NSPCC Gherkin Challenge 2019: Bryant wins on tower running debut

Posted: November 1, 2019 in News
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Gherkin London NSPCC

Tommy Bryant took the win at the NSPCC Gherkin Challenge in London last Sunday (27th October).

In his first tower run, the long-time runner who was English Schools champion in 2009 in the 2000m steeplechase, transitioned seamlessly onto the stairwell, finishing the 1,037-step course in 5.18.

‘I’ve never done this type of race before, so I didn’t quite know what to expect,’ said Bryant.

‘It was very high intensity. More than I expected. It’s tough because you want to take more steps but if your flexibility or power endurance is lacking, you will feel it for sure. I would say it felt like running a mile to the best of your ability.’

NSPCC Gherkin winner 2019

Although Bryant’s winning time was the slowest in the event’s history, it’s likely he could have gone sub five-minutes with a bit of race experience.

‘I went out too keen trying to double step, but I soon realised my mistake and changed to high cadence,’ he said. ‘I used the handrails sometimes, but I found that drained more energy.’

So the newcomer basically single stepped the bulk of the course without using the handrails and still clocked 5:18. A very impressive performance.


Bryant leads out the 12.30pm wave at the Gherkin Challenge 2019

It’s perhaps of little surprise when you realise that 10 years ago Bryant was among the most talented and promising athletes in the country. The results on his Power of 10 athlete profile show his early quality across a range of distances, from 800m through to 10km.

But there are no results listed there for the past decade. What’s the former Shaftesbury Barnet Harrier been doing since?

‘I ran countless cross-country and track competitions when I was younger – what felt like every weekend. I loved competing and trained hard, almost everyday. In 2007, I earned myself an England vest and in 2009 I became English Schools champion.’


Tommy Bryant wins the 2019 NSPCC Gherkin Challenge

‘By the time I reached university, life hit hard and my competition days were over. This was mainly due to other priorities and the onset of injuries. I was also lacking the proper guidance and coaching at the time.’

‘I slowly got back into running years later and now I compete for the fun of it. This has helped me love the sport again. I recently ran a PB of 3hrs 1min for the Loch Ness Marathon, a few weeks prior to The Gherkin Challenge so I knew I was in decent form.’

Tommy Bryant NSPCC Gherkin winner

Tommy Bryant (r) and friends toast his win

Bryant relied solely on his regular runs to get in shape for his win at the Gherkin.

‘In all honesty, I did no specific training but I run to and from work almost everyday. At the weekends I do long runs around Richmond Park, depending on how I’m feeling. It was all in preparation for the [Loch Ness] marathon, but now it’s just a good excuse to weave some exercise/mileage into my normal commute.’

So, will we see Bryant back on the stairs in the near future?

‘I didn’t realise there was such an appetite for this type of racing,’ he said. ‘But I’m keen to give it another try next year.’

With some more focused preparation, Bryant should be able to chop a massive amount off his finishing time at the tower in the City of London.

In second place last Sunday was two-time winner David Harris, who reached the top of the 1,037-step course in 5:23. It was a welcome and encouraging return for the 2014 and 2018 winner, who was making his comeback after recovering from back surgery.

David Harris tower run

David Harris finishing the 2019 NSPCC Gherkin Challenge

‘I’m happy to be back competing and very pleased with the result given where I was six months ago,’ said Harris. ‘I pretty much did no exercise for four months from April due to severe back pain and had an operation in July and only started light exercise again in August.’

‘In the race, I probably went off a little too quick and then struggled to lift the pace as much as I wanted over the last ten floors or so. I’ve recovered really well from my surgery and my back is all good now.’

‘I’m happy with my training progress and looking forward to the last few races in 2019 and will be working hard over the winter to hopefully start 2020 in top shape. As for the Gherkin Challenge, I’ll just have to come back again next year to hopefully go for a hat-trick of wins!’

With his win, Tommy Bryant adds his name to the list of distinguished winners of the NSPCC Gherkin Challenge.

* Race day was beset with timing issues, with no official times available at the venue. Post-race, a lot of question marks were raised about the official times that were eventually posted. Amendments were made by the timing company, but then the listed results reverted again. The link to the official results page is below, but aside from the top two men, questions remain about several of the positions and finishing times.

NSPCC Gherkin Challenge 2019 results

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