Taking the sport to new heights – meet the Towerrunning Association of Singapore

Posted: December 9, 2020 in News
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Singapore has a long tower running history, with the first edition of the Swissotel Vertical Marathon taking place way back in 1987.

Over three decades later and a new group of tower running enthusiasts in Singapore are working to take the sport to new heights.

We caught up with the Towerrunning Association of Singapore to find out a bit more about who’s who in the organisation and what its goals are.

TRUK: Congratulations on getting officially registered earlier this year. Tell us about your plans for the Association and for the sport of tower running in Singapore?

TAS: Singapore is a recognised global hub for air travel, shipping, and finance and it’s our aim that one day it be considered an international hub of tower running. The Towerrunning Association of Singapore has managed to become a focal point of an already thriving underground tower running scene.

There are groups and individuals all over Singapore who are training in their local HDBs (Housing Development Board buildings) who often caught the tower running bug at one of the several high profile races which were (prior to COVID) taking place annually, such as the Swissotel Vertical Marathon, National Vertical Marathon and multiple other local community HDB and charity events.

Thomas Dold at the Swissotel Vertical Marathon 2009

There are many members of our association who have travelled internationally to races in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Australia, USA, Malaysia and more, which makes us one of the most well travelled tower running associations in the world.

We plan to raise the profile of the sport in Singapore, develop a local stable of athletes and race against the best in the region (especially our close friends in the Malaysia Towerrunning Association who are developing their own group of strong athletes). Obviously, we’ll have to wait until the COVID situation improves so that races may open up again.

TRUK: What’s happening right now with TAS? From Instagram it looks like you guys are having regular meet ups and training sessions.

TAS: Since the virus has been brought under control in Singapore we are looking at relaunching our regular training sessions, and planning for future events. We host regular training sessions once a week on Saturdays, and have another training session during the week for the hardcore members who want to do more.

During this period we have to make sure to adhere to certain COVID restrictions still in place which mean we can train in one stairwell with a group of no more than five people, and keep proper social distancing measures.

Singapore is blessed with having ample training grounds for tower runners. To understand why, we have to go back a little in history. Prior to 1960, Singapore’s landscape was predominately low-rise, as local villages known as kampungs made up of wooden single houses known were the norm.

However, in 1961 after the largest fire in Singapore’s history gutted an entire kampung leaving 16,000 homeless, the Singapore government vowed to transform public housing with the establishment of the Housing Development Board, or HDB.

The end result is that Singapore went vertical, building thousands of high-rise concrete buildings in which 80% of Singaporeans live today. Many of these HDB buildings are 40 floors or higher with open stairwells, offering the ideal place to train. In fact Singapore has over 10,000 HDB blocks of over 10 storeys which people can use to stair train.

We’re lucky that we have access to multiple 40/50 storey HDB blocks (130m) and even a 69-floor private condo block to train (220m). We don’t think there are many training groups around the world who have such easy access to these high-rise buildings.

As we continue to train, we look to increase our membership and build more awareness toward our sport. We often see random people train on stairs when we train at different locations. Many are not aware of our Association, so we’d like to reach out and encourage them to join.

Singapore also has a large population of runners and sports enthusiasts of all kinds, and we hope to entice some to cross over to the world of tower running. Although tower running in general remains a niche sport, we hope to change that perception.

Back to our latest plans. We recently did a few time trial events that were successful and look to do more in the future. We also have the year end coming up and may do another Christmas climb which proved to be popular last year. We also have our AGM coming up in the spring next year.

TRUK: Tell us a bit about who’s who in the Towerrunning Association of Singapore

TAS: We have 13 founding Association members who come from all nationalities and backgrounds. Just to name a few, our President Eddie Tan is a seasoned veteran with 10+ years of tower running experience and many international races under his belt.

SC Tan, our Secretary, has been a dedicated stair climber for 10+ years as well. We have Michele Tan, one of the fastest female tower runners in Malaysia, Rich Sirrs, former UK number one who moved to Singapore a few years back, and Mateusz Dolata from Poland.

Charles Supapodok, an American, started stair climbing late in life but competes internationally and has posted some fast times recently. Mark Budweciz is an Aussie who has placed well in regional competitions so far. Kai Peng, our Association’s treasurer is the youngest in our group, but is a rising star.

Our remaining founding members came to know one another through regular tower running sessions. They too shared the same desire as the rest of us in promoting this sport further.

TRUK: How’s Singapore’s race calendar looking for 2021? Will you guys have events on over there?

TAS: So far it doesn’t look like there will be any events in 2021 until the COVID situation improves. Singapore moved into its Phase 2 reopening on June 19th, where it remains today. Phase 3 would increase the size for group activities from 5 to 8, but this does not seem enough to allow for races to resume. For the time being we don’t see any races happening in 2021, unfortunately. ■

You can keep up to date with the Towerrunning Association of Singapore on Instagram and Facebook.

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