Elite Level Training Tips: Mark Sims

Posted: January 24, 2015 in Training

Mark Sims is likely the most successful British stair runner ever. He has chalked up wins at The Gherkin, Spinnaker Tower, The Great Yorkshire Stair Climb (Bridgewater Place, Leeds), Beetham Tower (Manchester), and was winner at The Royal Liver Building (Liverpool) nine years in a row. He has also had success abroad, finishing eighth at the Empire State Building Run Up, which is one of the showcase events on the stair running calendar. A top ten finish in among the world’s elite runners is arguably his most impressive performance.

During the build up to this year’s Towerrunning World Cup Final in Vienna, Mark kindly took some time out to answer a few questions about how he prepares for a race, what tips he’d give to a novice climber and what world tower he’d really like to run up.

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What does a typical week of training look like for you as you prepare for a stair race?

I’m fortunate enough to be able to use the stairs where I work after 5:30pm so depending on family commitments I will try and train on them 2 to 3 times a week. I’ll do 3 to 4 timed ascents of differing lengths (either to target my speed or endurance), and to increase the intensity I use leg weights.

Away from the stairs I do some strengthening exercises, mostly squats of between 200-400 reps, as well as calf raises and sit-ups. I’ve also been trying to add a bit more endurance running by doing my local Park Run (5km) of a Saturday morning

Alongside this I’m cycling five days a week to and from work which exercises similar muscles.

What sort of technique do you use on the bannisters?

Depending on the width of the stairwell I’ll either use both sides or just the inside rail. I’m mostly using it to take some of the weight off the legs and also to help give me some kind of rhythm/pattern.

What key tips would you give to a novice stair climber preparing for their first race?

Know what you are up against. So have an idea of how long it will take you to cover the number of steps you are racing over. This will then allow you to focus your training better. I’d also want to tell them that during the race it may hurt on the way up, but the feeling that you get when you’ve finished is well worth it, and as they say, the pain is only temporary.

What race would you really like to do? or what global tower would you really like to run up?

The Torch in Doha, Qatar has held a race since 2012 and for March 2015 it will be the location of the world championships – I’d really enjoy being part of that.

What are your favourite and least favourite aspects of stair running?

I believe that if you make the training as hard as possible then the racing will be easier, so my favourite aspect would be the racing and the views you get from the top, and least favourite is pushing yourself in training.

Do you have any pre-races rituals?

None, but as a Christian I do like to pray before I race.

How do you tend to pace yourself during a race?

This made me laugh when I thought about it as if I were being brutally honest my answer would have to be badly, as my pace definitely slows the further I am into a race. However the plan is always to start off at a steady pace and get into a good rhythm and then push myself as hard as possible for the last quarter of the race.

What are the key qualities needed to succeed in stair climbing, and how can they be developed?

From a purely athletic point of view you need to be strong both physically and mentally, and the best way to develop these is practice. However, I’ve seen a vast range of people competing in stair running events for various reasons and success can be measured in so many different ways.

Interested in taking part in a tower running event? Check out our partners Total Motion Events or our race calendar to find out what events are happening near you.

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