Tower running is celebrating its 50th anniversary in the UK this year, with the first recorded stair race having taken place in April 1968 at the GPO Tower (now BT Tower).

With the stair racing season about to start, we take a look back to 1968 to find out a bit more about that historic and trailblazing race.

Read on to find out more about the sport’s history in the UK, including who took part in that first race and what the winning time was.

The GPO Tower

The tower had been commissioned by the General Post Office to support microwave aerials carrying telecommunications transmissions from London to the rest of the country.  Work began in June 1961 and was finished in July 1964, at a cost of £2.5 million.

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The tower under construction in 1963.

Upon completion the tower became the tallest building in the UK – a title it would hold until the completion of the Natwest Tower (Tower 42) in 1980.

It wasn’t until October 1965 that it would officially open, in a ceremony with then Prime Minister Harold Wilson in attendance.

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Prime Minister Harold Wilson officially opening the tower, with former Prime Minister Clement Atlee (seated) and a young Tony Benn watching on.

The first tower race in the UK

The race took place on Thursday 18th April 1968. It was organised by students from nearby University College, London as part of the RAG Committees activities that year. RAG is a longstanding, and still popular, tradition at UK universities, where students engage in a variety of activities, including sports events and sponsored challenges, to raise money for charitable causes.

Unfortunately, there is a limited amount of information to be found about this monumental event in this sport’s history. We did find a couple of short excerpts below when searching through newspaper archives, both of which appear to be based on a GPO press release.

The small piece pictured below featured in the Aberdeen Evening Express on Wednesday 10 April 1968, just over a week before the event.

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The next one is taken from the Coventry Evening Telegraph on Friday 12th April 1968.

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Details about who was involved at the University of London, and how they managed to organise the event, have proved hard to come by. But we do know an invite/challenge was extended to students at the University of Edinburgh, who tied it in with their own Charities Week initiative up there.

By the time the event finished, the Londoners may well have regretted their choice of competition. Edinburgh sent down a team made up of members of the athletics and cross-country teams. They were among the best athletes in the country at the time.

Earlier in 1968, the University of Edinburgh Hare and Hounds cross-country team had won the British Universities Cross Country title. They had also won the team title at the Scottish National Cross Country Championship, becoming the first and only university team to have done so.

The Edinburgh team that attended that first UK stair climb event was made up of: Hugh Stevenson (high hurdles), Jack MacFie (800m and cross-country), Iain Hathorn (400/800m and cross country), Andy McKean, John Exley and Ken Fyfe (all cross country). Also in attendance was Sheila Duncan, but we were unable to find out what athletic events, if any, she was involved in.

The seven-person Edinburgh team completely dominated the event. The men filled the top six places on the leaderboard, with cross-country athlete and 800m track specialist Jack MacFie taking the overall win, and establishing the course record, in a time of 4.46.

Sheila Duncan took victory as the fastest woman in a time of 7.06. She may well have been the only woman who took part.

Memories of the race

We managed to get in touch with Andy McKean, a first year architecture student at the time, to find out what memories remained of that race 50 years ago. Following the event, Andy went on to win four Scottish Cross Country titles, represented Scotland at international races, and competed in the inaugural World Cross Country Championship in 1973.

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Andy McKean in action (image courtesy of www.scottishdistancerunninghistory.scot).

“I think our participation may have been in some way associated with the Edinburgh Charities Week – i.e as a kind of charity stunt. I recall receiving a t-shirt emblazoned with the GPO Tower and a charity name, although I cannot remember which one. It must have been organised rather at the last minute and on a shoe string: we all traveled down by car the night before (fortunately with other friends driving), and back to Edinburgh again overnight the night after; so I was absolutely knackered when we got home!”

For those of you who have raced the BT Tower in recent years, you will recall how narrow the stairwell is. A problem that hindered McKean on the day:

“In truth I was a bit too tall for it, as the space was fairly confined and actually felt quite claustrophobic at times.”

But he recalls the victorious Jack MacFie was well suited to it:

“Yes, Jack was indeed the fastest on the day, and I remember us all reflecting afterwards that he had exactly the right build for the event, slightly stocky (by distance running standards) but sufficiently strong and agile for managing the steps and turns at the stair landings.”

Yes, those pioneers immediately recognised the importance of quick landing turns to success in stair running.

The event organisers managed to run the event again in 1969 and 1970. A bomb at the BT Tower in 1971 is the likely reason it didn’t continue beyond that, as the venue was closed to the public.

Unfortunately, it would be decades before tower running returned to the UK. In the intervening years the sport took off in the USA, with the 1978 Empire State Building Run-Up being their first event, and now the longest continuously running stair climb event.

 

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Suzy Walsham returned to New York City on Wednesday night to secure a record ninth victory in the women’s race at the Empire State Building. In the men’s division, it was Colombia’s Frank Nicolas Carreno, the current world number two, who took the overall win.

Having won the event every year since 2013, Australia’s Walsham was widely tipped to take victory again. However, last year’s runner-up, American Cindy Harris, who has competed at the event over 20 times was expected to push her hard the whole way.

Former top-three finishers Shari Klarfeld and Stephanie Hucko were also expected to be in the mix at the close of play.

With the impressive Harris coming off  back-to-back victories last month at the Dallas Vertical Mile and the Bop to the Top event in Indianapolis, there was anticipation that she could get a lot closer to Walsham than she had in previous attempts.

In 2016 she finished almost three minutes back from the reigning world champion, as she took third place.

Last year she closed the gap significantly, cutting the time between her and Walsham to just over a minute, securing second place in the process.

The veteran Harris, who is a four-time winner at the ESBRU, did not disappoint. Only a mere 20 seconds stood between her and world number one Walsham when the race was finished.

In what was the third slowest finishing time of all her victories, the almost invincible Walsham made it nine in a row, in a winning time of 12.56.

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‘This year was a bit tough for me’ said Walsham. ‘It felt a little bit harder than previous years. I’ve had a bit of an interrupted build-up, so I think it might have been a smile of relief when I crossed the finish line today’.

When asked if she planned to return in 2019 to attempt to claim a record 10th victory, Walsham replied, ‘I’d love to get 10, so yes!’.

Shari Klarfeld took third place in 13.43, cutting an impressive 18 seconds off her 2017 finishing time, and setting a personal record in the process.

ESBRU debutant Carreno secures a straightforward win
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In the absence of any of his fellow top-10 world-ranked stair climbers, Frank Nicolas Carreno was a clear favourite going into the men’s elite event, despite it being his first time racing at the 86-floor building in Midtown Manhattan.

In what turned out to be one of the slowest races in recent history,  he took a comfortable victory in an official time of 10.50. Although it was the slowest winning time since 1989, it was more than enough to secure the win for the young Colombian.

Belgium’s Omar Bekkali took second in 11.53, the only other sub-12 minute finishing time on the night. American veteran Sproule Love secured his fifth ESBRU podium finish in a time of 12.10.

The full race results are available here.

The 2018 UK stair racing season gets under way in just over five weeks, and here are three of the best events we think you should be looking to sign up for in the coming months:

1. The Christie Tower Run

 

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Beetham Tower has 798 steps and is the 11th tallest tower in the UK.

What is it?

This challenging, charity stair climb event returns for a second year, giving runners the chance to climb 798 steps to the top of Beetham Tower, Manchester’s tallest building. Entry is £15, with participants asked to commit to raise £150 sponsorship.

Why should I do it?

Firstly, it’s an excellent cause and charity that deserves support. The Christie charity is one of the largest hospital charities in Europe. It exists to raise funds for all those extra special services that help patients to cope with the impact of cancer on their daily lives.  Donations also contribute towards their cancer research programmes, capital building projects and the purchase of state of the art medical equipment.

Secondly, if you’re in the north of the country you’ll know that stair races are thin on the ground up there. We’ve seen more events popping up outside of London year-on-year, and last year this event heralded the welcome return of stair climbing to the north west. For those north of the Midlands this is a brilliant and easily accessible race to try. For stair climbers in the capital, it’s a welcome chance to escape London and climb one of the other tallest buildings in the UK.

Thirdly, it was a really popular event last year, with climbers universally praising the organisation and atmosphere on the day. It’s definitely not one to be missed.

When is it?

Sunday 25th February at Beetham Tower, 303 Deansgate, Manchester M3 4LQ.

How do I sign up?

The Christie Tower Run registration

2. Step Up: Ellenor’s Tower Climb Challenge

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What is it?

A challenging, charity stair climb up the 877-step Broadgate Tower in the City of London.

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. But this event has no minimum fundraising amount, although fundraising is encouraged to help this 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.

It’s also a great chance for those signed up for Vertical Rush on 15th March to make sure they’re in race shape while experimenting with race-day planning and stair climb pacing.

When is it?

Saturday 3rd March at Broadgate Tower, 201 Bishopsgate, London EC2M 3AB.

How do I sign up?

Step Up: Ellenor’s Tower Climb Challenge event details and registration information.

3. LOROS Tower Run

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What is it?

A sprint event up the 351-step St George’s Tower in central Leicester.

Why should I do it?

It’s cheap. Just £17 entry with no fundraising commitment, or free entry if you can fundraise £50 or more for LOROS. With most UK races requiring you to raise sponsorship in excess of £100 on top of your entry fee, this friendly and very well-organised event is an absolute bargain.

The 351-step building is one of the the shortest courses in the UK, so is a great introductory climb for those who want to try out stair climbing but are maybe a bit daunted by the challenge of one of the bigger towers.

For more experienced climbers, it’s a rare opportunity to go all out in a sprint and throw off the shackles of pacing that is sometimes so hard to get right during climbs in taller buildings.

It will make a great warm-up race for those doing Vertical Rush for Shelter in London on 15th March.

When is it?

Saturday 10th March at St George’s Tower, 1A St Georges Way, Leicester, LE1 1SH.

How do I sign up?

LOROS Tower Run registration

 

For a full list of upcoming stair races in the UK check out our 2018 race calendar.

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.

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

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??