Eureka Tower stair climb 2019

Mark Bourne remains undefeated at the Eureka Tower in Melbourne after picking up his eighth win yesterday.

The Canberra man clocked his second fastest time at the tower since his debut in 2011, reaching the top of the 1,958-step building in 7:45.

Eureka Tower has played host to some great battles between the best Australian tower runners of the past decade. Between 2011 and 2017, Bourne went head-to-head with Darren Wilson and Scott McTaggart.

Bourne came out on top in each of those contests, setting the course record of 7:34 back in 2013.

With Wilson and McTaggart absent from the race in 2016 and 2017, Bourne had fairly straightforward, and slower, wins those years, failing to run under eight minutes for the first time since his first race at the building in 2011. He then skipped the 2018 edition.

Yesterday, with world ranked number two, Soh Wai Ching (MYS) behind Bourne on the start line, there was hopeful anticipation for a return to tight and competitive racing in Melbourne.

But Bourne was on another level as he pulled away from the Malaysian, who finished second in 8:58.

bourne and wai ching

Mark Bourne and Soh Wai Ching

It’s the third win in less than a month for the magisterial Bourne, after recently beating world number one Piotr Lobodzinski in Shanghai (Oct. 20) and Osaka (Nov. 10).

After taking more than a four-month break from tower running over the summer months, his return to the stairs in the past four weeks has been nothing short of astounding.

Next weekend he heads back to Shanghai for the TWA Tour Final, where you can expect to see him on the podium. If he wins, whatever the final rankings say, it will be hard to argue that he isn’t the top stair climber in the world right now.

Eureka Tower stair climb 2019 results

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2009 men's start

In 2009, a controversial incident during the start of the ladies race led to one of the greatest comebacks in ESBRU history. In the men’s division, after the anti-climax of 2008, there was a much-anticipated re-run of the showdown between three-time winner Thomas Dold and mountain running star Marco De Gasperi.

If you missed the first installment of this series on the history of the Empire State Building Run-Up covering 1978-1980, you can read it here. Or jump back to 1981-19831984-19871988-19901991-19931994-19971998199920002001200220032004200520062007 or 2008 instead.

Otherwise read on for the next installment in the series and find out what happened at ESBRU in 2009.

The rivalry continues

Just under three weeks after he won his third ESBRU title, Thomas Dold headed for Milan, Italy, for another showdown with Marco De Gasperi on Sunday 24th February 2008. The venue this time was the 710-step Pirelli Tower, which was hosting its second event.

De Gasperi had won the inaugural event at the tower in 2007 in 3:44. After the disappointment of his fall in the lobby of the Empire State Building Run-Up at the start of February, which had denied him a proper shot at Dold, he was eager to mount a challenge against the German on more familiar territory.

But disaster struck again. Two days before the race De Gasperi picked up an injury that ruled him out.

Even though the pre-race favourite was out, Dold certainly wasn’t guaranteed top spot. With mountain running stars such as Fabio Ruga and Alberto Gramegna on the start list, the young German would still have to work extremely hard for his win. And he did.

Dold reached the top in 3:30, setting a new course record and finishing a massive 14 seconds faster than De Gasperi had the year before.

Dold Pirelli 2008 winner

Thomas Dold crosses the line to set a new course record at the Pirelli Tower, Milan, Italy

Back in Germany

The next big race on the calendar for Dold was the SkyRun Berlin at the 770-step Hotel Park Inn at Alexanderplatz on Whit Monday, 12 May 2008.

He was going for his third win in a row at the tower. In 2007 he had beaten training partner Matthias Jahn by just 0.57 seconds, and with Jahn in attendance once more, Dold would need to be at his very best to secure the triple.

It took a record-breaking performance for him to win. He crossed the line in 3:14.2, with Jahn’s finishing time just 1.8 seconds slower.

BERP1_ParkInn-Berlin-ExteriorView

The Park Inn Hotel in Berlin

Subida Vertical Gran Hotel Bali

Next up was a trip to Benidorm, Spain to race up the 936-step Gran Hotel Bali on Saturday 17 May. Paul Crake had set the course record of 4:35 there back in 2003, at the first edition of the event, a few months after he set the ESBRU record.

Dold took the win in 4:40, trailed by Ignacio Cardona who finished in 4:58.

Dold Benidorm 2008

Greetings from Benidorm: Thomas Dold celebrates his fourth win from four starts in 2008

Less than a week later, on Friday 22nd May, Dold was home in Germany where he was aiming to secure back-to-back wins at the 850-step Stuttgart TV Tower.

He held off the challenge of Matthias Jahn to make it five wins from five starts in 2008.

Dold Stuttgart Tv Tower 2008

Thomas Dold celebrates his win at the Stuttgart TV Tower

Taipei 101 Run-Up 2008

The first three editions of the Taipei 101 Run-Up had been held in November, but in 2008 the race switched to the summer.

At the 2007 edition, Marco De Gasperi had created a shock when he won the prestigious race in his debut year of tower running. On that day he had beaten Dold by 17 seconds.

On Sunday 17 June 2008, the pair were back in Taiwan to do battle again. After the upset the year before, and then the question marks that lingered after the 2008 ESBRU, Dold was determined to make a statement that he was the best tower runner in the world.

He absolutely blitzed the 2,046-step course, becoming one of the only men to have run it in under 11 minutes. His winning time of 10:53 was a massive 46 seconds faster than De Gasperi’s second-place 11:39.

Taipei 101 Run Up Dold

Dold exits Taipei 101

Taipei 101 Run Up Dold4

Taipei 101 Run Up Dold3

Roar power: Dold cries out after winning Taipei 101 Run-Up 2008

Dold wins Taipei 101 Run Up 2008

Still undefeated after six events, 2008 was shaping up to be Dold’s most successful season to date.

Chasing records in Singapore

After a summer breaking his own world records for running 800m (2:31) and 1,000m (3:20) backwards, Dold returned to the stairs on Sunday 16 November to attempt to break the course record at Swissotel The Stamford in Singapore.

The record there had been set way back in 1989 by Balvinder Singh, who had run up the hotel’s 1,336 steps in 6:55.

Thomas Dold Singapore Vert Marathon 2008

Thomas Dold at the start line of the Swissotel The Stamford Vertical Marathon 2008

Dold managed to do what no one else had been able to in 18 previous editions. He shaved three seconds off Singh’s time, crossing the line on the rooftop finish in 6:52. The win earned him a trip to New York and a spot at the 2009 Empire State Building Run-Up.

The 2008 season had been an absolute triumph. Seven races, seven wins and three course records. Dold was in supreme form.

He would head into the Empire State Building Run-Up 2009 full of confidence. And he would need to be at his best, because the lobby in February would be packed full of talent.

Suzy Walsham: racing as a two-time champion

Also at the Swissotel Vertical Marathon was two-time ESBRU champion Suzy Walsham. Like Dold, she too had been enjoying a successful season up until that point

After securing her second Empire State Building Run-Up title in February, Walsham returned to her adopted home of Singapore and spent the rest of the year competing in road races in Asia.

In June, the Australian athlete took part in the Anlene Orchard Road Mile in central Singapore.

Walsham, who had won the inaugural race in 2007, retained her title with a speedy 4:39 finish.

walsham Orchard Mile winner 2008

Suzy Walsham (third from the left) celebrates winning the 2008 Anlene Orchard Mile

Walsham upped the distance to 10km the following month, as she lined up for the Shape Run in Singapore on Sunday 20 July. She clocked 35:18 to take first place.

On Sunday 10 August, she was in Bali, Indonesia, for another 10km road race. She put in another mammoth performance to set a new PB of 34:11 and take second place.

juara-bali-10-k-putri-k5d31p-prv

Walsham with the rest of the top 5 women at the Bali 10km

In October the action returned to Singapore for the Great Eastern Women 10km event.

Walsham would be up against pre-race favourite Anintha Kiptum of Kenya, who held a 32:12 PB.

Although it was actually a slower race than anticipated, both women pushed themselves to the limit and paid for their exertions at the finish line.

Kiptum finished in 34:55, but collapsed shortly after and was later hospitalised.

Walsham followed 20 seconds later in 35:15, and was also in bad shape.

Walsham stagger

An exhausted Suzy Walsham begins to stagger at the finish line of the Women 10km

Walsham stagger 2

Supported by her partner David and a race official, Walsham is led away to the medical tent

Finishing the season on a high

Walsham was going for her third straight win at the Swissotel Vertical Marathon in November, the event at which she’d made her tower running debut in 2006.

Swissotel Vertical Marathon 2008

She duly came away with another win, reaching the rooftop finish in 8:19. Like Dold, she would now be heading back to New York to defend her title in February, 2009.

Her final race of 2008 was the Singapore Half Marathon on Sunday 7 December. Walsham put in a brilliant run to win in 1:17:42.

walsham singapore half marathon 2008

Suzy Walsham crosses the line to win the 2008 Singapore Half Marathon

The 2008 season had been an excellent display of athletic diversity by Walsham. She typically stayed away from longer distance races, because with her history of stress fractures and calf strains she feared the training volume required would take too heavy a toll. But she had pushed herself into running up to half-marathon distance and been rewarded for her hard work.

Still a relative newcomer to tower running, Walsham had barely focused on the stairs at all throughout the 2008 season. She was obviously in excellent shape, but would she be able to transfer that flat-level speed to the stairwell when she headed back to Manhattan to defend her title?

Empire State Building Run-Up 2009

So, the reigning champions were in New York for the 32nd edition of the ESBRU, but who else was in the building on Tuesday 3 February?

Four-time winner, Cindy Harris (née Moll) was back. She had finished second to Walsham in 2007 and 2008, and would be expected to provide one of the biggest challenges to the Australian.

Harris had been maintaining her stair climbing dominance throughout 2008, continuing her win streaks at the Hustle up the Hancock (where she set a new course record) and Sears Tower stair climbs in Chicago.

Just under two weeks before the ESBRU, she retained her title at the Bop to the Top event in her hometown of Indianapolis.

A couple of other former ESBRU champions were also in attendance.

The 1995 champion, Michelle Blessing, was in the building.

Michelle Blessing 2009 ESBRU

1995 winner Michelle Blessing at the 2009 ESBRU

So too was three-time winner Nina Kuscsik (1979-1981). Although neither would be in contention for a podium spot, it was good to see the former champions back for another run.

2009 Nina Kuscsik

Three-time winner Nina Kuscsik at the 2009 ESBRU

But three new faces would very likely be in contention for the podium.

In May 2008, Australian Jessamy Hosking had won the Australian Mountain Running Championship. She had placed second in those championships in 2006.

Jessamy Hosking

Jessamy Hosking

Three months later, she won the Sydney Tower Run-Up to earn herself a trip to New York to race at the ESBRU. She had been third there in 2007.

But five weeks before the ESBRU, Hosking had broken a bone in her toe and was unable to walk. She maintained her fitness with work on the bike and in the pool, and headed to New York in pain, but hoping for the best.

Italy’s Daniela Vassalli was another debutant Walsham and Harris would have to look out for.

An accomplished marathoner and mountain runner, Vasalli had recently turned her attention to tower running.

She had been the fastest woman at the Pirelli Tower in Milan back in February 2008, setting a new course record of 4:31.

Daniela Vassalli 2008 ESBRU

Daniela Vassalli

The final dark horse in the lobby was American runner Emily Kindlon. She had won the Run the Rock stair climb at the Rockefeller Center in 2007 and 2008. She would likely be in among the top finishers.

Emily Kindlon 2008

Emily Kindlon (with fellow winner Chris Solarz) at the 2008 Run the Rock

Another Italian, Cristina Bonacina, was also on the start line, as was ESBRU veteran Fiona Bayly.

Funnily, there was an Andrea Myers in the line up. Not sure if she got a shout out by the announcer in the lobby, but if she did it probably put a split-second jolt of shock through some, until they realised it wasn’t three-time champion and course record holder Andrea Mayr hiding at the back.

After her massive winning margin in 2008, Walsham was the obvious favourite. But the new faces added a touch of uncertainty to the proceedings. Overall it looked to have the ingredients for being a tight, competitive race.

As the starter’s claxon went, Walsham’s right foot gave way on the marble floor. Despite stumbling, she managed to stay on her feet, but Harris (and we believe Abby Woods on the far wall) got a jump on her and got out in front.

2009 womens start

Bridget Carlson (#106), Lynda Hubbard (108), Fiona Bayly (black gloves), Suzy Walsham (yellow vest), Daniela Vassalli (head visible above Walsham’s), Emily Kindlon (red vest along the far wall) and Cindy Harris out in front.

Walsham got upright again and drew alongside Daniela Vassalli. Neither was prepared to give an inch and their arms were catching each other as they vied for space.

Harris reached the door first, followed by Woods.

Next came the critical point of the race. With Walsham and Vassalli shoulder to shoulder, and only room for one to go through the door next, something had to give.

Walsham made a move to pass first, but Vassalli was having none of it.

She set her hand on Walsham’s shoulder and as the Australian went to make her pass, Vassalli shoved her hard out to the side. At the speed they were going, Walsham didn’t stand a chance. She lost her balance and smashed face first into the stone door frame, while Vassalli carried on and passed through the door in third place.

2009 ESBRU Walsham pushed

Suzy Walsham hits the deck after being pushed into the door frame by Daniela Vassalli

The following mass of runners ran into and over the prostrate Walsham. Eventually she was hauled to her feet by some of her competitors and bundled onto the stairs.

Walsham, her face already beginning to swell badly from the impact, and her clattered knee causing her serious pain, had a very quick decision to make. Pull out or carry on?

Of course the indomitable two-time champ soldiered on. She was now back in around 30th position, injured and in shock. Could she rein Harris and the other front runners back in before they got to the 86th floor?

Slowly but surely Walsham began to pass the women who had rushed pass her in the lobby.

2009 Cindy Harris

Cindy Harris out in front at the 2009 Empire State Building Run-Up

It took Walsham 50 floors before she caught up with Vassalli, who was chasing Harris and Hosking for top spot.

Revenge is sweet.

She passed the Italian and that was it. She wouldn’t let it slip now.

She powered on and caught up with Harris at around the 65th floor. An incredible show of determination, strength and will had led her to her third straight title.

Walsham crossed the line in 13:27, while Vassalli, who had surged pass Harris and Hosking in the final quarter of the race, finished 13 seconds back in 13:40.

Cindy Harris took third in 13:49 and Jessamy Hosking, with her broken foot, was fourth in 14:00. Emily Kindlon finished fifth in 14:22.

2009 Walsham finish2

2009 Walsham finish

Suzy Walsham wins the 2009 Empire State Building Run-Up

‘I thought, “What should I do? Do I stop or keep going?”‘, Walsham said after the race, holding an ice pack against her damaged knee.

‘I decided, I didn’t come all this way to pull out, so just did the best I could – power up. It was very hard. My knee was in a lot of pain and I was worried about my nose, that it was broken, but the adrenalin kicked in.’

2009 walsham trophy

Bruised but not beaten: a swollen-lipped Suzy Walsham holds up her winner’s trophy

Walsham’s fellow Australian, Jessamy Hosking, had also suffered throughout her climb.

‘I started off and I was in huge pain the whole way just hoping no one would step on my foot. I got to the top and I got 4th place. I was so happy, but so sore at the same time.’

Hosking would later refer to her fourth place finish with a broken foot as her most memorable athletic achievement.

Daniela Vassalli returned to a hero’s welcome in Italy. The athletics media was full of praise for the excellent debut run that got her on the podium. She would go on to win numerous stair races around the world over the following two or three years, including the inaugural NSPCC Gherkin Challenge in London in 2010.

In the immediate aftermath of the race, Walsham’s fall was still being considered an ‘accident’ and there was no mention of an intentional shove from Vassalli.

Daniela Vassalli 2008 ESBRU 2

Daniela Vassalli – second place at the 2009 ESBRU

But tellingly, Vassalli was never invited back to race at the ESBRU again. Perhaps somebody reviewed the footage or had been in the lobby and seen exactly what happened. *ed. note: pretty sure the race director became aware of the incident and I read that he said explicitly that Vassalli would never be invited to race the ESBRU again, but am currently unable to find the source for that.

The following year, padding was erected around the door frame to try and limit the danger of similar incidents.

Dold goes for a fourth straight win

There was some serious talent in the men’s division at the 2009 ESBRU.

Matthias Jahn, Dold’s training partner, was back. He’d finished second in 2007 and third in 2008. Could he go one better this year?

Matthias Jahn 2008 towerrunner

Matthias Jahn training in Franfurt in May, 2008

Also returning was American trail runner Rickey Gates. He had also been on the podium in 2007 and 2008, alternating positions with Jahn, while Dold took top honours.

It had been a mixed 12 months for Gates since his second place finish at the 2008 Run-Up.

A couple of weeks after the ESBRU he’d won the Run the Register stair race in Denver, Colorado.

Later in 2008 he had won trail and mountain races at home and abroad, and had placed an excellent 12th at the World Mountain Running Championships in September. But he had failed to defend the USA Trail Running Championships (10km) title he’d won in 2007, finishing in 17th place at the 2008 edition.

Rickey Gates 2008

Rickey Gates wins the 2008 Grintovec mountain race in Slovenia

Gates’ fellow Americans, Tim Donahue, Dan Casper, Eric Blake and David Tromp, were also in the lobby. They would all be hoping to make it into the top ten.

Dan Casper was a decorated track and road cyclist (as well as a fireman) who had finished in ninth place on his ESBRU debut in 2008.

Eric Blake, who was making his debut, was a mountain runner and marathoner. He had taken part in the 2004 US Olympic trials for the marathon and had also been part of the US team that took part in the World Mountain Running Championships in 2004-2006 and 2008.

In July, 2008, he had won the US Mountain Running Championship. He would be one to watch out for.

Eric Blake 2008 US champion

Eric Blake crosses the line to win the 2008 US Mountain Running Championship

Although Marco De Gasperi had been soundly beaten by Thomas Dold at the Taipei 101 Run-Up back in June 2008, the rest of his season had gone pretty well. He finished third at the European Mountain Running Championships in July and then eighth at the World Championships in September.

After the disappointment of the 2008 Run-Up, when he fell in the lobby and had to battle his way back from around 50th place to make it into the top 10, De Gasperi was hoping for much better luck this time around. All eyes were on him.

His Italian mountain running team mate, Emanuele Manzi, was on the start line as well.

Germany’s Christian Riedl, just starting out on his tower running journey, was making his ESBRU debut.

Javier Santiago from Mexico was back for the second time, looking to improve on the 16th place he’d earned in 2008.

Poland’s Tomasz Klisz was back for the sixth-straight time.

Other names that will be well familiar to many American stair climbers were also in attendance: Henry Wigglesworth, Paul Curley, Jeff Dinkin, Bruce Yang, Syd Arak, James Harris and Stephen Marsalese, to name a few.

From Australia, Scott McTaggart was back. In August 2008, he had won his third straight Sydney Tower Run-Up title, earning himself a trip to the ESBRU.

He’d also won his fourth straight Australian Mountain Running crown a few months before, so was in fantastic shape.

He had made a brilliant debut in New York the year before, finishing fourth. Could he get on the podium this time around?

1980 and 1982 ESBRU winner, Jim Ochse, was also in the building that morning, although not in the elite wave. He had taken part in the preliminary wave that ran at 9am (90 minutes before the elite women set off), with his 16:18 finish earning him 11th place there.

A lesson in the perfect ESBRU start

On the start line, Marco De Gasperi had sensibly positioned himself right out to the side, to avoid getting tripped by the charging runners behind him. But it meant he pretty much gave up getting through the door first.

To his left was cyclist Dan Casper, who had US mountain runner Eric Blake (bib #2 in the final video at the bottom of the story) just off his left shoulder.

Next along were Matthias Jahn and Thomas Dold. Scott McTaggart (red vest in the final video at the bottom) was on Dold’s left-hand side.

Rickey Gates, Tim Donahue, Duncan Lonsdale (who finished in 17:08 and should have been nowhere near the front) and Paul Curley made up the rest of the front row.

In a comical moment in the final video below (@0:11-0:16), the announcer calls out, ‘From Austria…Rudolf Reitberger’.

Matthias Jahn and Thomas Dold have a WTF? moment as they whip their heads around looking to find the two-time champion. Of course, he wasn’t there. Rudi still got a nice round of applause though.

2009 men's start

Marco De Gasperi (#37), Dan Casper, Matthias Jahn (3), Thomas Dold, Rickey Gates, Tim Donahue (in gloves and visor), Paul Curley

As always, master starter Thomas Dold reached the door first. It’s really interesting to watch the start in slow motion (0.25 playback speed on the final YouTube video at the bottom). Dold looks totally unprepared. He’s standing upright, no forward lean like his rivals and he looks relaxed. All the others are tensely staring straight ahead waiting to hear the claxon.

Dold, instead, is watching the starter (far right of the screen). At 0:22 seconds into the final video you see the starter’s arm going up with the claxon in hand. Watch Dold’s eyes track the hand up to the highest point. He then lets his weight fall forward and is already almost through pushing off his back foot as the claxon sounds.

Compare his footwork with Rickey Gates, two along from him (to the right as you look at it). Dold is almost on his third step before Gates has fully finished his first.

It’s actually masterful, and watching it this way it’s clear why Dold almost invariably made it to the door first in every ESBRU race he won. That, coupled with the spread out arms holding others back, of course.

Is it a truly false start? There’s a lot of twitching going on on the front line – Matthias Jahn also appears to jump the gun. It wouldn’t wash at an IAAF event that’s for sure.

Dold was followed through the door by Dan Casper, Matthias Jahn, Tim Donahue and Marco De Gasperi, in that order.

Just behind them, Rickey Gates had been twisted sideways by passing runners and then his legs had gone from under him. He hit the deck, with Scott McTaggart almost being taken out as well. You can see the incident beginning at 0:24 in the video below (slow it down).

Fortunately for Gates he landed on his backside and just slides along the floor right to the doorway, where he pops back up again. McTaggart did well to not go down, and you can see the mini-pause at the door as McTaggart braces against the following runners to give Gates time to get up properly.

2008 ESBRU mens lobby

Thomas Dold reaches the door first, followed by Dan Casper (#6), Matthias Jahn (3), Tim Donahue (7) and Marco De Gasperi (37). In the centre you can see Rickey Gates (87) turned sideways and heading for the floor.

2009 ESBRU men at door

The fast and frenetic battle for the door at the 2009 Empire State Building Run-Up

By the 20th floor (where we believe the image below was shot), Gates had picked up at least one place as he hunted down Dold and the other front runners.

He’s followed by Scott McTaggart, while Tim Donahue can be seen coming into the picture.

Rickey Gates ESBRU 2009

Rickey Gates, Scott McTaggart and Tim Donahue

Up ahead, Thomas Dold was running the race of his life. Marco De Gasperi was bringing out the very best in him.

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

The German, who led from the start, had to weave his way through scores of runners as he chased his fourth title.

Thomas Dold ESBRU 2009

Dold weaves through a crowd during the second half of the race

It’s a shame the organisers didn’t leave 10 minutes between the women’s and men’s wave, because it’s quite possible that given a clear run Dold could have become the second person (after Paul Crake) to have finished in under 10 minutes.

He pulled away from De Gasperi and the chasing Rickey Gates in the final quarter of the race to cross the finish line in 10:07. He had taken a second off the personal best time he set in 2008.

2009 Thomas Dold finish

Thomas Dold 2009 ESBRU finish

Marco De Gasperi finished second in 10:29. Rickey Gates made it back onto the podium for the third year in a row by finishing third in 10:40.

De Gasperi and Dold ESBRU 2009

Marco De Gasperi congratulates Thomas Dold

Thomas Dold 2009 Empire State Building Run Up

‘This is such a special win for me,’ said Dold. ‘You have to train a lot to get a victory like this, and it gets harder every year—lots of guys want it.’

2009 Dold celebrates

Thomas Dold celebrates his fourth ESBRU win

Dold had to fight to hold onto the finish tape he took as a souvenir. In the video below (posted by Javier Santiago who finished in ninth place), you can see Santiago’s finish (he crashes into reporters as Dold is being interviewed) and then you see the doorman trying to yank the finishing tape out of Dold’s hands as he heads back inside.

2009 winners colour

Empire State Building Run-Up 2009 winners – Suzy Walsham and Thomas Dold

This is a really good video from NYRR and has some different angles of the start, plus more in-race footage than the one underneath it. You can see Walsham running at 1:20-1:35, and you can watch Thomas Dold working his way past some of the slower finishing ladies at 1:44-1:52.

This final video is the one that was referenced throughout this piece, i.e. where you can see Dold’s start and Rickey Gates’ fall, etc.

 

2009 Empire State Building Run-Up results

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walsham VWC 2019

Suzy Walsham and Piotr Lobodzinski retained their Vertical World Circuit (VWC) titles yesterday at the grand finale in Osaka, Japan.

It was the eighth straight title for Australia’s Walsham, who first won the series back in 2012, and a sixth title for Piotr Lobodzinski.

The ten-event series has seen close races around the world throughout 2019. Starting in Seoul back in April, runners have since done battle in Milan, Ho Chi Minh City, Paris, New York, London, Beijing, Shanghai and Dubai before the final race on Sunday (Nov. 10) in Osaka.

The 1,610-step Abeno Harukas was the venue for the final event.

Heading into the race, Lobodzinski needed to place at least second to be certain of retaining his title. With a resurgent Mark Bourne (AUS) in the mix, and Ryoji Watanabe (JPN) seeking his first VWC title it was not an easy situation for the Polish world champion.

But in the end he did enough. Mark Bourne took the win with a new course record of 8:29 and Lobodzinski followed in 8:43. His second-place finish enough to earn him the overall Vertical World Circuit 2019 crown.

Harukas Skyrun men’s results:

  1. Mark Bourne (AUS) – 8:29
  2. Piotr Lobodzinski (POL) – 8:43
  3. Ryoji Watanabe (JPN) – 9:02
  4. Kato Satoshi (JPN) – 9:19
  5. Liang Liang He (CHN) – 9:41

‘Of course, I wanted to win today, but my shape is not as good as in spring. Mark was better and I had no chance to win the race but the points I collected in the first part of the season were enough to secure my sixth title in a row so I’m very happy and glad to be on top for so long,’ Lobodzinski told reporters after the race.

Eight straight for Walsham

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And then there were 8! 🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆🏆 When I was first crowned Vertical World Circuit champion at the end of the 2012 season, it was my first full successful year after pregnancy and I was excited to see where this newish sport would take me. While I try not to put limits on myself, I still never really expected to still be competing and doing well 8 years later! Despite my advancing years and the body not quite holding up like it used to, I still aim for improvement and I’m still as motivated and determined as ever in my training and racing. It’s not possible to have this kind of success year in, year out without an amazing team behind me. So a big thank you to: – @david_freer for your love, support, guidance, encouragement and for holding the fort at home when I am frequently away racing. – my family, friends and fellow athletes from all over the world who also encourage, support and motivate me. – the companies who help me be the best athlete I can be: @nike @drgarytho @alpnutrition_official @simplyactiveasia – the @verticalworldcircuit for organising the Circuit and supporting the athletes. A special shout out to @sportingrepublic and @dshinhk for managing/directing so many of the races. I’m already excited for 2020! #worldchampion #8times #verticalworldcircuit #vwc19 #nolimits #consistency #motivation #determination #beyourbest #neverstoptrying #nevergiveup #goals #dreams #fitnessmotivation #towerrunning #verticalrunning #justdoit #seeyouinthestairs #theonlywayisup

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In the final of the women’s event, Suzy Walsham only needed to finish in fifth place to be sure of winning an incredible eighth VWC title.

Giving her the title, then, was in part mere formality, as you probably have to go back to 2011 to find the last time the Australian star didn’t finish on the podium at a tower run.

But the race still had to be run and Walsham put in a blistering performance to take the win and finish in 10:18, just four seconds off the course record set by Japan’s Yuri Yoshizumi in 2017.

Harukas Skyrun women’s results:

  1. Suzy Walsham (AUS) – 10:18:
  2. Laura Manninen (FIN) – 11:07
  3. Yuko Tateishi (JPN) – 11:30
  4. Kumi Kinoshita (JPN) – 11:59
  5. Mie Takahashi (JPN) – 12:02

‘I’m thrilled to win here in Osaka at the 2019 Vertical World Circuit final and achieve my eighth straight world title,’ said Walsham. ‘I had a strong run, although I was a little disappointed to just miss the record, but it’s hard to be at your absolute peak for every race. It’s been a great year of racing and I’m already looking forward to VWC 2020!’

2019 Vertical World Circuit final standings:
Men

  1. Piotr Lobodzinski (POL) – 567 points
  2. Mark Bourne (AUS) – 561 points
  3. Ryoji Watanabe (JPN) – 539.5 points
  4. Emanuele Manzi (ITA) – 454 points
  5. Omar Bekkali (BEL) – 420 points

Women

  1. Suzy Walsham (AUS) – 600 points
  2. Laura Manninen (FIN) – 533 points
  3. Yuko Tateishi (JPN) – 461.5 points
  4. Sarah Frost (GBR) – 449.5 points
  5. Cristina Bonacina (ITA) – 359 points

Leadenhall Building Grate48

Laurence Ball set a new course record at the Leadenhall Building in London yesterday (Nov. 7), taking victory at the Grate48 stair climb event.

The emerging star of UK tower running set a new best time of 6:30 at the 1,258-step and 48-floor tower in the City of London.

The previous record of 6:56 had been set by Mark Howard in April, 2018. Howard also managed to go well under that time yesterday, as he clocked 6:36 to take second place. Will Obeney was third in 7:21.

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Congratulations to these two for taking victory at @rainbowtrustcc #Grate48 at The @cheesegraterldn yesterday with @lb_2020 building on his victory at The Walkie Talkie earlier this year, and second at Broadgate Tower, with a win and new course record! (Congrats to @howardhike too for also smashing his own course record to finish second). . Massive congratulations also to @nicolahendersonofficial who recorded her first race victory to cap what has been a remarkable year. . 🏃🏃🔝🔝🙌🙌🧡🧡 . Grate48 closes the Towerrunning season in the UK for 2019, but expecting big things from these two and all @tm_towerrunners in 2020. Rest, recover, go again! . 📸 @lb_2020 . #totalmotiontowerrunners

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It was Ball’s second win of the year, after he finished in top spot at the Walkie Talkie building back in March. He also managed fourth place at Vertical Rush, and second at the stacked Broadgate Tower Run-Up in July.

Given that this was the final UK race of 2019, it was a fitting end to what has been a stellar debut year for the UK athlete.

The growing rivalry between Mark Howard and Laurence Ball is definitely the most exciting development in UK tower running right now. Expect more close-run battles and new course records in 2020.

You can find the full Grate48 2019 standings in our results hub.

Alexis Trujillo Strat 2019

One of the new stars on the tower running circuit, Alexis Trujillo’s stair climbing career is on the ascendancy.

With multiple wins under his belt this year, including at Scale the Strat in Las Vegas back in February, plus hard-earned podium places at some of the most competitive events on the circuit, Trujillo is currently sitting in third in the Towerrunning World Association rankings.

Fresh off the back of his victory at Willis (Sears) Tower in Chicago last weekend, we caught up with the Mexican athlete to find out more about that race, his training this year and his plans for 2020.

SkyRise Chicago 2019

The 2,159-step Willis (Sears) Tower stair climb is one of the toughest in the USA, and it’s winner’s list reads like a Who’s Who of tower running legends.

On Sunday, Nov. 3, Trujillo added his name to that distinguished group.

Willis Tower

Willis (Sears) Tower is home to the SkyRise Chicago stair race

‘In general terms it was a very good race. This is a difficult building to run in, because the height of the steps varies and therefore maintaining a consistent pace isn’t possible,’ said Trujillo.

‘I did well. But in reality it didn’t go exactly as I planned, since I couldn’t fully maintain the pace with which I started. My idea was to finish sub 13-mins [only Frank Carreno (12:58, 2017) has finished the course in under 13 minutes]. At the beginning I felt I was maintaining that rhythm, but, as I said, to sustain a constant rhythm in this building is very difficult.’

‘In this race we were placed in order of how we finished in the event last year. So the order was first Frank [Carreno], then Görge [Heimann] and finally me. But Görge gave me his place so I started second. The runners set off 10 seconds apart and that made it more challenging.’

‘At around the 20th floor I reached Frank and I stayed behind him for about 10-15 floors until he let me pass. After that I felt motivated and increased the pace to be able to continue with my goal of finishing in less than 13 minutes. But I couldn’t stand the pace and on the 60th floor I had a sudden drop in energy. Then, on the 80th floor, I perceived Görge behind [the race finishes on the 103rd floor].’

‘But I know that we’re very close in the world rankings and that this was one of the decisive competitions to maintain third place in the world rankings, so I changed my mental chip. I don’t know where I got energy to get my second wind, but suddenly I made a change of pace in the last 20 floors.’

alexis trujillo

Trujillo celebrates his win at SkyRise Chicago 2019

‘I felt very strong at the beginning and at the end. I think the adrenaline did its thing to make it happen. The critical state was from the 40th to the 80th floor where I felt weak and slowed down considerably. I think that tower running is mostly a mental sport and one of the strategies to manage this drop in energy is to apply sports psychology.’

Behind the scenes

In winning at Willis last weekend, Trujillo managed to take 21 seconds off the time he clocked there in 2018. What’s been the difference this year that’s seen him take his performances to another level?

‘There have been a set of factors and changes that have helped me improve since July. I decided to be more specific in tower running training. I started adapting all I’d learnt with my athletic trainer, Alejandro Zamudio, to the stairs, and experimenting with training methods that I learned as a triathlon coach a few years ago.’

Towerrunning Mexico athletes

Alexis Trujillo with some of his fellow Towerrunning Mexico athletes

‘For example, I’m now doing two or three specific stair sessions, and only one track session, per week. With this I can say that I have decided to sacrifice my performance in horizontal races in order to improve my performance in vertical races.’

‘In addition, the Towerrunning Mexico Federation, alongside Universidad del Valle de México (UVM) has supported us with a multidisciplinary team of specialists in nutrition, psychology and physiotherapy. These three elements have helped me a lot in the last few months and have been instrumental in me obtaining good results.’

The end of the year and beyond

‘My main plan for the rest of this year is to compete at the TWA Tour Final [Nov. 24] in Shanghai, China, since in this competition the final positions of the 2019 world ranking will be defined. I’ll finally close out the season with the WTC race in Mexico City on December 15. Then, I’ll take a vacation to come back next year full of energy.

WTC Mexico City towerrunning 2019

The WTC in Mexico City where Trujillo will have his final race of 2019

‘Next year I will start with triathlon preparation, a sport in which I trained for eight years. I think this can give me a general basis for vertical races and as the competitive stage approaches, I will start to do specific sessions on stairs.

The 2020 events that I have considered are the following:

Stratosphere – Las Vegas
Eiffel Tower – Paris
KL Tower – Malasya
Towerrunning World Championship 2020 – Taipei 101
Empire State Building Run-Up – New York
Ping An Finance Center – Shenzhen
Hotel Bali – Benidorm
Ostankino Tower – Moscow
UFO Tower – Bratislava
Willis (Sears) Tower – Chicago (once again)
Eureka Tower – Australia
TWA Tour Final – Shanghai

However, that competitive schedule depends heavily on obtaining sponsorships to cover the travel costs implicated.’

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Andrea Mayr 2019

In a sport as small and widely ignored as tower running, you’d be forgiven for having never heard of one its finest practitioners. Even more so when you consider this legend has routinely dipped in and out of the sport over a 15-year period, gracing it with short, but lasting, flashes of brilliance before disappearing from the scene for years at a time.

Although you may never have heard of her, Andrea Mayr is one of the best athletes in the world. She’s a six-time world mountain running champion, the course record holder and three-time winner at the Empire State Building Run-Up, the fastest woman to have run up Taipei 101 and has represented Austria at the World Athletics Championships (3000m SC, 2005) and Olympic Games (marathon, 2012 and 2016).

In 2015, after a long break from stair climbing, Mayr came down from the mountains to win the Towerrunning World Championship in Doha, Qatar. Then she disappeared again. What’s she been up to?

Four successful years

You could fill a small book detailing what Andrea Mayr’s been doing in the past four years. What follows is only a snapshot of the accolades she’s bagged during this period. There’s way too much to cover in detail.

She won the World Mountain Running Championship and the World Mountain Running Association World Cup (WMRA) in 2016.

Andrea-Mayr-2016-World-Mountain-Running-Championships-winner

Andrea Mayr on her way to winning the 2016 World Mountain Running Championship

In 2017, she was second at the World Mountain Running Championship and third at the European Mountain Running Championship. She also won the vertical race at the Ski Mountaineering World Championship that year.

In 2018 she won the WMRA World Cup and the Red Bull 400 World Championship.

Red Bull 400 Mayr 2018

Mayr begins to pull away at the Red Bull 400 World Championship 2018

In among that busy 2018 season, Mayr was invited to partake in the Towerrunning World Championships at Taipei 101 in May.

But she was forced to withdraw due to injury, denying her the chance to defend the world title she’d won in 2015.

In terms of participation on the stairs, that news that she wouldn’t be able to compete was pretty much the last the tower running community heard about Mayr.

1st-winner-womens-category-2

Andrea Mayr wins the 2015 Towerrunning World Championships

But, as we head into another Towerrunning World Championship year, attention turns her way once more.

A wildcard entry to the event at Taipei 101 in May 2020 will be extended to the Austrian. Whether she decides to accept it is another matter. We can but hope.

It’s worth noting that Mayr is a medical doctor, working the long shifts associated with that profession and still taking examinations. The fact she has found time to put in the training required to stay at the top of the world mountain running and ski mountaineering circuit is miraculous. And that busy schedule could be an issue.

When she returned in 2015 to win the Towerrunning World Championship, she did so with no stair workouts. Suzy Walsham came within a whisker of beating her day.

If Mayr decides to come back next year she may want to set aside some time for tower running specific workouts that will put her in the best position to contend with Walsham, the resurgent Valentina Belotti and who knows who else.

But will she be able to find time? Will she even want to come back?

There’s much to ponder.

But let’s see where Mayr is now. We pick up her trail in the first quarter of 2019.

Ski mountaineering World Championships

On Wednesday 13th March 2019, Mayr was in Villars-sur-Ollon, Switzerland for the Ski mountaineering World Championships.

When Mayr had won the title in 2017, she had done so as somewhat of an underdog against younger emerging stars like Emelie Forsberg. But this year, as the defending champion, there was far more expectation on her.

In ski-mountaineering, Mayr prefers steep courses. With her strong mountain running background, she is no stranger to routes with big vertical gains, and she was anticipating a steep course at these world champs.

But due to safety concerns as a result of adverse weather conditions, the race organisers were forced to change the route to a flatter one just a day before the event. The 4km course would take in 420m of vertical gain.

The change made Mayr nervous. But you’d never have guessed as she stormed to back-to-back titles.

You can see her in action in the video below and hear her thoughts on the race.

ismf-world-cup-sprintrace2019-vertical-race-52

Vertical kilometer course record at Trofeo Nasego

On Saturday 18th May, in rain swept Casto, Italy, Mayr went head-to-head with long-time rival Andrea Belotti. The battleground this time was the tough vertical kilomoter race at the Trofeo Nasego mountain running event.

Mayr was in majestic form as she broke the previous course record by more than four minutes, to finish in 38:39.

Clips from her winning run – from start line to finish – can be seen in the first minute and a bit of the video below.

Austrian Mountain Running Championship

On Sunday 2nd June, the Internationaler Raiffeisen Lipizzanerheimat Berglauf doubled as the Austrian national mountain running championships.

andreamayr-lipizzaner-bl-12_000

Mayr completely dominated the race. She completed the 9.2km course (with 1,075 gain) in 52:20, over seven minutes faster than the second-placed woman.

Course record at Katrinberglauf

As the 2018 champion and course record holder at the Katrinberglauf in Austria, Mayr returned to the mountain on Sunday 16th June to defend her title.

She continued her run of outstanding form to take almost a minute off her previous best time.

Mayr Katrinberglauf2

Andrea Mayr leads out the field at the Katrinberglauf 2019

Mayr Katrinberglauf

Crossing icy ground on her way to setting a new course record

European Mountain Running Championships

Winner in 2005 and 2013-2015, and then third in 2017, the Austrian has a great record at these championships.

On Sunday, 7th July in Zermatt, Switzerland she was back to challenge Europe’s best once again. The race was across a 10.1 km course with 1,030 meters of ascent.

Standing between Mayr and a fifth title was the incredible Swiss athlete, Maude Mathys, winner in 2017 and 2018.

Andrea Mayr 2019

Mayr during the European Mountain Running Championships 2019

Despite maintaining a narrow lead in the first half of the race over the steeper parts of the course, Mayr was reeled back in by the younger Mathys as the course leveled out in the second half.

Mayr finished second, a minute back from Mathys who secured her third European crown in a row.

Piz Tri Vertical

A little under a month later (Saturday 3rd August), Mayr was back in Italy for another battle with Valentina Belotti at a vertical kilometer race (across a 3.5km course).

At the 2018 edition of the event, the Austrian had broken Belotti’s course record. The 38:11 she ran that day was called a ‘phenomenal’ and ‘sensational’ time.

That reporter would have done well to keep some superlatives back for the 2019 race report, because Mayr obliterated that record as she crossed the line in 37:20.

Andrea Mayr PizTri Vertikal 2019

On the course of the Piz Tri Vertical 2019

Red Bull 400 Bischofshofen

Three weeks later (Saturday 24th August), Mayr was on home soil to take part in the Red Bull 400 race in Bischofshofen.

She was looking to win the event for the fourth time in a row, and was squaring off against fellow Austrian multi-sport athlete, and tower runner, Veronika Windisch.

Mayr won in a brilliant 3:52, followed by Windisch in 4:44 and Finland’s Mila Koljonen in 4:46.

‘I really felt very good from the beginning and especially in the last part, where the spectators are so close. You feel really motivated,’ she told Red Bull. ‘I’m really happy with the race. It’s a competition that really is a lot of fun and that’s one of the main reasons I participate.’

red-bull-400-bischofshofen-2019-andrea-mayr

Pulling away at the Red Bull 400 Bischofshofen

Back to the Hochfelln-Berglauf

As the course record holder and nine-time winner of the Hochfelln-Berglauf, including five straight wins from 2014-2018, Mayr was expected to secure an astonishing 10th title when she returned to the event on Sunday 29th September.

And she did. It was the slowest winning time of all of her victories, but she still finished three and a half minutes ahead of second place.

mayr hochfelln 2019

Mayr completed the roughly 9km course (with 1,074m of vertical gain) in 49:51.

Hochfelln podium 2019

Ten-time winner of the Hochfelln-Berglauf

What’s next?

So, after that snapshot of her stacked 2019 season, this is where we find the magisterial Andrea Mayr.

On Friday 15th November in Villa La Angostura, Argentina the World Mountain Running Championships will take place. Mayr will likely be planning to be in attendance to see if she can win a seventh title. She finished 6th in 2018.

Beyond that is the Towerrunning World Championship at Taipei 101 in May, 2020.

By the time that comes around it will be almost 15 years since she set the course record of 12:38 at the tower in November, 2005.

Will we get to see one of the best tower runners of all time race again?

We can only hope.

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Hustle up the Hancock

1998 ?
1999 ?
2000 Joe Kenny (USA) 10:22  Cindy Harris (USA) 11:10 – results
2001 Steve Pala (USA) 10:35  Cindy Harris (USA) 11:19 – results
2002 Terry Purcell (AUS) 10:00  Cindy Harris (USA) 11:39 – results
2003 Terry Purcell (AUS) 9:47  Cindy Moll (Harris) (USA) 11:45 – results
2004 Terry Purcell (AUS) 9:49  Cindy Harris (USA) 11:10 – results
2005 Terry Purcell (AUS) 9:45  Cindy Harris (USA) 11:33 – results
2006 Terry Purcell (AUS) 9:39  Cindy Harris (USA) 11:10 – results
2007 Terry Purcell (AUS) 9:30  Kathryn Froehlich (USA) 11:50 – results
2008 Christopher Schmidt (USA) 9:38  Cindy Harris (USA) 10:52* – results
2009 Terry Purcell (USA) 9:32  Cindy Harris (USA) 11:17 – results
2010 Terry Purcell (USA) 9:32  Cindy Harris (USA) 11:17 – results
2011 Terry Purcell (USA) 10:04  Cindy Harris (USA) 11:21 – results
2012 Justin Stewart (USA) 9:45  Kristin Frey (USA) 10:57 – results
2013 Sproule Love (USA) 9:24*  Kristin Frey (USA) 11:56 – results
2014 Eric Leninger (USA) 9:42  Cindy Harris (USA) 12:03 – results
2015 Eric Leninger (USA) 9:51  Cindy Harris (USA) 11:41 – results
2016 Eric Leninger (USA) 9:57  Liz Ruvalcaba (USA) 11:30 – results
2017 Andrew Drobeck (USA) 10:19  Sherri Breese (USA) 12:54 – results
2018 Terry Purcell (AUS) 10:07  Tricia Hess (USA) 12:07 – results
2019 Chris Hoffman (USA) 10:37  Tricia Hess (USA) 12:09 – results

* course record