Archive for the ‘Tower running history’ Category

The seven-time winner of the Empire State Building Run-Up enjoyed a long and hugely successful tower running career. We take a look back through his races and pick out five of his finest moments.

With so many to pick from, we’ve selected the ones that stood out to us. Leave a comment to let us know which others you’d include.

5. 2004 Uptown Run Up, Munich, Germany

Hochaus Uptown Munchen – site of Thomas Dold’s first tower running victory

Already a mountain running star who’d represented Germany at the World Junior Mountain Running Championships in 2002 and 2003 (where he finished 11th), Dold was still a tower running novice when he took part in the Uptown Run Up on 2 October 2004.

He’d made his stair racing debut the year before, taking sixth place at the highly competitive Donauturm Treppenlauf  in Vienna, Austria. But it was in Munich that Dold recorded the first of his 45 career wins.

It was the first edition of the 780-step race, so it probably went unnoticed by many in the world of tower running. But soon they would sit up and take notice of the man from the Black Forest.

4. 2017 VertiGO at Tour First, Paris France

Thomas Dold at VertiGO in 2017 (©iancorless.com)

It might seem an odd choice to include a race where Dold finished second as one of his ‘top moments’, when he has 40+ wins to pick from. But there’s a reason.

Dold had stepped away from tower running for the 2015 and 2016 seasons, missing all the big races, including the World Championships in Doha.

Many thought they probably wouldn’t see him race again. Then in 2017 he returned for three races on the Vertical World Circuit: Tower 42 in London, Tour First in Paris and One World Trade Center in New York.

He finished second in London (to Piotr Lobodzinski) and would later take a controversial joint-first in New York alongside Australia’s Darren Wilson.

But it was the race up the 954 steps of Tour First in Paris that really stood out. 2015 world champion Piotr Lobodzinski clocked a new course record of 4:42 at the event, but the returning Dold finished just five seconds behind him.

14 years after his tower running debut, and following a two-year layoff, the brilliant Dold proved he could still hold his own with the rest of the best in the world.

3. 2012 European Championship final, Frankfurt, Germany

Thomas Dold leads the finalists into the stairwell at the 2012 European Tower Running Championships

A seven-time Empire State Building Run-Up champion and three-time Vertical World Circuit winner, Dold had a massive target on his back at every race he took part in throughout the 2012 season.

At the final of the European Tower Running Championships at the MesseTurm in Frankfurt, Germany, Dold was facing the best of the new cohort of European stair racers.

The championship event involved one full qualifying run up the tower’s 1,202 steps. Christian Riedl clocked the fastest qualifying time, with Dold taking second. Earlier in the year at the Empire State Building Run-Up 2012, Riedl had finished just eight seconds behind the winning Dold. He was definitely the athlete that could cause Dold the most problems.

In the semi-final the runner’s had to sprint just half way up the MesseTurm. This time Dold evened things out and came out on top.

Could Dold take victory in the final run up the full height of the tower? Christian Riedl, Tomas Celko, Piotr Lobodzinski, Milan Wurst and Viktor Novotny were all looking to stop him.

But Dold proved he was still the best in Europe, pulling away from the field to finish in 6:30, ahead of Christian Riedl (6:53) and Piotr Lobodzinski (7:00).

2. Course record at 2012 Vertical Rush, London, UK

As part of the Vertical World Circuit 2012, Vertical Rush in London attracted a long list of top European tower runners.

Dold was making his debut at the 932-step Tower 42 and was expected to be squaring off with the 2011 winner, Fabio Ruga of Italy, for top honours.

Dold produced a performance for the ages, clocking a course record 3:58.

Eight years on and his incredible record still stands. Only Piotr Lobodzinski has come close to it, clocking 3:59 in 2017.

1. Personal best at 2009 Empire State Building Run-Up, New York, USA

Thomas Dold made the Empire State Building-Run Up his own during his stunning run of victories from 2006 to 2012.

There are plenty of memorable moments to pick from out of his seven wins, but the 2009 event stands out as the best.

The stellar line-up in the lobby included 2007 World Mountain Running Champion Marco De Gasperi from Italy and American Rickey Gates, who had finished just eight seconds behind Dold in 2008.

Both men pushed Dold hard throughout the course, driving him on to a 10:07 finish, the best time he ever ran at the Empire State Building.

But what stands out about this race in particular is what might have been.

Only Australia’s Paul Crake has ever completed the ESBRU course in under 10 minutes, managing it four times during his run of victories from 1999-2003.

But under different circumstances, Thomas Dold may very well have done the same in 2009.

At around the 40th floor (of 86), Dold caught up with the back end of the women’s wave that had set off five minutes before the men.

As a result he had to weave his way through scores of runners as he chased his fourth title.

Thomas Dold weaving his way through the women’s wave on his way to winning the 2009 Empire State Building Run-Up

It’s highly likely that given a clear run that day Dold would have broken the 10-minute mark. Unfortunately, we’ll never know for sure.

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When the Q1 Tower was completed in 2005, it became Australia’s tallest building. Shortly before its towering observation deck was opened to the public, the building played host to a star-studded elite stair race offering $10,000 to the winner. Here’s the story of how it went down.

Measuring 322.5m tall from street to spike, the new skyscraper in Gold Coast, Queensland dwarfed 120 Collins Street in Melbourne, which had been the country’s tallest building since 1991.

With Australia’s long and rich history of stair climbing – the Rialto Run-Up in Melbourne started in 1987 and the Sydney Tower Run-Up in 1990 – it was no surprise that the idea of holding a race up Q1’s 1,821 steps was quickly pitched.

The idea for the event originated during the breakfast radio show The Cage, which was broadcast out of Brisbane by the Triple M network.

Former Australian international rugby player Greg ‘Marto’ Martin was one of the hosts and suggested a stair race be held to celebrate the opening of the Q1 observation deck. Within hours the ball was rolling on getting it organised.

Greg ‘Marto’ Martin in action against the British Lions in 1989

Richard Barker, the general manager of Austereo – the media company then operating Triple M – said: “Triple M is currently talking to Australia’s top athletes to compete in the event which may well become an annual challenge and one we hope to build nationally as comparable to the famous Empire State Building stair race in New York.”

“Based on anecdotal research, the fastest runner is expected to complete the 1,821 stair race to the observation deck in around nine minutes.”

“This compares with the usual mode of transport to be used, one of the world’s fastest elevators, which will do the journey in 43 seconds.”

Austereo and the developers of Q1, Sunland Group, really put a lot behind the event, giving it the exposure it deserved and putting up a huge prize fund to try and attract a wide range of athletic talent.

The prize money on offer was completely unrivalled in stair racing. In fact it was one of the highest paying races of any athletic discipline at the time in Australia.

The winner of the race would take home $10,000 (AUD), second place would receive $5,000 and third, $2,500.

What’s more, in a national first, The Cage breakfast shows from Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne’s Triple M stations were all set to broadcast live simultaneously from Q1 to celebrate the event.

Triple M – Q1 Run to the Sun

Within a few weeks a line-up of runners was assembled, a mix of elite Australian athletes and media personalities. The selection of athletic talent was huge, with multi-time Empire State Building Run-Up champions alongside long-distance swimming champions, up-and-coming AFL players, international triathletes and emerging track and field stars.

Belinda Soszyn was a highly experienced mountain runner, triathlete and stair runner who had won the Empire State Building Run-Up three times (1994, 1996-97) and the Sydney Tower Run-Up three times (1993, 1995-96).

She’d also won the Australian mountain running championship in 1996 and represented her country at the World Mountain Running Championships.

51 year old Soszyn had hung up her tower running shoes back in the 90s, but the lure of Australia’s new tallest building had pulled her back in.

Belinda Soszyn winning the 1994 Empire State Building Run-Up

Soszyn was set to face off against Vanessa Hill, who had previously placed at the Sydney Tower and Rialto Tower runs.

Although unmentioned in pre-race reports, mountain runner Hubertien Wichers also competed. Whether she was a late replacement for Hill or Soszyn, or an additional entrant is unknown.

Radio personalities Emma Maclean and Brigitte Duclos were the only other women at the race.

Among the men set to race was young Beau Tanton, a 19-year old AFL player who at the time was playing for Broadbeach AFC on the Gold Coast. Tanton had also represented the Queensland state team a number of times.

Beau Tanton in action for Queensland during the Northern Territory and Queensland AFL Under 18 National Championships in 2004

The experienced Sydney-based tower runner Jeremey Horne had also been invited. A sub-2:30 marathoner, Horne had won the Sydney Tower Run-Up in 2004 and had finished second at the Swissotel Vertical Marathon in Singapore earlier in 2005.

Australian international cross-country skiier Andrew Mock was also there. The 23-year old had won the Rialto Run-Up earlier in the year, so was expected to be in among those chasing for top spot.

Andrew Mock winning the 2005 Rialto Run-Up

From the world of triathlon there was Chris Stanton, who was part of the Australian World Championship team, and the highly-competitive elite Drew Westbrook who had won an ITU Age Group Aquathlon World Championship event in Honolulu a couple of months prior. Ben Holland, another successful age group triathlete, was also on board.

Another athlete new to stair running was Mark Saliba, a long-distance open water swimming champion who’d finished fifth at the 25km Open Water Swimming World Championship in 2004.

Mark Saliba on his way to winning a marathon swimming race in Hong Kong in 2004

The Australian under-23 5km champion Christopher Reeves was signed up too. Fellow Brisbanite Anthony Craig was alongside him. Craig was a middle-distance track star who’d won a silver medal at the Australian University Games.

They were joined by Gold Coast-based Andrew Ferris, who at the time was the best Australian under-23 athlete over 3,000m and 10,000m. He was also the Queensland State Champion over 5,000m.

PJ Bosch, a middle-distance runner from South Australia, was another super-fast young athlete invited to compete.

Others picked to take part in the race included Gerard Gosens, a totally blind elite athlete who had run from Cairns to Brisbane three times; climbed to Everest Base Camp three times and was the Deputy CEO of the Royal Blind Foundation based in Brisbane.

Greg Martin, whose on-air suggestion had gotten the whole event moving, also laced up his running shoes to scale the 1,821 stairs.

2005 Australian and USA Men’s Open Water Ski Racing Champion, Peter Proctor was racing, as was Richard Barnes, a veteran of 15 Sydney Tower Run-Ups who had placed second at the two most recent editions.

Although there was a wealth of young athletic talent at the Q1, it was fully expected that the winner on the day would come from among the remaining four athletes.

Troy de Haas from Gisborne had won a bronze medal at the World Junior Orienteering Championships in 1999 and had gone on to represent Australia at senior championships.

He’d also won the Great Pyramid Race earlier in the year, a 12.2km run up and down Walsh’s Pyramid in Cairns, Queensland.

Although new to tower running, de Haas was predicted to put up a strong challenge to the pre-race favourites.

Troy de Haas at the 2007 Taipei 101 Run-Up

Mountain runner Daniel Green wasn’t well-established on the stairs like some of his rivals at Q1, but the 2000 Australian Mountain Running champion, who’d also finished fifth at the 2004 championships, was a threat, regardless.

The next entrant on the start list had been a star of mountain running and stair climbing for well over a decade.

David Osmond had won the 1994 and 1996 Sydney Tower Run-Ups. He’d also placed second twice at the Empire State Building Run-Up (1995, 1997).

David Osmond (seen here in 1995) was one of the pre-race favourites at Q1 Tower

Winner of the 1996 Australian Mountain Running Championships, Osmond had also been on the podium at the nationals in 2002, 2004 and 2005.

In excellent shape and with the experience required for successful stair climbing, Osmond was certain to be one of the front runners on Thursday 1 December.

Perhaps only one man stood a really solid chance of stopping Osmond claiming the $10,000 prize money, and unfortunately for him that man was the unrivalled king of tower running, Paul Crake.

Five-time winner and course record holder at the Empire State Building Run-Up, Crake was now a professional cyclist with the Corratec-Graz-Cyl team in Austria.

Paul Crake sets the course record of 9:33 at the 2003 Empire State Building Run-Up

Crake was also course record holder at the Sydney Tower and less than a fortnight before the event at Q1 he had won the inaugural race at what was then the world’s tallest building, Taipei 101.

Earlier in 2005 Crake had finished third at the Australian National Road Race Championships.

As expected from a pro cyclist, the Canberra man was in phenomenal shape.

Crake was alerted to the race by a friend in Canberra and headed back to Australia after the Taipei 101 Run-Up to try and score himself some extra funds, having already bagged himself a handsome £3,500 for winning in Taipei.

“I have the strength from cycling to go up the stairs and based on my result in Taipei I should be able to come out and have a good solid run,” Crake told reporters ahead of the race.

“Based on number of steps, number of floors, and the height of the building you can basically work it out but I don’t go into many details. My running time in the stairwell should be 7min 30sec, but you have to run around the block first. A time under 9min is definitely achievable.”

“Stair running is not actually that hard on the legs. It seems to be a lot harder on the lungs”, he added.

Paul Crake (right) on the podium at the 2005 Australian National Road Race Championships

The race began with a mass start and a run around the building before the athletes headed inside and onto the stairs.

By the time they hit the steps, Paul Crake was near the middle of the pack, having lost position on the run in. But with his experience and superior conditioning he was able to slowly work his way towards the front.

“The most important part of a stair race is to get a good start and the race around the building made that difficult for me,” said Crake.

“I’m not much good at running on the flat these days so when I got into the stairwell there were about seven or eight guys ahead of me. I was a bit apprehensive because it’s hard to judge how far they get in front.”

The Q1 Tower on Australia’s Gold Coast

Troy de Haas was first into the stairwell and held the lead for around two thirds of the way up the tower.

By the 50th floor, Crake had almost reeled him in.

“The Today Show had a camera there and they asked how I was going,” said de Haas.

“I said the bad ‘f’ word and literally I was gone already. From there on, I could hear Paul Crake coming. I didn’t know who it was but I assumed it was him.”

Pre-race speculation was that the winning time would be around the nine minute mark.

Crake surprised everyone by reaching the observation deck in 7:42 to claim the $10,000 winner’s prize.

“There was a bit of elbowing in the stairwell but nothing like what I’ve experienced overseas. I found a few other races more aggressive overseas,” said Crake after his win.

“The Aussies seem to be pretty good. When you go overseas and you have different cultures, different people have different standards of what’s right and wrong.”

“We were rubbing shoulders but I thought it was a fairly clean race. Australians know their manners.”

Second-placed David Osmond (8:15) picked up $5,000 and third-placed Troy de Haas (8:22) won $2,500.

The organisers also had some surprises at the awards ceremony.

The first woman to finish, mountain runner Hubertien Wichers (11:12), was handed a $3,000 cheque and two nights’ stay at Sunland’s Palazzo Versace.

Gerrard Gosens, the blind runner, clocked an impressive 12:04, and was thrilled to be awarded $5,000 along with a holiday at Palazzo Versace by Soheil Abedian, the managing director of Sunland Group which developed Q1.

Abedian hailed Gosens’ determination to overcome obstacles and said he was a true winner, even if he was not the first to cross the finish line.

“What do you mean I didn’t win? I didn’t see anyone in front of me,” joked Gosens, leaving the crowd in stitches.

Despite Austereo’s general manager Richard Barker’s hope before the race that the event would become an annual challenge, it would be 10 years before another race happened at Q1.

The new star of Australian mountain and tower running, Mark Bourne, would win that race in 2015.

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We’re guessing most of you have never seen complete footage from a stair race. In fact, extended footage from any tower run is frustratingly hard to come by. But the wait is now over. OK so it’s 25 years late, but below is video of the full Rialto Run-Up in 1995.

The line up of 40 men at the 1995 edition of the Rialto Run-Up in Melbourne was full of Australia’s very best tower runners. Along with bragging rights in the Australian stair climbing community, the men were also competing for a prize of $1,000AUD.

24-year-old Terry Purcell was back to defend the title he’d won in 1994. Just two years into his tower running career, he’d quickly established himself as the man to beat in Australia and was the pre-race favourite.

Purcell was heading into the race having already pulled off a course record-breaking win at the Sydney Tower Run-Up earlier in the year.

But the man from Geelong would have to put in a seriously strong performance in order to secure back-to-back wins at the 1,254-step tower in Melbourne, as his competition was among the best around.

Phil Griffiths was on the start line. He had won at the Rialto in 1993 and finished second there in 1992. He’d also won the Sydney Tower Run-Up in 1993. Then in 1994 he took third at the Empire State Building-Run Up.

1992 Rialto Run-Up winner Glen Devison was competing too. He’d also finished only two seconds behind Griffiths in the 1993 race, so knew the Rialto course very well.

At the ESBRU in 1993, Devison had made it an Australian one-two as he finished second behind the legendary Geoff Case.

Predicted to be one of Purcell’s toughest rivals on the day was the superstar youngster David Osmond.

David Osmond

Mountain runner Osmond had won the Sydney Tower Run-Up in 1994 on his stair running debut.

As a result he’d earned himself an invitation to the 1995 Empire State Building Run-Up, and when there he’d taken an impressive second place behind Germany’s Kurt Konig.

A pre-race profile on Osmond said he had also enjoyed a stair running triumph in Canberra, which was probably at the inaugural 403-step Telstra Tower Run-Up in 1994.

As if getting to watch that amazing line up of tower runners competing at their peak isn’t good enough, two-time Rialto winner and three-time ESBRU winner Geoff Case is co-commentating on the race.

Now sit back and enjoy the fantastic footage from the 1995 Rialto Run-Up.

David Allard ESBRU

Getting to race up the stairs of the Empire State Building just once is a dream for most tower runners. For many it’s a dream that continues to elude them as they fail year after year to secure a coveted place at the world’s longest-running stair race. But for one man it’s become a real-life recurring dream that’s been going for more than a quarter of a century.

When you look back through the long and eventful history of the Empire State Building Run-Up you’d be forgiven for skimming over the event in 1994.

Ran on a shortened course of 80 floors, the men’s race was won by debutant Darrin Eisman (USA), while fellow first-time runner Belinda Soszyn (AUS) took the first of her eventual three victories in New York.

With all the close battles, intense rivalries and record-setting runs that came before and after, 1994 was, in comparison, fairly unexciting.

But it was certainly far from unexciting for David Allard, the man who currently holds the record for the most ESBRU appearances. This was the year he made his debut at the famous Manhattan tower.

1994 WINNERS BEST

Darrin Eisman and Belinda Soszyn, winners of the 1994 ESBRU

From novice to veteran

David Allard had only a couple of stair races under his belt when he took part in the Empire State Building Run-Up for the first time in his mid-40s.

In fact he hadn’t run at all until a few years before.

‘I didn’t start running until my daughter had joined the high school cross country team,’ he said. ‘I had never run a step in my life until then.’

Despite his lack of experience, the tower running novice from Great Barrington, MA, clocked a respectable 14:51 on the shortened course in 1994.

A year later he was back to take on the full course of 86 floors/1,576 steps, where he set his personal best of 16:43.

EmpireStateBuildingAdmission

‘It was a simple race at first, with a mass start that begins in the lobby,’ Allard told the Berkshire Eagle back in 2013. ‘We all had to hit this tiny door and then begin our ascent. But a lot of people tried to go too hard, too fast and many ended up holding their chests, slumped to the side of the stairwell by the eighth floor. For me, I set a steady pace and held it.’

‘Years ago you could only pass on the left,’ Allard recalled to the Brattleboro Reformer last year, ‘so you have seven stairs to pass a guy before a landing. Someone hits the landing and just has to turn so it was impossible to pass.’

The elite waves still begin with a manic mass start, but runners in the general wave now set off five seconds apart. With less crowding and mania in the stairwell, it’s a bit easier for Allard to settle into his runs and focus on his technique.

With 26 ESBRU appearances to his name, David Allard perhaps knows the stairs and the race better than almost anyone. So first time tower runners could do worse than listen to some of his advice.

‘It’s a breathing race, not a leg race,’ says Allard. ‘It’s all about holding a steady breathing pattern and using the handrails to carry your momentum.’

‘You bring yourself right to the edge of a heart attack, and you just hold it. The Empire State Building [Run-Up] is not a legs race, it’s a lungs race. The trick with the race is to start at the pace you’re going to maintain.’

David Allard 2008 ESBRU

David Allard at the 2008 Empire State Building Run-Up

His top five tips?

‘(1) Don’t go out too fast; (2) Take the stairs two at a time; (3) Use the hand rails; (4) When someone wants to pass you in the stairway, get out of the way; and (5) Smile at the end.’

The payoff at the top will make all your hard work worthwhile, Allard promises.

‘It’s the most beautiful ending to a race because you have to run one last lap around the observation tower and you get to see all of New York ahead of you. It’s so exhilarating, there’s no other feeling like that.’

TV presenter Kelly Ripa took part in the race in 2013 and she got to meet David Allard before she set off on her run.

You can see their brief exchange at the Empire State Building in the video below (starts at 1:40).

Allard’s rivals for The Streak

‘The streak is a really strange thing because it has zero value,’ says Allard. ‘Yet to the person that holds the streak it has enormous value.’

Hot on his heels for the record for most appearances at the Empire State Building Run-Up is a well-known tower runner from New York, Stephen Marsalese.

Marsalese made his debut at the Empire State Building in 1996 and has competed in every race there since, bringing his current number of appearances to 24.

With 15 or so years age difference between the two men, it’s likely the younger Marsalese (if he continues to be invited to the the ESBRU) will eventually outlast Allard.

David Allard and Stephen Marsalese

David Allard and Stephen Marsalese

But the evergreen, four-time winner Cindy Harris (nee Moll), who currently has 22 appearances to her name and is still competing at the very top, could well pass both men out in the coming years.

But Allard has no plans to call time on his fantastic run at the ESBRU any time soon.

‘I hope to do this into my nineties—I’ll crawl up the stairs if I have to’, he told TimeOut.

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ESBRU 2010

In 2010, defending champion Thomas Dold was going for a record-equaling fifth win. New and familiar faces were lined up in the lobby aiming to put a stop to the German juggernaut. In the women’s division, three-time champ Suzy Walsham was sitting out the race while pregnant. Could Cindy Harris now finally claim a fifth title? Or would a new champion emerge?

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, 2008 or 2009 instead.

Otherwise read on for the next installment in the series and find out what happened at the Empire State Building Run-Up in 2010.

The first Vertical World Circuit

With his fourth ESBRU title in the bag, Thomas Dold set about the rest of the 2009 season eager to secure more accolades.

His win in New York in February had been the first race in the newly launched Vertical World Circuit (VWC), a stair climbing series consisting of eight events across four continents: Empire State Building Run-Up (New York), Ramada Tower Run (Basel), Pirelli Tower Vertical Sprint (Milan), Taipei 101 Run-Up, SkyRun Berlin, Sydney Tower Run Up, Torre de Collserola Vertical (Barcelona) and the ​​Singapore Vertical Marathon. A proposed ninth race at the Donauturm in Vienna was cancelled due to building works at the tower.

Dold would dedicate the rest of the year to winning the inaugural Vertical World Circuit.

Ramada Tower Run (Basel) 2009

Less than three weeks after his ESBRU victory, 24-year old Dold was in Switzerland, ready to renew his rivalry with European tower running sprint specialist Gabriel Lombriser.

The pair had been swapping course records at the 542-step Ramada hotel in Basel since Lombriser set a new record at the second edition in 2005. Dold broke it in 2006 and Lombriser claimed it back in 2007.

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The Ramada hotel in Basel, Switzerland

Dold hadn’t attended the 2008 edition of the race, but he was back on Saturday 21 February 2009 to face off once more with his Swiss rival.

Victory eluded the German, who had to settle for second behind the record setting Lombriser, who clocked a best time of 2:41.

Dold’s finishing time was just 0.9 seconds slower.

Pirelli Tower Vertical Sprint 2009

Dold skipped the Vertical Sprint at the Pirelli Tower in Milan 10 days later.

In Dold’s absence, Italians Marco De Gasperi and Fabio Ruga battled it out for top spot.

De Gasperi already had points on the board for the VWC, having finished second to Dold at the ESBRU in February, and was looking to pick up the maximum points available in this race.

He managed it by securing the narrowest of victories, with mere centimetres separating him from Ruga at the finish line.

Fabio Ruga

Marco De Gasperi (r) wins the 2009 Pirelli Tower Vertical Sprint ahead of Fabio Ruga

Record setting run in Stuttgart

Dold was back in action on Sunday 10 May at the 850-step Fernsehturm Stuttgart (TV Tower). He had won every edition of the race since it began in 2006.

Christian Riedl, Tomas Celko and Marcus Zahlbruckner were among the men looking to stop Dold’s winning run.

But the three-time champ was unstoppable as he set a new course record of 4:05.

Taipei 101 Run-Up 2009

The following weekend, Thomas Dold waited in the lobby of Taipei 101 alongside De Gasperi and Ruga. The experienced Fu-Cai Chen, third at the 2007 and 2008 Taipei 101 Run-Ups and fifth at the 2008 ESBRU, was with them, as was Pedro Ribeiro.

With a first and a second-place finish apiece leaving them level so far in the Vertical World Circuit standings, the pressure was on Dold and De Gasperi to win and create a bit of distance from the other.

The climate in Taipei that May was oppressively humid and created tough conditions inside the stairwell that put additional strain on the athletes.

Dold set off first at 8am and was followed 20 seconds later by De Gasperi.

The German maintained the distance from his Italian rival for around 40 floors, before De Gasperi began to close the gap.

‘Towards the 60th floor, I had gotten very close to Dold’, recalled De Gasperi shortly after the race, ‘so much so that I could hear his breathless breathing a few stairs above me. At that point, however, the effort began to take over.’

By the time they reached the top De Gasperi had managed to cut the gap again slightly but it wasn’t enough to take victory.

Dold clocked 11:05 to take the win, while De Gasperi had to settle for second with his 11:15 finish.

Thomas Dold Taipei 2009 finish

Thomas Dold 2009 Taipei 101 Run Up

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An exhausted Thomas Dold is helped from the finish line at the 2009 Taipei 101 Run-Up

The dominance continues

A week later, Dold was back racing in Germany. It was his third top-level race in 14 days. This time the venue was the Messeturm in Frankfurt.

It was the third edition of the race at the tower, which saw runners race up 1,344 steps to the 61st floor. Dold’s long-time rival, 26-year old Matthias Jahn, had won the first two editions of the race and was back in Frankfurt looking for a third straight win.

Dold 2009

Dold waiting to run in Frankfurt

But Dold was in dominant form. He set a new course record of 6:36 to take the honours ahead of Jahn, who reached the top in 6:54.

Thomas Dold Messeturm Frankfurt 2009

Thomas Dold nears the finish on his way to victory at the Messeturm Frankfurt in 2009

Dold messeturm 2009 winner

Thomas Dold celebrates his win at the Messeturm in Frankfurt

Eight days later, on Whit Monday 1 June, Dold raced for the fourth time in a little over three weeks. Once more he was squaring off against emerging European tower running stars Tomas Celko and Christian Riedl.

The 770 steps of the Park Inn Berlin-Alexanderplatz were the proving ground this time.

Dold had won the three previous editions of the race and was a favourite to make it four in a row.

He did just that, taking almost five seconds off his previous best time to set a new course record of 3:09.

In a little over 21 days, Thomas Dold had fully established himself as a practically invincible force in the world of tower running. In four races, he had set three course records and beaten many of the top competitors in the world in the process.

Dold took a break from racing in June and July and prepared for more Vertical World Circuit races in the back end of the year.

Sydney Tower Run-Up 2009

Sydney Tower Run-up winners

The next race in the series was the Sydney Tower Run-Up on Friday 21 August.

This event had been churning out Empire State Building Run-Up champions since the late 1980s. The offer of a trip to New York with race entry to the ESBRU had proven a lucrative draw for top Australian athletes.

Multi-time ESBRU winners, Geoff Case, Belinda Soszyn and Paul Crake were just some of the brilliant tower runners to emerge victorious in Sydney over the years.

Dold was making his debut at the 1,504-step tower, where A$7,500 were up for grabs for the winner. He would be going up against a familiar challenger in the form of Scott McTaggart.

McTaggart had won the Sydney Tower Run-Up for the past three years. He’d also finished fourth at the ESBRU in 2008 and 2009, so Dold knew who he was.

Also in attendance were former Australian mountain running champion Daniel Green, an old rival of Paul Crake, and 2004 Sydney Tower Run-Up winner Jeremey Horne.

Even with such a strong field of experienced competitors, Dold was tipped to win. But there was a dark horse in the line up who, although he was making his stair running debut, was anticipated to mount the most serious challenge to the German star.

It was the newly crowned Australian mountain running champion, Mark Bourne.

Dold and Bourne 2009 Sydney

Mark Bourne, Jim White, Thomas Dold and Scott McTaggart at the 2009 Sydney Tower Run-Up

But Dold secured the win with a time of 7:04. Newcomer Mark Bourne followed in 7:26 and Scott McTaggart took third spot in 7:35.

Dold had only arrived in Sydney on Tuesday, three days before the race, and just three hours after winning he was on a plane heading back to Germany.

Thomas Dold Sydney Tower Run Up winner 2009

Four weeks later, Dold set a new backwards running world record. Already a multi-world record holder in the discipline, he cut 23 seconds off his own 1,500m record to set a new best time of 5:01.

Two race-free months followed before Dold headed to Singapore for the finale of the Vertical World Circuit at the Swissotel Vertical Marathon on Sunday 22 November.

Singapore Vertical Marathon – the Vertical World Circuit finale

With an unassailable lead in the VWC, Dold wasn’t joined in Singapore by any of his big rivals.

Three-time winner Pedro Ribeiro and Poland’s Tomasz Klisz were well-established stair runners, but none were in the league of Dold.

Dold had broken the course record that had stood for nearly two decades when he won the event in 2008 in a time of 6:52. He was almost certain to win again. All eyes were on the clock to see if the German could beat his own time.

DSCN7656

Thomas Dold (r) alongside Pedro Ribeiro (12) at the start of the 2009 Swissotel Vertical Marathon

He ran clear from all his rivals, finishing almost a minute ahead of Klisz as he set a new record of 6:46.

Dold Swissotel Vertical Marathon 2009 winner

Thomas Dold on the roof of the Swissotel The Stamford, Singapore after setting a new course record

Dold Singapore 2009 winner

DSCN7664

Thomas Dold toasts his win alongside women’s winner Suzy Walsham

Dold left immediately for New Zealand to race at the Sky Tower Vertical Challenge in Auckland three days later. Predictably he won, setting what was widely reported as a new record time of 4:53.

Thomas Dold Sky Tower Auckland 2009

Thomas Dold nears the finish at the Sky Tower, Auckland in 2009

[Ed. note – The previous best time of 5:17 was set by Jonathan Wyatt in 1999. Paul Crake’s best time at the tower was 5:38. Wyatt and Crake had run 5:07 and 5:08 respectively in a brilliant race in 2002, but that was on a slightly shorter, altered course. Back in the early 2000s the race started with an approximately 150m pre-run into the tower. We were unable to determine if the 2009 edition started with a pre-run. But it’s hard to believe, although not inconceivable, that Dold undercut the time of two of the best tower runners of all time by 24+ seconds if he started from the same spot.]

With the first Vertical World Circuit title and a bunch of new course records in the bag, Dold headed into 2010 confident of securing a fifth Empire State Building Run-Up title.

2010 Empire State Building Run-Up

There was a notable absentee among the women lined up in the lobby of the Empire State Building on Tuesday 2 February 2010 for the 33rd edition of the Run-Up. The three-time winner from Australia Suzy Walsham, who had also won the Taipei 101 Run-Up and Singapore Vertical Marathon in 2009, was pregnant and sitting out the race.

Not since 2003 had anyone but Andrea Mayr or Suzy Walsham won the ESBRU. Finally there would be a different name in the record books.

Cindy Harris had bagged her fourth title in 2003, and since then she had finished in second place four times, as well as third and fourth in other years.

She’d retained her Bop to the Top title in Indianapolis nine days prior to the ESBRU, so was obviously in good shape. As a result, the Indianapolis veteran who had won her first ESBRU title in 1998 was on the shortlist of expected winners.

There were plenty of experienced ESBRU runners alongside Harris. One had even won it before while others had been on the podium and in the top five. But their personal records weren’t quite as good as Harris’ sub-13 minute best.

Michelle Blessing had won the ESBRU in 1995 and finished second in 1994 and third in 1996. She returned out of the blue in 2009 to finish 14th. Could she bounce back with a much better time in 2010? Blessing had also been coaching first time tower runner, but regular marathoner, Gretchen Hurlbutt. Could Blessing’s protege throw in a surprise performance of her own?

Amy Fredericks, who had finished third in 2004 and 2005 and fourth on a few other occasions, had a decent chance of getting back on the podium this year.

Stacey Creamer had finished in the top five on three previous occasions. Could she finally step onto the podium?

Caroline Gaynor was back for another shot too. A former rower at Columbia University who had turned her focus to Ironman events and other triathlon distances, Gaynor had finished fourth in 2008.

But there were some exciting debutants on the start line too.

New York-based Australian Rondi Davies was a sub-three hour marathoner and long distance open water swimmer. In 2008 she’d taken third at the Manhattan Island Marathon Swim and in summer 2009 she’d won the inaugural 10-mile Kingdom Swim at Lake Memphremagog up in Vermont. A complete unknown on the stairs, but a serious athlete and one to watch.

A far more familiar and formidable name was also on the start list, Melissa Moon from New Zealand.

The 2001 and 2003 world mountain running champion (also third in 1997 and 1998) was no stranger to tower running. She’d been racing on the stairs on and off for a decade, but had never taken part in the Empire State Building Run-Up.

Among her stair running successes were wins in very competitive races at the Telekom Malaysia Towerthon at Kuala Lumpur Tower in 2000-2002. She also won the Sky Tower race in Auckland in 2001 and 2002.

2002 wyatt moon 2001kl tower

Melissa Moon and Jonathan Wyatt – winners of the KL Tower Run 2001

In 2005 she had finished second behind Andrea Mayr at the inaugural Taipei 101 Run-Up, running a solid 13:34. She took third in 2006 and fourth in 2007.

Melissa Moon Taipei 2005

Melissa Moon took second at the 2005 Taipei 101 Run-Up

Moon had been in Sydney at the same race as Thomas Dold back in August. She’d finished fourth behind winner Vanessa Haverd, former ESBRU winner Angela Leadbeatter (1999) and reigning ESBRU champion Suzy Walsham. A little over 20 seconds separated Moon and Walsham, so the Kiwi runner was evidently in good stair climbing shape coming into 2010.

She’d been training regularly on the stairs of the 28-floor Majestic Centre in Wellington, where she had told security guards that she was trying to become the first New Zealander to win the Empire State Building race.

“They bent over backward,” said Moon, ‘What do you need? We’ll give you a swipe card.’ They put supportive signs in the stairwell.”

Well prepared and well experienced, all the signs pointed toward Melissa Moon launching the most serious challenge to Cindy Harris and the other experienced ESBRU runners.

ESBRU STRETCH 2010

Caroline Gaynor (orange vest) and Melissa Moon stretch next to Cindy Harris (103) on the front row of the start line at the 2010 Empire State Building Run-Up

At the sound of the starter’s horn, ambitious debutant Kacie Fisher (#105) got out in front of everyone. A former collegiate heptathlete at Cal Poly, Fisher had found out about the race three weeks before the start and said, ‘there was no way I was gonna miss this’.

ESBRU 2010

Cindy Harris followed closest, with Melissa Moon (#102) and Gretchen Hurlbutt (far right, red vest) running together a step behind.

ESBRU WOMENS22

Kacie Fisher gets out in front, followed by Cindy Harris, Melissa Moon and Gretchen Hurlbutt (by the wall in the red vest)

2010 esbru womens

ESBRU 2010 WOMENS DOOR

Caroline Gaynor (104, high white socks), Meghan Newcomer (white visor) and Amy Fredericks (blue vest) follow in behind the leading group

The start was fairly orderly and there were no serious shoves or falls, such as had marred the start of the 2009 ESBRU when Suzy Walsham was pushed into the wall as she headed for the door.

You can see in the image below that padding had been fixed to the walls on either side of the door to the stairwell, to prevent a repeat of the smashed lip and knee Walsham received the year before.

2010 womens door

Kacie Fisher enters the doorway, followed by Harris, Moon, Hurlbutt and Fredericks

Details on what played out in the stairwell have been difficult to find. The available in-race footage (scroll to the bottom for race videos) offers little insight. Likewise, post-race interviews in newspapers are devoid of details about how the race played out.

But given the information available, it’s been possible to piece together a story that seems to make sense.

It seems that the inexperienced Fisher went out way too fast and was tracked by Harris, who was probably wary of giving an unknown runner too much of a lead early on.

At the 50th floor, Fisher later claimed she ‘tore the lining of her lung from over expansion’ and her legs gave out. The pace must have taken a massive toll on her and Harris, because the pair were passed by a number of runners in the latter stages of the race.

Before the race Gretchen Hurlbutt had said her plan was to pace herself for the first half and then see what she had left for the rest of the race. She seems to have done just that, sticking behind Melissa Moon for much of the race before being dropped in the second half.

In the second video below Moon can be seen running on her own at what seems to be somewhere between the 68th and 72nd floors. She remained completely unchallenged as she surged to the top.

Down below Gretchen Hurlbutt passed Harris and Fisher and pushed into second place. She was tracked closely by Amy Fredericks, Rondi Davies and Stacey Creamer, all battling for the podium.

Amy Fredericks remarked after the race: “Two women that I passed, they were starting to keel over and they were doing single steps.” It’s likely she is referring to Fisher and Harris.

Harris and Fisher continued to be passed by multiple runners. Cindy Harris eventually finished in 13th place in 15:13 while Fisher ended up in 20th position, crossing the line in 15:54. Bear in mind, Harris had taken third the year before in a time of 13:49. In no uncertain terms, the race was a disaster.

Kacie Fisher 2010

Kacie Fisher drops to the floor after crossing the finish line

Harris and Gaynor 2010

Cindy Harris (middle) and Caroline Gaynor (right, 14:42 – seventh place) recovering after the race

For Melissa Moon, however, it was a triumph. She ran untested in the latter stages and crossed the finish line in 13:13.

Melissa Moon 2010 finish line ESBRU

Melissa Moon ESBRU 2010

Gretchen Hurlbutt followed 40 seconds later in 13:53, while Amy Fredericks won the battle for the final podium spot with her 14:15 finish.

Rondi Davies was fourth in 14:23 and Stacey Creamer took fifth in 14:25.

Gretchen Hurlbutt ESBRU 2010

Gretchen Hurlbutt takes second place at the 2010 Empire State Building Run-Up

Overall it was one of the slowest women’s races in years. Not since 2003 had anyone run slower than 14:00 and made it onto the podium.

But Melissa Moon had run an excellent and well-paced debut race and was delighted with her win.

‘When you know the history of this building, built in 1931, years ahead of its time, it is a privilege to run here. I’ve climbed taller buildings, but here, this race has a completely different meaning. I am very proud of this victory that I will be able to write on my CV.’

The drive for five

In the 32 previous editions of the Empire State Building Run-Up, two men had managed to win five titles: Al Waquie (1983-87) and Paul Crake (1999-2003).

Thomas Dold would join that unique group if he could hold off the challenge of his competitors one more time. His closest rivals in recent years, Rickey Gates (eight seconds behind in 2008) and Marco De Gasperi (22 seconds slower in 2009), weren’t in attendance, so the race really was Dold’s to lose.

Although there was a lot of established and fast emerging talent in the field, none of them were quite at the level of Dold.

Matthias Jahn was the most likely to launch a significant challenge on his compatriot. Jahn had been on the ESBRU podium in 2007 and 2008, and had beaten Dold before in shorter races at European venues.

But Dold had seen him off by an 18-second margin at the 1,344 step Messeturm in Frankfurt a few months earlier. He typically had Jahn’s number over the longer courses.

Similarly, Dold had beaten emerging European stars Christian Riedl and Tomas Celko at races back in 2009. Riedl was making his second apperance in Manhattan, while Celko was racing for the first time. The pair were decent shouts for a top 10 or possibly top five finish, but it was unlikely they would really challenge the reigning champion.

Another strong debutant and seasoned tower runner, Omar Bekkali, would possibly be in the mix for the top five, but it was hard to see him launching a serious challenge to Dold. Likewise, excellent athletes such as Javier Santiago, Jesse Berg and Pedro Ribeiro would be expected to be among the top finishers, but they’d never posed a threat to Dold at the ESBRU or various other races around the world.

The one unknown was the impressive Matthew Byrne from Scranton, PA. A successful collegiate runner for St Joseph’s University, Byrne had won three individual Atlantic 10 Conference championships while at the college in Philadelphia.

After college, he had qualified for the U.S. Olympic Trials in the marathon in 2004 and 2008. He’d also represented the United States in the World Mountain Running Championships in 2008 and 2009. He’d finished ahead of fellow USA team member Rickey Gates at the 2009 Championships, so was evidently a serious prospect.

Byrne would surely have reached out to Gates for tips on the race and the course as he prepared to make his ESBRU debut. Could he shock everyone and do what Rickey Gates had come so close to doing in 2008?

Gates had been stuck a few rows back from the start on his debut in 2007. Matthew Byrne made sure he was in prime position on the front row for his first race.

You can seen him in the picture below off to the left wearing #5. Left of him in the blue vest is Christian Riedl, then heading right across the lobby there’s Trevor Folgering (#10, well out of place and should be a couple of rows back), Jesse Berg (orange vest, #8), Tomas Celko (blue shorts, #44), Matthias Jahn (#3), Thomas Dold (#1) and Javier Santiago (blue longsleeves, #7).

The first image below, and the video at the bottom, shows that Byrne actually got the best start, gaining a step on Dold who was the next quickest to react to the horn. But the American had more ground to cover to the door and by the time the runners reached it Dold, as always, was in first place. Javier Santiago was next, followed by Jahn, Byrne and Jesse Berg.

2010 ESBRU MENS

2010 MENS START ESBRU

2010 ESBRU MEN RUSH

2010 Dold in front

2010 ESBRU NEAR DOOR

With Thomas Dold at the helm, the ESBRU was becoming increasingly formulaic. Some of his winning races had been a lot closer than others, but 2010 wasn’t one of them.

Details were scant in the post-race newspaper reports, but Dold was first in the door and didn’t relinquish the lead. The rest of the pack stuck with the powerful young German for as long as they could, but his strength saw him pull away in the second half of the race.

In the first video below (@0:38) you can see Dold running alone at the 65th floor crossover as he catches up with a group of runners from the women’s race. In the second video (@1:44) he is free from the crowds and running on a clear stairwell, likely somewhere between the 68th and 72nd floors.

He reached the top in 10:16, taking a record equaling fifth ESBRU title. He collapsed somewhat theatrically to the ground just after crossing the line and stayed on his knees for a while right in front of the finish, forcing tired runners to go around him as they too crossed the finish line.

Thomas Dold 2010 ESBRU finish line

Dold exhausted

Thomas Dold falls to his knees at the finish line of the 2010 ESBRU

He was followed by fellow German Matthias Jahn who crossed the finish in 10:56 (see him in the second video below @1:53 passing debutant Shari Klarfeld late in the race). Funnily, the margin between first and second in the men’s race was exactly the same as in the women’s, 40 seconds.

Matthias Jahn ESBRU 2010

Matthias Jahn celebrates taking second place as Thomas Dold and a race steward look on

Matthew Byrne took third in 11:29, while Omar Bekkali (11:51) and Javier Santiago (11:55) completed the top five.

Byrne said he’d like to come back next year and challenge Dold again, but noted he’d have to find a different strategy.

“He was off like a dart right from the beginning,” Byrne said of the start. “He really takes his stance early. I’d have to change something.”

Matthew Byrne ESBRU 2010

Matthew Byrne recovers after taking third at the 2010 Empire State Building Run-Up

CELKO Holec RIEDL 2010

Tomas Celko, Pavel Holec, Pedro Ribeiro and Christian Riedl recovering after the race

Dold 2010 winner

Thomas Dold celebrates his fifth straight ESBRU victory

“It took me six years to get to this point, and to be here as the winner this day is quite amazing,” Dold said. “To do this race six times and get five victories – it’s unbelievable right now. And to be named along with Paul Crake as a five-time winner is a big honour.”

2010 ESBRU WINNERS

Melissa Moon and Thomas Dold – 2010 Empire State Building Run-Up winners

2010 esbru podiums

2010 ESBRU: The women’s and men’s top 3


2010 Empire State Building Run-Up results

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The Empire State Building Run-Up (ESBRU) was first held in 1978. Since then each race has been packed full of exciting moments, surprises and disappointments.

Here are five of our favourite Empire State Building Run-Up moments. Feel free to share yours in the comments below.

1979: Last to the lobby, first to the top

ESBRU 1979

The second edition of the Empire State Building Run-Up took place at 10:30am on the morning of Thursday 15 February 1979.

At 9:40am the eventual winner was still sitting at the desk in his Manhattan office at 58th Street and Park Avenue, a mile-and-a-half from the Empire State Building.

Financial analyst Jim Rafferty had earned his invite to the ESBRU off the back of some solid road running performances in 1978. He was 25th at the New York Marathon in October and then in December he’d finished fourth in a 30km race organised by the New York Road Runners, the same organisers of the ESBRU.

Rafferty was one of just 20 men and four women that had been invited to the second edition of the new stair running event. But on the morning of the race he was in two minds about taking part. He was due to race in the Boston Marathon in April and was worried about picking up an injury in the unusual and novice event.

With less than an hour before the start, still sitting at his desk, he seemed to have settled on not running. But then he had a sudden change of heart.

‘I was worried about twisting an ankle on the stairs’, he said. ‘But then I thought it’d be a lot of fun. It’s not your everyday competitive event, you know.’

At 9.45am Rafferty asked his boss if he could have a couple of hours off, jumped in a cab and reached the building just before the start. You can see him on the far right in the picture above.

In the race, he took the lead fairly on and held it to the finish line, crossing it in a new record time of 12:19.

Eight weeks later Jim Rafferty set a personal best of 2:18.55 at the Boston Marathon.

Read more about Rafferty’s race at the 1979 ESBRU.

1987: The drive for five – Waquie vs Kenny

1987 Waquie finish

Heading into the 1987 race, Al Waquie already had four ESBRU wins to his name.

Typically he’d have been a firm favourite for a fifth win on the trot. But a knee injury sustained in July 1986 had prevented him from running properly for seven months.

As he and others toed the line in the first of two waves at the 1987 ESBRU, nobody knew what sort of shape Waquie was in.

Alongside him was the emerging stair climbing star from Indianapolis, Joe Kenny, who had won the 1986 Bop to the Top in his home city, plus other stair races in the USA.

Despite getting a good start, Waquie was already struggling by the 20th floor. Kenny passed him at the first crossover and began to pull away, looking set to put an end to Waquie’s winning streak.

But Waquie had different ideas. He powered on, while up ahead Kenny and another climber began to fade. With 14 floors to go, Waquie finally caught up with them and showed them both exactly why he was a four-time champ.

‘He just blasted by me at the 72nd floor’, Joe Kenny said. ‘I think he stayed back at the start and saved his big move for the end. He really knows those stairs’.

Waquie’s gutsy fifth win would be his last at the Empire State Building Run-Up.

Read more on the battle for top spot at the 1987 ESBRU (plus the story of Waquie’s 1984-1986 wins).

2003: One run to rule them all

2003 crake wins

With one eye on a pro cycling career, Paul Crake was ready to call time on his incredible run at the Empire State Building when he got set to race on Tuesday 4 February 2003.

Unbeaten in each of his four appearances at the ESBRU, Crake had become the first man to run the course in under 10 minutes when he clocked 9:53 in 2000. The following year he shocked the stair running world again by winning in 9:37.

But Crake had saved his best for last. His final run at the iconic New York tower was magisterial. He set an untouchable new record of 9:33.

‘To win five years in a row has been fantastic. It’s been a dream run,’ said Crake.

When asked why he kept returning year after year even though the race has no prize money, he responded: ‘It’s for the trophy, the honour and the glory.’

Read more about Crake’s record run in 2003.

2006: Faster, Mayr, Stronger

2006 Mayr wins

Already a two-time winner at the ESBRU, and the only woman to have run the full 86 floor course in under 12 minutes, Andrea Mayr was the firm pre-race favourite at the 2006 event. There was no suggestion that she might be beaten, instead the talk was all about how much faster could she go.

Three months before the ESBRU, Mayr had won the inaugural Taipei 101 Run Up in a time of 12:38 (a record that still stands). She was in outstanding form coming into the race.

The Austrian ran the course virtually unchallenged. She finished in an incredible new course record of 11:23, which was fast enough to place her fifth overall. Her record still stands.

2006 was the last time Mayr ran at the Empire State Building. Seven months later she went on to win her first World Mountain Running Championship title and began another history making run in that athletic discipline.

Read the story of Andrea Mayr’s record breaking ESBRU run in 2006.

2009: The Comeback

2009 ESBRU Walsham pushed

Although in February 2009 Suzy Walsham was a little over two years into her tower running career, she’d already established herself as the one to beat in Manhattan. She was going for her third straight ESBRU.

In 2007 and 2008, Walsham had been joined on the podium by Cindy Harris and Fiona Bayly. Both were once again expected to be among Walsham’s toughest challengers. Debutants Jessamy Hosking (AUS) and Daniela Vassalli (ITA) were also anticipated to be in the mix for the top spots.

When the claxon went off in the lobby, the mass of women dashed headlong for the door.

Running side-by-side towards the entrance to the stairs, Walsham and Vassalli were battling for space.

Nearing the door, it seemed like Walsham was going to pass the Italian, but Vassalli had other ideas. She reached up and shoved the Australian, causing her to lose her balance and smash face first into the stone door frame. You can see Walsham’s falling figure (yellow top) in the picture above.

Bruised and bashed with the front runners now well ahead, Walsham found herself in around 30th place by the time she had got off the floor and onto the stairs.

What followed was one of the defining moments in Walsham’s amazing ESBRU story.

She started picking off runner after runner, slowly pulling in the leaders. By the 50th floor she caught Vassalli. Hosking and Harris were still up ahead.

At the 65th floor Walsham took the lead and then held it all the way to the top. Her knee injured and her face swollen, she crossed the line in obvious pain just 13 seconds ahead of Vassalli who had surged into second place.

That comeback victory in 2009 was the slowest of the 10 ESBRU races Walsham would eventually win, but without doubt it is one of the best.

Read the story of the 2009 Empire State Building Run-Up.

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1946 l'escalier championnat tour eiffel

After a 40-year break, tower running returned to the Eiffel Tower in 1946.

Could the course record set in 1906 be beaten by one of the new generation of French athletes?

A new race in a renovated tower

The Eiffel Tower had been closed to the public throughout the Second World War, but once the war was over Parisians turned their attention to the famous landmark and brought it back up to scratch.

In 1946, the lifts were fixed and the tower underwent some renovations and maintenance work, including a full repaint.

Le championnat de l’escalier 1946

The previous editions of the Eiffel Tower stair race in 1905 and 1906 (scroll down for links to the stories of these events) had been organised by a publication called Les Sports.

By 1946, Les Sports had disappeared, but a new sports-focused publication called L’Equipe had launched in February that year.

L’Equipe put on a stair race at the Eiffel Tower on Sunday 27th of October, with a trophy sponsored by Valentin, a maker of waterproof garments, ready for the winner.

1946 Eiffel Tower stair race advert

The course record is destroyed

In comparison to the previous two editions, post-race coverage of the 1946 race was extremely limited, so finding out exactly what caliber of athletes were in attendance was difficult.

But we do know that around 300 people turned up to race up 729 steps to the second platform of the tower, and the course record of 3:04, set by Eugene Neveu in 1906, was the target.

1906 Neveu winner

Eugene Neveu – winner of the Eiffel Tower stair climb in 1906

Participants were set off individually every 30 seconds, and when all was run and done, at least two men had gone under Neveu’s record.

1946 Eiffel Tower race

An athlete in action at the 1946 Eiffel Tower stair race

The winner was Jean Riousset (reported in one publication as Roussier) who clocked 2:54.

He was a 3,000m steeplechaser who is likely to have been the same Riousset that finished fourth at the 1944 French Athletics Championships. He was representing the Union Athlétique Intergadz’Arts Paris.

1946 eiffel tower winner Riousset

1946 champion – Riousset

In second place, and also breaking the previous course record, was Robert Loze who finished in 3:02.

A little bit of confusion creeps in beyond these top two finishers with conflicting reports and headlines relating to the times of the remaining athletes in the top five. We’ve reached out to L’Equipe for clarification and are hoping to hear back from them.

In third place was André Larne, fourth was R. Niasset and fifth was Sanson.

1946 l'escalier championnat tour eiffel

Le championnat de l’escalier de la Tour Eiffel 1946

The extreme physical demands of the event were noted, with one newspaper reporting that a doctor at the top recorded runners finishing with pulse rates of 230 bpm.

It would be another 49 years before stair running returned to the Iron Lady, with the first full race to the top of the tower in 1995.

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Rialto Towers, Melbourne, Australia – 1,254 steps

1987 Craig Logan (AUS) 7:28 Margaret Poncini (AUS) 9:10
1988 Robin Rishworth (AUS) 6:29 Suzanne Malaxos (AUS) 8:12
1989 Robin Rishworth (AUS) 6:47 Suzanne Malaxos (AUS) 8:07
1990
Geoff Case (AUS) 7:23 Sue Case (AUS)
1991
Geoff Case (AUS) Corliss Spencer (USA)
1992
Glen Devison (AUS) 7:25 Sue Case (AUS)
1993
Phil Griffiths (AUS) 7:11 Louise Fairfax (AUS) 8:54
1994
Terry Purcell (AUS) 7:28 Kate Anderson (AUS) 8:47
1995
Terry Purcell (AUS) 7:21 Kate Anderson (AUS)
1996
Sue Case (AUS)
1997
1998
1999
Suzanne Malaxos (AUS)
2000
2001
2002
2003
2004
Andrew Wynd (AUS)
2005
Andrew Mock (AUS)

Montserrat Funicular, Collbató, Spain – 2,180 steps

2018 Joan Freixa Marcelo (ESP) 11:38* Alba Xandri (ESP) 14:51 – results
2019 Enrique Santamaria Martinez (ESP) Alba Xandri (ESP) 14:17* – results

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Q1 Tower, Queensland, Australia – 1,821 steps/77 floors

2005 Paul Crake (AUS) 7:42 Hubertien Wichers (AUS) 11:12 – race report
2015 Mark Bourne (AUS) 6:45 Kim Hamilton (AUS) 10:03
2016 Mark Bourne (AUS) 6:41* Alice McNamara (AUS) 8:17* – results
2017 Mark Bourne (AUS) 6:57 Meg Reeves (AUS) 8:43 – results
2018 Jason Williams (AUS) 8:05 Monica Medjumurac (AUS) 9:49 – results
2019 Mark Bourne (AUS) 6:48 Alice McNamara (AUS) 8:56 – results

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gurtz-electric-co-aon-center-fire-alarm

1998-2002 Unable to locate results for these years. Assistance in identifying winners and times welcomed.
2003 Terry Purcell (AUS) 10:02  Kristina Aubert (USA) 14:01 – results
2004 Nick Aubert (USA) 10:42  Error on results page not showing female runners – results
2005 Terry Purcell (AUS) 9:49  Kathryn Froelich (USA) 12:06 – results (Purcell’s winning time not shown)
2006 Terry Purcell (AUS) 9:46  Error on results page not showing female runners – results
2007 Jesse Berg (USA) 10:16  Kathryn Froelich (USA) 11:46 – results
2008 Terry Purcell (AUS) 9:28  Jennifer Carder (USA) 11:24 – results (Purcell’s winning time not shown)
2009 Terry Purcell (AUS) 9:26  Jennifer Carder (USA) 11:23 – results
2010 Eric Leninger (USA) 9:54  Lindsay Smith (USA) 13:13 – results
2011 Jesse Berg (USA) 9:56  Bridget Carlson (USA) 12:40 – results
2012 Justin Stewart (USA) 9:35  Kristin Frey (USA) 10:49* – results
2013 Sproule Love (USA) 9:32  Kristin Frey (USA) 10:49 – results
2014 Eric Leninger (USA) 9:45  Jennifer Glenn (USA) 12:35 – results
2015 Eric Leninger (USA) 9:57  Liz Ruvalcaba (USA) 11:58 – results
2016 Eric Leninger (USA) 9:51  Liz Ruvalcaba (USA) 11:32 – results
2017 Darren Wilson (AUS) 9:01 Jennifer Glenn (USA) 12:47 – results
2018 Terry Purcell (AUS) 9:44  Jennifer Glenn (USA) 13:04 – results
2019 Justin Stewart (USA) 9:48  Sherri Breese (USA) 13:03 – results
2020 Jesse Berg (USA) 10:40  Stephanie Hucko (AUS/USA) 12:49 – results

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Bop to the Top stair climb

1984 Mark Carlson (USA) 4:05
1985 Jeff Price (USA) 4:00
1986 Joe Kenny (USA) 3:51
1987 Joe Kenny (USA) 3:50
1988 Joe Kenny (USA) 3:45
1989 Brian McCauliff/Joe Kenny (USA) 3:50
1990 Joe Kenny (USA) 3:47
1991 Brian McCauliff (USA) 3:32
1992 Brian McCauliff (USA) 3:20*
1993 Marty Wilkey (USA) 3:34
1994 Marty Wilkey (USA) 3:40
1995 Bob Curts (USA) 3:48  Cindy Moll-Harris (USA)
1996 Marty Wilkey (USA) 3:35  Cindy Moll-Harris (USA)
1997 Marty Wilkey (USA) 3:47  Cindy Moll-Harris (USA)
1998 Bob Curts (USA) 3:51  Cindy Moll-Harris (USA)
1999 Marty Wilkey (USA) 3:53  Cindy Moll-Harris (USA)
2000 Marty Wilkey (USA) 3:47  Cindy Moll-Harris (USA)
2001 Bob Curts (USA) 3:46 Cindy Moll-Harris (USA) 4:26
2002 Marty Wilkey (USA) 3:43  Cindy Moll-Harris (USA)
2003 Marty Wilkey (USA) 3:48  Cindy Moll-Harris (USA)
2004 Marty Wilkey (USA) 3:53  Cindy Moll-Harris (USA)
2005 Marty Wilkey (USA) 3:55  Cindy Moll-Harris (USA)
2006 Dave Shafron (USA) 3:56  Cindy Moll-Harris (USA)
2007 Marty Wilkey (USA) 3:58  Cindy Moll-Harris (USA)
2008 Marty Wilkey (USA) 4:03  Cindy Moll-Harris (USA) 4:31 – results
2009 Dave Shafron (USA) 3:52  Cindy Moll-Harris (USA) 4:42 – results
2010 Marty Wilkey (USA) 3:53  Cindy Moll-Harris (USA) 4:30 – results
2011 Marty Wilkey (USA) 3:55  Cindy Moll-Harris (USA) 4:43 – results
2012 Justin Stewart (USA) 3:39  Cindy Moll-Harris (USA) 4:31 – results
2013 Justin Stewart (USA) 3:30  Cindy Moll-Harris (USA) 4:31 – results
2014 Eric Leninger (USA) 3:45  Cindy Moll-Harris (USA) 4:36 – results
2015 Eric Leninger (USA) 3:52  Cindy Moll-Harris (USA) 4:44 – results
2016 Eric Leninger (USA) 3:58  Liz Ruvalcaba (USA) 4:37 – results
2017 Justin Stewart (USA) 3:38  Cindy Moll-Harris (USA) 4:29 – results
2018 Howard Harrell (USA) 4:24  Cindy Moll-Harris (USA) 4:37 – results
2019 Howard Harrell (USA) 4:23  Cindy Moll-Harris (USA) 4:37 – results
2020 Vincent Mann (USA) 4:27  Cindy Moll-Harris (USA) 4:41 – results

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