncy run style to a more compact rail heavy walk which whips around the corners. I call this the ‘German style’ – Christian Riedl, Görge Heimann, Ralf Hascher all have a similar style to this, in my opinion.

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Beyond Human: Sirrs was profiled in a Chinese magazine in 2015.

TRUK: What does your training look like at the moment?

RS: On weekends I train in the local ‘council flats’ – 50 floors/160m or so I think. I have a left turning and right turning stairwell (my left is always slower – in fact at balls out I’m about 15 seconds slower on left turning than right. The only left turning race I’ve won is Heron Tower, and it wasn’t by very much.)

  • I start with 4 x 50 floors steady.
  • Then it’s onto 10-floor sprints up to the 50th. I’m looking for around 45 seconds to complete the sprint and another 45 seconds recovery. I’m using these more to develop my coordination and feel for the stairs rather than endurance so I don’t pay too much attention to recovery time.
  • Once a month or so I try to do a vertical km in this building, taking it easy but looking for the volume.

I will also do a lot of lunch time sessions during the week in my 36-floor office building:

  • 2 x 36 floors at a tempo pace, which is a steady pace that feels fairly quick but isn’t a full gas effort. This stairwell has very runnable stairs, which actually allow ‘aerobic stair running’. Basically I mean I can ascend and keep HR around 150 and still maintain a run. Not easy to do in most stairwells as it’s just too bloody hard on the body.
  • 2×10-floor sprints with recovery between sprints. 10 floor sprints are for me more about getting used to moving fast in the stairs and practising the coordination which it takes to move quickly without falling over. It definitely hurts, but for me the real pain comes in a 20-floor sprint, as you need time to get into that pain zone (it usually kicks in at around 16 floors). I’m not using 10 floor sprints to build endurance. It’s about coordination of hands and feet to whip around the turns. I don’t think the movements are easy and they take a lot of practice.
  • 20 floors steady + 16 floors surge. I recently introduced a training run where I take 20 floors at the tempo pace and then push for the last 16 floors. This hurts big time and helps to strengthen the mind to take on this zone when it inevitably arrives during a race. I started doing this after reading your article on Terry Purcell.
  • I also do a monthly vertical km here, too. Ascending seven times at a steady pace (around five minutes per climb). The idea here is to build some strength.

 

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“I could get used to this!” Sirrs embraces the perks of being a champion

TRUK: Do you do anything for recovery? How about diet and nutrition?

RS: I love eating too much, especially here in Singapore – got to be the world’s best place for food. Get anything you can imagine, all pretty well priced and eat outside every night. I consider my race weight to be around 70kg, but I’ve put on a little muscle recently since the strength training, so up that a couple of kilos.

I realise weight is a key factor in heaving yourself up the stairs and I’ve seen there is a trend for the top guys to drop weight. Some were definitely more bulky and muscular looking a few years ago and seem to have improved their times by trimming down.

It’s probably a place I can get some improvements in, but I lack a little will power when it comes to food! One thing i’ve started taking is probiotics. I suffered for three years with a recurring problem with yeast infections and gut problems. I put it down to training too much, which maybe was stressing the body and lowering my immune system. I started taking probiotics and it cleared up almost immediately and hasn’t come back.

TRUK: Can we expect to see you back in the UK anytime soon for a race?

RS: Not anytime soon!

TRUK: Where the f**k are the OPSRC (Orchard Park Stair Running Club) lads??

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To Hull and Back: the successful Orchard Park Stair Running Club (l-r) Michael “The Rampart” Johnston, Lawrence “Bleed ’em” Needham, Daniel “Beast Mode” Sirrs, Rich “Beyond Human” Sirrs and manager Paul “Toolbox” Spivey.

RS: I know mate, don’t get my started!!! I’m considering withdrawing their OPSRC membership. We cant have Total Motion Tower Runners as the best team in the UK! That keeps me up at night sometimes.

My bro (Daniel Sirrs) moved to Canada this year, hopefully we’ll see him in a U.S/Canada race in 2017! We have talked about doing a U.S trip in 2017 or 2018. I’m thinking Las Vegas race (Scale the Strat) could be good! We’ll have a good battle with West Coast Labels and Total Motion coming up soon and I expect it might be close! Imagine that, cross country style scoring format. That would be fun.

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Australia’s Mark Bourne and Suzy Walsham took decisive victories at the Asian-Oceanian Towerrunning Championships this past weekend, held at Taipei 101 in Taiwan.

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Taipei 101 (2,046 steps), venue for the Asian & Oceanian Towerrunning Championships 2017

The Aussie pair returned to Taiwan, having both taken a break from the race – a year off for Walsham and two for Bourne.

Walsham had last one in 2015 and Bourne in 2014, and they returned on Sunday to stamp their dominance on their rivals with clear wins in the eighth tallest building in the world.

In its 13th edition, the race at Taipei 101 is recognised as one of the toughest on the global race calendar.

Walsham reached the top of the building’s 2,046 notoriously steep steps in a time of 13.36 – 20 seconds off her 2015 winning time and personal best- but still well over a minute faster than fellow Australian Alice McNamara who came in second in 14.58.

Similarly, Bourne was well off his best pace at the 508m tall building – 10.52 set in 2013 – but managed to secure victory with a time of 11.24. Behind him was another Australian, Leon Keely – who has previously competed at the highly-demanding Orienteering World Cup, and was taking part in only his second ever stair climb.

Both Bourne and Walsham had taken wins at the Lotte Tower in Seoul, Korea (the fifth tallest building in the world) a fortnight before (you can see footage of Bourne breaking the tape in Seoul here where he beat reigning world champion Piotr Lobodzinski in the much-anticipated exhibition event) so were good bets for their victories in Taipei.

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Suzy Walsham and Mark Bourne (image courtesy of Towerrunning World Association)

With such dominant displays over the last few weeks, surely both athletes will be looking ahead to the World Championships in China next month with huge confidence? Bourne has shown himself time and again to be one of the only real rivals to Piotr ‘Showtime’ Lobodzinski, especially over the longer distances. Their expected battle for top spot will be one of the highlights of the 2017 season.

Walsham, for the most part, continues to exist in a world of her own at the top of the female rankings, so rarely is she troubled by her competitors. Only Japan’s Yuri Yoshizumi has beaten Walsham in the past six months, and Walsham avenged that defeat at the Lotte Tower Run. She seems undefeatable in 2017, and her rivals at the upcoming World Championship must surely know they are ultimately competing for second place. Andrea Meyr, where are you??

Manchester’s Jones Wins in Doha

Posted: March 20, 2017 in News

‘The Manchester Myth’ Andi Jones won for the second year in a row at The Torch Stair Run in Doha, Qatar, this past weekend.

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The Lancashire man reached the top of the 1,304 step building, which hosted the 2015 world championships, in a time of 7.09. He was in a completely different league to his competitors, which comes as no surprise as Jones has a sub-30min PB for 10k and a 2:15 marathon PB.

In second place was Qatar’s Mohamed al-Obaidly (8.49), with Kenyan Hillary Rotich taking third in 9.05.

Speaking after the event, Jones told Gulf Times, ‘I’m very proud of my achievement and for earning first place once more. My participation in this competition stems from my constant need to challenge myself and surpass my previous results. I prepared really well for this and it paid off in the end. I’m really happy.’

In the women’s open category it was a slightly closer run affair. But Katerina Matousova held on to win in 10.42. She was followed by Lily Saad (11.02) and Ireland’s Gretta Beckett (11.38).

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Top three ladies (l-r): Lily Saad, Katerina Motousova, Gretta Beckett

Alston and Scott battle in Miami

Troy ‘The Future’ Alston and ‘The Flying Doctor’ Thomas Scott went head-to-head again on Saturday in another closely run battle, this time at Miami’s One Biscayne Tower.

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One Biscayne Tower, Miami, Florida

The two men, separated in age by 22 years, regularly battle it out at the various Fight For Air Climbs across Florida. Once again it was the younger Jacksonville native, Alston, who took the win.

He reached the top of the 648-step/38-floor building in a time of 3.11 with Scott finishing in 3.25. TJ ‘Candyman’ King rounded out the podium in a time of 4.12.

In the women’s division it was last year’s winner, French woman Anita ‘La Vitesse’ Haudebert, who again took the win, finishing in 5.21, earning her an impressive 8th overall. Andrea Csalari and Gina Allchin were second and third, respectively – with just .1 of a second separating the pair.

Check out the full results.

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The effort you need to ascend you can not find in any other sport. It is purely athletic, because it demands from the champion as much strength as speed and as much agility as enduranceLe Journal

The third edition of La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel takes place this week on Thursday 16th of March. Among the racers taking part this year will be the reigning world champion, Piotr Lobodzinski, who’ll be aiming to make it three wins in a row in Paris.

With its narrow field of participants – only 128 this year – and, of course, its iconic venue, entrance to La Verticale is one of the most sought after in the tower running calendar.

Tracing its origins back as far as 1905, the Eiffel Tower stair climb is probably the world’s oldest tower run. Though the first organised stair climb goes back a couple of years before that, when an outdoor stair race was held at Rue Foyatier in Paris 1903. You can read about that event here.

Combining reports from multiple newspapers and magazines from 1905, we have put together an account of that first race at the Eiffel Tower.

Le Championnat de L’Escallier 1905

Organised by a magazine called Les Sports, the race took place on Sunday 26th November 1905. It was a cold day with very heavy rains and strong winds. Yet despite the bad weather, large crowds gathered at the foot of the Tower, and on the platforms on the way up, to witness this ‘unique spectacle’. This comes as no surprise. At the time, the Eiffel Tower was the tallest man-made structure in the world, with the longest staircase. Those in attendance were witnessing history.

Newspaper Le Journal said ‘Les Sports had the unique idea to have athletes from all sports battle it out on a new ground…the stairs.’ The magazine’s aim was to pit champions and elite athletes from various sporting traditions against each other in the ultimate test of fitness. Runners, cyclists and footballers were all among those who took part in the event.

Of the 300 entrants who were due to attend, 283 made it to the start line. Those who took part did so in ‘racing outfits and espadrille shoes’.

The race involved running up 729 steps to the second platform (of three) at the Eiffel Tower. The reason they didn’t run to the top is the organisers felt the stairs on the upper levels were too narrow, and that it could have proved dangerous once the stairwell got crowded.

One newspaper report states that ‘competitors at this challenge were not allowed to pull on the railing’. There are some pictures that show competitors holding the railing, but we believe they were promotional shots taken before the event itself. None of the in-race images show runners holding on to the railing, although in one of the pictures below a runner looks dangerously close to reaching out and grabbing it. If, indeed, they didn’t touch the railing at all – and if the post-race report felt it worth mentioning, we may assume they didn’t – then the times they clocked in 1905 become all the more impressive. Ultimately it remains unknown.

The day was split into two sections; in the morning (9am-12pm) ‘veterans and novices’ took on the climb, and in the afternoon (2pm) ‘professional and amateur champions from different athletic groups’.

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The start from the foot of the Eiffel Tower. The runners were timed by Salomon, official timer of the A.C.F.

La Vie au Grand Air (a sports journal from the time) explains how the organisers handled the issue of timing:

The organisers had a great idea to avoid problems of classing. The runners had attached on their back a small bit of cloth on which was written a letter followed by a number – the minute of the start of their race. The runners went every minute, timed by MM Salomon & Richard. The timer at the second platform only had to calculate the difference between the start time marked on the back of the climber and the time of arrival.

Some racers really struggled on the day. This excerpt from one report will sound familiar to those who have set off a bit too fast at the start of a stair race:

Those who reach their fifth landing can conclude that it is relatively easy and with a bit of courage you could reach the top. Alas! They were disillusioned by the reality at hand- the leaders set aside, you could see the fast runners compared to the exhausted lads before even the first platform, who dragged themselves to the top painfully with sighs and desperate hiccups.

The exertion proved far too much for some runners. Apparently two or three passed out at the top and had to be resuscitated with CPR.

Aside from the stair climbers taking on the challenge as a test of their fitness, there were also ‘some eccentrics’ there on the day who ‘amused the public with unique variations: One man climbed it in 9mins 59secs while carrying a 50kg bag of cement on his back, another climbed it backwards, and a third, a waiter, did the ascent holding a tray with six full glasses.’

At the business end of things, the morning waves were highly competitive, with times from the amateurs rivaling those in the elite category later in the day.

The veterans and novices category was won by Luiz in a time of 3.19, he was followed by Pieli in 3.23, with the veteran A. Thiebaud reaching the second platform in 3.29. As seems customary of the time, competitors were largely mentioned by last name only.

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‘The arrival at the second floor for one of the runners’

Controversy at the elite race

The main event of the day was widely anticipated. Leading Parisian papers had write ups on the day of the event talking about the upcoming race. One even featured it on the front page.

According to Le Journal, ‘The champions of all sports fully understood the challenge and began training in a different way for this championship’.

Heading into the race, an amateur cyclist named Forestier was the favourite. He had won the Paris-Dieppe cycling race in 1903. Having done some research, he may well be Eugene Forestier, who later became a professional cyclist and came 15th in the 1908 Tour de France, competing for the Peugeot-Wolber team.

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Forestier

The fastest time on the day was set by Menu who finished in 3.03. But for some untold reason he was later disqualified.
The earliest report on the race came from the newspaper Le Siecle who listed the top four finishers and their times, but added, ‘We give these results with much reservation as a claim of fraud was placed against the winner.’ Obviously doubts had been raised about Menu soon after the race finished, but no where does it say exactly why he fell under suspicion.

Another report said ‘Menu did a baffling performance: 3mins 3 sec, but was disqualified…the difference in time between the first and the second – 16 seconds – had caused doubts from the start.’

The 16 second gap refers to the difference between Menu and Luiz (winner of the novices category). Presumably, Forestier hadn’t even set off before speculation arose over the speed of Menu’s time. Perhaps he was disqualified for pulling on the railing? It’s hard to think how else he may have ‘cheated’. It will remain a mystery.

With Menu disqualified victory went to the pre-race favourite, Forestier, who finished in a time of 3.12. He was followed by Lepage in 3.16 with Louis Prevost finishing third in 3.17.

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‘The start of the first floor’

The morning papers and weekly magazines were full of praise for the performance of the athletes. One even calculated how quickly Forestier would have climbed Mont Blanc by stairs had he maintained the same pace – 2 hours and 15 minutes, apparently.

One paper asked, ‘Is this to say that ‘on the stairs’ cyclists are better than regular runners? This is possible. What is certain is that the ones who came first were especially trained at this sport.’

Le Petit Journal concluded, ‘The event was remarkably organised… It allowed us to see the endurance and agility of all the sportsmen – cyclists, footballers, runners, walkers – that took part in this unique competition.’

We finish with the best quote from all the coverage:

After all, why would it be stranger to race up the stairs than to run on the road or on a track?

Why indeed.

The 2017 UK Tower Running Championship is now well underway, with the first three races already completed. We catch up with all the action from the past couple of weeks.

Beetham Tower Run, Manchester, 2017

The first race was held on 26 February at Beetham Tower, Manchester where a hotly anticpated battle between reigning UK champion Mark ‘The Marauder’ Sims and Slovakia’s Patrik ‘The Nitra Nitro’ Schneidgen – newly resident in the UK- didn’t disappoint.

Schneidgen managed to set a new course record (4.17) at the 798-step venue and also logged his first win over the ever-strong Sims, who finished in 4.29. Full results here.

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‘The Nitra Nitro’ Patrik Schneidgen celebrates his victory at Manchester’s Beetham Tower

Conquer the Broadgate Tower, London, 2017

The following weekend, 4th March, the action was in London at Broadgate Tower. Again it was Schneidgen and Sims who went head-to-head for top honours. Sims had defeated the young Slovak track star twice before at the venue in the City of London, but buoyed by his victory in Manchester, Schneidgen entered the race with supreme confidence.

He managed to take another win, in a time of 4.21, with Sims a mere four seconds behind. You can read a full account of that event from race organisers Total Motion Events. Full results here.

St George’s Tower Run, Leicester, 2017

Last weekend, 11th March, saw race three of the UK championships in Leicester. The sprint event, at the 351-step St George’s Tower, drew in some well-known European tower runners, including Rolf ‘The Wanderer’ Majcen. With Schneidgen racing in Poland on the same day, it was a perfect chance for Mark Sims to make up some lost ground and win again at a venue he dominated at last year.

Not only did he manage to hold off a strong challenge from Spain’s Christian Lopez, he also broke his own course record (which he set at the venue’s inaugural race last year) by three seconds, finishing in a time of 1.32. Full results here.

Mark Sims stair climber

Two-time UK champion Mark Sims toasts his new course record at St George’s Tower in Leicester

UK Tower Running Championship 2017

In its third year, the UK Tower Running Championship has a simple format and is open to all UK residents. Each race in the series has points on offer, ranging from 40 for the winner down to 10 for tenth place. The full breakdown of points in descending order is: 40, 32, 26, 22, 20, 18, 16, 14, 12, 10.

The person with the mosts points accumulated at the end of the series is crowned UK champion.

Year on year we have added more races to the championship. In 2015 there were four races, in 2016 there were six, and for 2017 we hope to possibly top that. At the time of writing we have had three races, with one more definitely in the calendar for September. We will be adding more races as they are announced and you can track which events are part of the UK championship series by following our regularly updated UK stair race calendar.

You can see the current standings in this year’s championship below.

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