Posts Tagged ‘Eiffel Tower stair race’

La Verticale postponed

Growing concerns surrounding the outbreak of coronavirus (COVID-19) have forced the organisers of La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel to postpone the race, which was scheduled for this coming Wednesday, March. 11.

The announcement follows a decree by the French Ministry of Health last night banning meetings of more than 1,000 people. Following this new policy, the team at the Eiffel Tower itself made the decision to postpone the event.

The race organisers, Ecotrail Paris, sent a message this morning to participants stating:

“Please be aware that after the information received this morning from the Eiffel Tower authorities, we regret to inform you that the 6th edition of La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel will not be able to take place this Wednesday, March 11th.

Like you, we are saddened by this decision, but you should know that we are fully mobilised to find a postponement solution, which we hope to communicate to you as soon as possible.”

A new race date of Wednesday 30th September 2020 has now been announced.

La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel is the second major tower running event to be postponed so far this year following the announcement last week that the Taipei 101 Run Up, which was to host the 2020 Towerrunning World Championship, was off.

The postponement is a massive disappointment for the athletes who had traveled from Mexico, USA, Malaysia, Singapore and beyond to take part, some of whom will be touching down in Paris unaware of the announcement.

Eiffel tower at night

La Verticale de La Tour Eiffel 2020 is set for March and all eyes will be on Paris for the biggest race in the European tower running calendar.

The sixth edition of the event, which takes place on the evening of Wednesday 11th March, has a strong line up of some of the best tower runners in the world. In the men’s division, world champion Piotr Lobodzinski is back to defend his title. Alongside the Polish superstar in Paris will be 24 others looking to do the impossible and unseat the five-time winner.

Read on to find out who’s who in the elite men’s division at the 2020 La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel.

The Eiffel Tower stair race has come a long way from the earliest editions in 1905 and 1906.

forestier the favourite 1905

Eugene Forestier – winner of the 1905 Eiffel Tower stair race

The latest version of the race began in 2015 and year-on-year it’s packed full of athletic talent from around the world. Just 25 men have been selected to compete in the elite category at the 2020 edition.

As the only winner, Piotr Lobodzinski is always the pre-race favourite in Paris. But this year, due to scheduled renovations on the tower, the format of the event has changed dramatically. Does the new set up increase the chances of the Pole missing out on top spot for the first time ever?

The 2020 La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel race format

Instead of the traditional climb to the top of the 1,665-step tower, the new format looks like this:

  • 1st qualifying round – 131 competitors – 665 steps (to the second level)
  • 2nd qualifying round – 131 competitors – 665 steps
  • Final – 30 competitors (20 men, 10 women) – 665 steps

The final will be held in a pursuit format with the fastest athlete from the qualifying rounds setting off first. That pursuit format means positions on the grid will be all important, so expect to see the runners going all out in both qualifying rounds to secure the best spot.

For more details on the new format for 2020, including rest times between rounds, check out our full news story.

La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel winners and course record

2019 – Piotr Lobodzinski (7:53.97)

2018 – Piotr Lobodzinski (7:56.67)

2017 – Piotr Lobodzinski (7:54.76)

2016 – Piotr Lobodzinski (7:48.77 – course record)

2015 – Piotr Lobodzinski (7:50.93)

Eiffel-Disco_GettyImages-534953254

The step count of the altered format makes it quite hard to predict who will be among the top finishers come March. There aren’t many 650 to 700-step towers in the world where the top stair climbers have gone head-to-head.

But here’s our pick of 12 of the top racers to watch out for at La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel.

Piotr Lobodzinski – Poland

Lobodzinski La Vertical Tour Eiffel 2019

The only man to have won La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel since it began back in 2015, Lobodzinski will be going for an incredible sixth win. He has run the Eiffel Tower course in under eight minutes every single time. To put that into perspective, only one other person has managed to do that even once – Christian Riedl in 2016. It’s a remarkable record, and proof that Lobodzinski completely rules this tower.

The Polish athlete won the Vertical World Circuit and Towerrunning Tour in 2019 and finished no lower than second in any race at all last year, winning the overwhelming majority of them. He ran the third fastest time ever at Taipei 101 at the start of May. 10 days later he became the second fastest person to ever run the Empire State Building when he won in 10:05.

He doesn’t tend to race in short buildings anymore, opting for super-tall international towers over smaller European venues. The shortest course he ran in 2019 was the 836-step Rondo 1 in Warsaw back in February, where he finished 14 seconds ahead of second-placed Görge Heimann.

But even though he hasn’t found chance to turn on the turbo boosters over short courses recently, we still know he is super fast.

Will Lobodzinski win a sixth-straight La Verticale title? The new format makes it so difficult to say, but bet against him at your peril.

@towerrunner

Mark Bourne – Australia

Mark Bourne Stairclimbing Australia

The only man to beat Lobodzinski in 2019, the Australian star managed it three times in a row at the end of last season.

Racing primarily at home and across Asia, Bourne rarely competes in the smaller towers some of his European rivals are familiar with, so it’s hard to know how he’ll fare in this short-course event.

He’ll make the final, of course, but does he have that raw pace to finish on top in the qualifiers and dominate the last run from the front?

We’re not sure he does. He’ll likely be in the mix for the top five, but the podium will prove elusive.

@markbournerun

Christian Riedl – Germany

Riedl finish

Despite winning the 2019 German Towerrunning Cup, Christian Riedl had a relatively quiet season last year. One of the best tower runners in the world throughout the 2010s, Riedl has been Lobodzinski’s closest rival for many years.

He was second to Lobodzinski at La Verticale in 2016-2018 and third in 2019. He also trailed the Pole when he won the world tower running championship in 2018.

We know Riedl is fast, as he’s proven by winning multiple short course events at European venues over the years. In 2019 he took wins at Hardy’s Hotelturmlauf (510 steps) and the ADAC Charity Treppenlauf (472 steps), as well as podium places at other short-course events.

It’s hard to imagine the German will be anywhere other than in the mix for the top three spots come race night if he’s at or near his best.

@christian.riedl.77

Jakob Mayer – Austria

Jakob Mayer la verticale de la tour eiffel 2020

After finishing second at La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel last year (he was third in 2018), Jakob Mayer spent the rest of the 2019 season dominating the Red Bull 400 circuit in Europe. Two wins and two second-place finishes in the Red Bull 4TITUDE Challenge saw the Austrian crowned series champion at the finale in September.

The day before that finale, he set a new course record of 2:04.38 at the 441-step (plus uphill pre-run) Pyramidenkogel Turmlauf in Austria. He also won the Muensterturmlauf in Germany (560 stairs) in June.

Mayer has already got 2020 off to winning ways, with victories in the Lustenauer Cross Country Series.

Fast, super-strong and with a great engine, Mayer is once again going to be in contention for the top spot come March.

@jakob.mayer.athlete

Soh Wai Ching – Malaysia

Soh Wai Ching La Verticale 2020

The world number two had a fantastic 2019 season, picking up wins and podium spots around the world.

Ninth on his La Verticale debut in 2018, the Malaysian stepped it up last March and finished fourth, so he’s well aware of what to expect on the stairs of The Iron Lady.

We know he’s quick. Last year he became the fourth fastest person to ever run the 932 steps of Tower 42 in London when he won in 4:17. Among the three men faster than him at that London venue are fellow La Verticale 2020 rivals, Piotr Lobodzinski (3:59) and Fabio Ruga (4:11).

Expect Wai Ching to breeze to the final, and it will be a surprise not to see him somewhere back in the top five again.

@mastowerrunner

Fabio Ruga – Italy

Fabio Ruga mountain running Italia

The course record of 4:07 that Ruga set at The Gherkin in London back in 2010 still stands. We found out he was fast then, and a decade on he’s barely lost a step.

No stranger to success in the French capital, the Italian mountain runner won the VertiGO race at the 954-step Tour First last year by a clear margin, proving he still has speed.

He’s never finished outside of the top-10 at La Verticale, with the 6th place he took last year being his best result, and we don’t expect 2020 to be any different.

He will comfortably make the final, but we don’t expect to see him pushing for the top five.

@fabioruga

Tomas Celko – Slovakia

Tomas Celko 2020

The Slovakian is a well-known speedster on the tower running scene. In August 2019 he won the three-round UFO Vertical Sprint in Bratislava, holding off the next two entrants on our list, Alexis Trujillo and Michal Kovac.

It was a rare appearance from Celko, who had a fairly quiet tower running season. He was active on the Red Bull 400/ski jump running scene, winning in Zakopane for the second year in a row (a sixth title in total at the venue in Poland) and at the Vertikální Horečky in the Czech Republic.

After recovering from surgery at the end of last year, Celko has begun his recovery and returned to training. Will he be able to get back to full fitness and make it to Paris? If he can, expect him to be up among the fastest finishers heading into the final.

@tomascelko

Görge Heimann – Germany

Görge Heimann towerrunning

The oldest competitor on the list, at 51 years old, the ever-impressive Heimann continues to pull brilliant performances out of the hat on a regular basis.

He had a number of standout races in 2019, particularly in buildings with less than 1,000 steps. Among the highlights was a win at the 936-step Subida Vertical Gran Hotel Bali in Benidorm where he finished ahead of La Verticale rivals, Soh Wai Ching and Michal Kováč. He also took second at the highly competitive Rondo 1 race in Poland, finishing behind Piotr Lobodzinski. He was fastest at the Tallinn TV Tower (870 steps) in April and then finished ahead of Christian Riedl at the 705-step KoelnTurm Treppenlauf in Cologne in August.

Heimann’s best finish at La Verticale is 7th (2018) and you can expect him to do as well as that, if not better, on the evening of 11 March.

@goergeheimann

Michal Kováč – Slovakia

Michal Kovac towerrunner

Kováč was on the podium a bunch of times in 2019, proving himself a real force on the European tower running scene.

He was third at Rondo 1 in Warsaw in February and then second at London’s Vertical Rush in March. In August he took third at the three-round UFO Vertical Sprint in Bratislava and in October he was third at the 365-step sprint Beh Do Neba Zilina in Slovakia. He’s proven multiple times he has the speed to match his endurance.

He also made his La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel debut last year and finished in an impressive 7th.

Anticipate another top-10 finish this time around too.

@kovomiso

Alexis Trujillo – Mexico

Alexis Trujillo La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel

2019 was a big year for Trujillo as he finished as the world number three. Winning numerous races and finishing on the podium across multiple continents, he established himself as an international tower running star.

Among the most relevant results when assessing his chances at La Verticale is his second place at the three-round UFO Vertical Sprint in Bratislava in August. The Mexican had already shown he had the legs for the long races, but made it clear he is also lightning fast.

Back in Mexico he was second at the 636-step Carrera Vertical Torre Latino in March, then won the Carrera Vertical Uvm Campus Chapultepec (654 steps) in July and Carrera Towerrunning Tlaxcala (900 steps) in August.

Trujillo will expect to be in the fight for the top five, but the podium might be out of reach this time around.

@alexistrujillo_atl

Frank Carreno – Colombia

Frank Carreno towerrunning

Carreno has finished in 5th place at each La Verticale he’s contested (2017-2019). The Colombian is another known speedster on the tower running circuit and with the new short format favouring him, he’ll be looking to do even better than 5th place this year.

He has form over this sort of step count too. Last March he won the 636-step Carrera Vertical Torre Latino in 3:17, finishing 12 seconds ahead of Alexis Trujillo. Then, in September, he won the 500-step Carrera Vertical Hotsson Smart Acapulco.

If he gets to Paris in good shape, he should be right up there competing for the top places in the final.

@frankcarreno.towerrunning

Matjaž Mikloša – Slovenia

Matjaz Miklosa

Miklosa blew onto the UK tower running radar in 2015 when he set the fantastic 2:07 course record at the 530-step Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth.

Last December he won the Zagrepcanka 512 in Zagreb, Croatia. That race involves two runs up 490 steps with a 10-minute rest between rounds. The format change at La Verticale suits him down to the ground.

Miklosa also took third place in the final standings of the Red Bull 4TITUDE Challenge 2019.

He’s never broken into the top 10 at La Verticale, but this could well be the year he manages it.

More:

Eiffel tower at night

La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel is one of the most prestigious stair running events in the world and in 2020 it returns for its sixth edition.

With just 130 entry spots up for grabs, with 40 of those set aside for elite athletes, competition just to take part is fierce. But the Eiffel Tower stair race is one of the best in the world and a joy to take part in. So if you’re free in March and want a challenge it’s well worth applying.

Read on to find out when the race is and how to enter.

When is the Eiffel Tower stair race 2020?

The sixth edition of La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel will take place on Wednesday 11th March 2020 at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.

The event will start at approx. 8pm (local time) with amateur runners setting off first at around 8.10pm. The first athletes in the elite wave will likely set off around 9pm.

Note: the race format for the 2020 edition of La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel has changed from the traditional climb up 1,665 steps to the top of the tower.

It will now involve two qualifying runs of 665 steps and then a final run for the fastest 10 women and 20 men, again up 665 steps.

Read our announcement for more details on the changes for 2020.

La verticale de la tour eiffel 2020

How to enter La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel?

The pre-registration process is now open at verticaltoureiffel.fr where you should find answers to all your questions.

81 places are available for amateur athletes who will be selected via a lottery.

  • In order to be considered for the lottery you have to fulfill some pre-selection criteria, such as proof of participation in a stair race over 700 steps, or completion of a 10km road race in under 50 minutes, within the past two years.

40 places are set aside for elite athletes from stair racing, trail running and road racing, selected by a panel of judges.

  • When you pre-register you are asked to select elite or amateur entry. A panel of judges will select 40 elite runners from those who’ve applied. Those who aren’t selected will go into the lottery for amateur spots.

10 people will be selected by the event organisers as wildcards.

  • In order to be considered for one of these wildcard spots you’ll have to submit a letter explaining why you should get one. Historically they’re reserved for event partners, celebrities, disabled athletes or people who’ve overcome the odds to make it to the event. Even if you don’t think your ‘story’ is compelling enough, it’s still worth submitting a letter anyway, in case you don’t get picked in the lottery. You never know.

It costs €10 to register and if you’re selected you’ll then have to pay an additional €50 to secure your place. You’ll also need to make sure you provide a signed medical certificate to clear you to participate.

The registration portal will close on Friday 6th December.

The elite selection will be completed on 17th December and the draw for the amateur places will happen on 19th December.

What is the Eiffel Tower stair race?
7611975_b3cd436c-290c-11e8-8762-ff73745f8155-1_1000x625

Five-time winner Piotr Lobodzinski

The Eiffel Tower is the historical home of tower running. The first recorded tower race in the world took place there in 1905 and a second event was held in 1906.

Decades later, in 1995, another stair race was held. This time a select group of world-class French athletes from various disciplines battled it out for top spot.

After a 20 year hiatus, stair climbing returned to the tower again in 2015, when the first edition of La Verticale took place.

The modern race involves a climb up 1,665 steps to the third platform of the Eiffel Tower; considerably more than the very earliest editions that covered around 730 steps to just the second platform.

The race has had only two winners. Suzy Walsham (AUS) and Piotr Lobodzinski (POL) have both won the event five times in a row. They’ll aim to be back in March to see if they can make it six on the trot.

Looking for a race in the UK? Check out our UK tower race calendar 2020 to find out what events are on near you.

La Verticale de La Tour Eiffel 2019 is just five weeks away and the excitement is building for the biggest race in the European tower running calendar.

The fifth edition of the event, which takes place on the evening of Wednesday 13th March, has a strong line up of some of the best tower runners in the world. In the women’s division, four-time winner Suzy Walsham is back to defend her title. Alongside her in Paris will be 14 others looking to do the impossible and unseat the Australian.

Read on to find out who’s who in the elite women’s division at the 2019 La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel.

The Eiffel Tower stair race has come a long way from its early beginnings in 1905 and 1906.

MMe Baube

Mme. Baube, winner of the Eiffel Tower stair run in 1906

The latest version of the race began in 2015 and year-on-year it’s packed full of athletic talent from around the world. Just 15 women were selected to compete in the elite race at the 2019 edition. Read on to find out who they are.

La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel winners and course record

2018 – Suzy Walsham (10:02)

2017 – Suzy Walsham (9:34 – course record)

2016 – Suzy Walsham (9:48)

2015 – Suzy Walsham (9:44)

Eiffel-Disco_GettyImages-534953254

Suzy Walsham – Australia

Suzy Walsham La Verticale 2018

The 2018 world champion has won every edition of this event since it began in 2015. At the start of the year she recorded her 100th tower running victory, in 12 years of competing on the stairs, and she is expected to make it 101 wins with this race. There are only a few stair runners in the world who can really compete with Walsham when she’s running well and none of them will be in Paris. It will be a big upset if she doesn’t make it five wins in a row.

@suzywalsham

Dominika Wisniewska-Ulfik – Poland

ulfik

Wisniewska-Ulfik will be one of Walsham’s closest rivals on the night. The Polish star finished second at La Verticale in 2016 and third in 2018 and has a personal best of 10:32 at the tower. She was ranked fifth in the world at the end of last year, and finished fourth at the World Championships. With multiple wins and podium finishes at towers around the world, she is highly experienced. Beating Walsham will be too tall a task, but expect to see Wisniewska-Ulfik finish in second or third position.

Alice McNamara – Australia

alice Mc

A two-time world rowing champion and winner of the 2011 Empire State Building Run-Up and 2016 Taipei 101 Run Up (among plenty of other wins), McNamara is a serious force on the stairs. She beat Walsham in that ESBRU victory eight years ago, but hasn’t had much success against her compatriot in recent times. She made her debut at La Verticale last year, finishing fourth in 11:09. She has the potential to finish on the podium, but it will probably be too tough a task given some of the other women in the race.

@_alice_mac

Muhua Jian – China

Muhua Jian

Along with Wisniewska-Ulfik, the Chinese youngster is likely to be Walsham’s biggest competition in Paris. Jian has improved a lot in 2018 alone and has begun to close the gap between her and the top women. In May she was fifth at the World Championships, but by October she was just 14 seconds behind Walsham at the Shanghai IFC. In December she was once again close to the Australian, finishing second to her at the TWA Tour Final at the Shanghai Tower, which earned her third overall in the final Tour standings. Bet the house on her getting somewhere on the podium, but first place might be just out of reach.

Anais Leroy – France

anais leroy

A relative newcomer to the sport of tower running – although a long-time quality runner on the track and in cross country – Leroy has already made an impact. She was fifth in her La Verticale debut last year, with a time of 11:18. She finished off a very successful 2018 with a win at the Lilleurope Tower, so should be coming into the 2019 season with confidence high. A solid shout for another 5th-place finish, if not better.

@anais__leroy

Iwona Wicha – Poland

Iwona Wicha Rondo

The Polish star will be making her La Verticale debut in March. Wicha has loads of international race experience, with wins and podium finishes over the last few years. She finished 7th at the 2018 World Championships, ahead of many of her Paris rivals, so expect to see her well inside the top 10 and likely challenging Anais Leroy for fifth place. Wicha trains with tower running world champion and four-time La Verticale winner Piotr Lobodzinski, who happens to be her husband, so will be able to tap into his extensive knowledge of the course and how best to approach it.

@zyciezpasja

Amandine Bertrand – France

Amandine Bertrand

Another top French athlete who will be flying the flag for the home nation on March 13th. Wins and podium finishes throughout 2018, coupled with a decent showing at the World Championships in Taipei last May, should have Bertrand feeling confident about beating the 12:00 time she set at her La Verticale debut last year, which earned her 7th place.

@amandine.20.bertrand

Vanja Cnops – Belgium

cnops

The Singapore-based Belgian was 8th at the World Championships last year, finishing ahead of some well-established runners, such as Brooke Logan and Christine Soskins, both of whom have competed well at previous La Verticales (Logan 5th in 2016, Soskins 7th in 2017). She has some good track times, too, with sub-17 5km and 35-minute 10km PBs. It bodes well for Cnops and she could well produce a sub 11:40 run in Paris, which should put her in contention for a top six finish at least.

@vanjacnops

Cristina Bonacina – Italy

bonacina

Winner of the Towerrunning World Cup in 2011, Bonacina is a highly experienced tower runner with a full spread of wins and podium finishes at venues around the world. She’s well familiar with the Eiffel Tower, too, having raced in the first three editions of La Verticale. If she can get close to her personal best of 11:45 (2015) she’ll be in with an outside shot of entering the top seven, but realistically a top-15 finish is more likely.

@cristina_bonacina

Sarah Frost – Great Britain

sarah frost

The leading UK tower runner at the moment with a host of wins and course records in her home country under her belt, despite a relatively short time in the sport. Already an established force on shorter courses, Frost is making her debut at La Verticale. She’s not massively experienced at this sort of distance, in comparison with her leading rivals in Paris, although she is course record holder at London’s 1,250-step Leadenhall Building and has raced the 2,700-step Valtellina Tube. Expect to see her potentially challenging for 6th, 7th or 8th position, but getting inside the top five will be tough given the strong field of more experienced runners.

@sarahchaneyfrost

Maria Elisa Lopez Pimentel – Mexico

MelisaPML

Winner of the sprint, and second in the vertical mile, at the competitive Dallas Vert Mile event in January, Lopez Pimentel has had a great start to 2019 and is among the strongest women in the lineup for La Verticale. She made her debut at the event last year and finished sixth in 11:50. Impressive performances over the last 12 months, at home and abroad, brought her up to sixth in the final 2018 world rankings. She’ll be keen to push into the La Verticale top five this time around, but she’ll need a massive personal best performance to make it onto the podium.

@melisapml

Laurie Phai – Cambodia

Laurie Phai

A former professional table tennis player with the French national team, Phai transitioned to running in 2013 and has been competing at a decent level since, primarily in trail races. Her 2019 schedule is packed full of events, but La Verticale is the only tower run. She represents Cambodia, the country of her father, at the marathon distance and is hoping to break that country’s national record of 2.59 when she runs at the Berlin marathon in September. Hard to know what to expect from her, but would be surprised by anything much in advance of 10th position.

@lauriephai

Sonja Shakespeare – Great Britain

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Shakespeare debuted at La Verticale last year, finishing 12th in 12:38. She’s picked up a lot of tall tower race experience since then, competing in New York, Shanghai, Moscow, Hong Kong and more, so will be looking to push her time down into the low 12-minute range, which will hopefully be good enough to break into the top ten.

@sonjashakespeare

Laure Chardin – France

Laure Chardin

Chardin hasn’t been tower running for very long, but has had an impressive start to her career on the stairs, making it onto the podium at races around France. She finished in 11th position at La Verticale last year with a time of 12:37.

Kamila Chamanicova – Slovakia

Kamila Chomanicova

The Slovakian athlete finished in 20th position at her La Verticale debut last year with a time of 14:14, and she’ll be looking to finish in under 14 minutes this time around. Having picked up lots of experience at a number of international races in 2018, it should be possible.

Eiffel-Disco_GettyImages-534953254

The selection of the elite male and female runners for the 2019 La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel has been announced.

15 women and 25 men from around the world were picked by the organisers of the event, which is coming into its fifth year.

Since launching in 2015, the race, which takes place on Wednesday 13th March at the Eiffel Tower in Paris, has become the premier European tower running event.

Each of the four previous editions (2015-2018) have been won by Piotr Lobodzinski (POL) and Suzy Walsham (AUS), and they will both return to Paris in 2019 to try and secure a fifth straight win.

Joining Walsham will be:

  • Amandine Bertrand – France
  • Laure Chardin – France
  • Kamila Chamanicova – Slovakia
  • Vanja Cnops – Belgium
  • Cristina Bonacina – Italy
  • Sarah Frost – Great Britain
  • Muhua Jian – China
  • Anais Leroy – France
  • Maria Elisa Lopez Pimentel – Mexico
  • Alice McNamara – Australia
  • Laurie Phai – Cambodia
  • Sonja Shakespeare – Great Britain
  • Iwona Wicha – Poland
  • Dominika Wisniewska-Ulfik – Poland

 

Challenging Lobodzinski will be:

  • Christophe Anselmo – France
  • Mark Bourne – Australia
  • Michel Bowie – France
  • Nicolas Cantagrel – France
  • Roberto Delorenzi – Switzerland
  • Fabio Ruga – Italy
  • Frank Nicolas Carreno – Colombia
  • Matthieu Gandolfi – France
  • Gediminas Grinius – Lithuania
  • Christof Grossegger – Austria
  • Gorge Heimann – Germany
  • Michal Kovac – Slovakia
  • Sproule Love – USA
  • Mateusz Marunowski – Poland
  • Matjaz Miklosa – Slovenia
  • Jakob Mayer – Austria
  • Mickael Pourcelot – France
  • Stephane Ricard – France
  • Christian Riedl – Germany
  • Soh Wai Ching – Malaysia
  • Stefan Stefina – Slovakia
  • Alexis Trujillo – Mexico
  • Laurent Vicente – France
  • Simon Wuethrich – Switzerland

 

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eiffel tower 1905 picture 4

The effort you need to ascend you can not find in any other sport. It is purely athletic, because it demands from the champion as much strength as speed and as much agility as enduranceLe Journal

The sixth edition of La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel takes place on Wednesday 11th March 2020. Among the racers taking part will be the reigning world champions, Piotr Lobodzinski and Suzy Walsham, who’ll be aiming to make it six wins in a row in Paris.

With its narrow field of participants – only 131 this year – and, of course, its iconic venue, entrance to La Verticale is one of the most sought after in the tower running calendar.

Tracing its origins back as far as 1905, the Eiffel Tower stair climb is probably the world’s oldest tower run, although the first organised stair climb goes back a couple of years before that, when an outdoor stair race was held at Rue Foyatier in Paris 1903. You can read about that event here.

Combining reports from multiple newspapers and magazines from 1905, this is the most detailed account of that first race at the Eiffel Tower.

Le Championnat de L’Escalier 1905

Organised by a magazine called Les Sports, the race took place on Sunday 26th November 1905. It was a cold day with very heavy rains and strong winds. Yet despite the bad weather, large crowds gathered at the foot of the Tower, and on the platforms on the way up, to witness this ‘unique spectacle’.

This comes as no surprise. At the time, the Eiffel Tower was the tallest man-made structure in the world, with the longest staircase. Those in attendance were witnessing history.

Newspaper Le Journal said ‘Les Sports had the unique idea to have athletes from all sports battle it out on a new ground…the stairs.’ The magazine’s aim was to pit champions and elite athletes from various sporting traditions against each other in the ultimate test of fitness. Runners, cyclists and footballers were all among those who took part in the event.

Of the 300 entrants who were due to attend, 283 made it to the start line. Those who took part did so in ‘racing outfits and espadrille shoes’.

The race involved running up 729 steps to the second platform (of three) at the Eiffel Tower. The reason they didn’t run to the top is the organisers felt the stairs on the upper levels were too narrow, and that it could have proved dangerous once the stairwell got crowded.

One newspaper report states that ‘competitors at this challenge were not allowed to pull on the railing’. There are some pictures that show competitors holding the railing, but we believe they were promotional shots taken before the event itself. None of the in-race images show runners holding on to the railing, although in one of the pictures below a runner looks dangerously close to reaching out and grabbing it. If, indeed, they didn’t touch the railing at all – and if the post-race report felt it worth mentioning, we may assume they didn’t – then the times they clocked in 1905 become all the more impressive. Ultimately it remains unknown.

The day was split into two sections; in the morning (9am-12pm) ‘veterans and novices’ took on the climb, and in the afternoon (2pm) ‘professional and amateur champions from different athletic groups’.

eiffel tower 1905 picture 3

The start from the foot of the Eiffel Tower. The runners were timed by Salomon, official timer of the A.C.F.

La Vie au Grand Air (a sports journal from the time) explains how the organisers handled the issue of timing:

The organisers had a great idea to avoid problems of classing. The runners had attached on their back a small bit of cloth on which was written a letter followed by a number – the minute of the start of their race. The runners went every minute, timed by MM Salomon & Richard. The timer at the second platform only had to calculate the difference between the start time marked on the back of the climber and the time of arrival.

Some racers really struggled on the day. This excerpt from one report will sound familiar to those who have set off a bit too fast at the start of a stair race:

Those who reach their fifth landing can conclude that it is relatively easy and with a bit of courage you could reach the top. Alas! They were disillusioned by the reality at hand – the leaders set aside, you could see the fast runners compared to the exhausted lads before even the first platform, who dragged themselves to the top painfully with sighs and desperate hiccups.

The exertion proved far too much for some runners. Apparently two or three passed out at the top and had to be resuscitated with CPR.

Aside from the stair climbers taking on the challenge as a test of their fitness, there were also ‘some eccentrics’ there on the day who ‘amused the public with unique variations: One man climbed it in 9:59 while carrying a 50kg bag of cement on his back, another climbed it backwards, and a third, a waiter, did the ascent holding a tray with six full glasses.

At the business end of things, the morning waves were highly competitive, with times from the amateurs rivaling those in the elite category later in the day.

The veterans and novices category was won by Luiz in a time of 3:19, he was followed by Pieli in 3.23, with the veteran A. Thiebaud reaching the second platform in 3:29. As seems customary of the time, competitors were largely mentioned by last name only.

eiffel tower 1905 picture 2

‘The arrival at the second floor for one of the runners’

Controversy at the elite race

The main event of the day was widely anticipated. Leading Parisian papers had write ups on the day of the event talking about the upcoming race. One even featured it on the front page.

According to Le Journal, ‘The champions of all sports fully understood the challenge and began training in a different way for this championship’.

Heading into the race, an amateur cyclist named Forestier was the favourite. He had won the Paris-Dieppe cycling race in 1903. Having done some research, he may well be Eugene Forestier, who later became a professional cyclist and came 15th in the 1908 Tour de France, competing for the Peugeot-Wolber team.

forestier the favourite 1905

Forestier

The fastest time on the day was set by Menu who finished in 3:03. But for some untold reason he was later disqualified.

The earliest report on the race came from the newspaper Le Siecle who listed the top four finishers and their times, but added, ‘We give these results with much reservation as a claim of fraud was placed against the winner.’ Obviously doubts had been raised about Menu soon after the race finished, but no where does it say exactly why he fell under suspicion.

Another report said ‘Menu did a baffling performance: 3mins 3 sec, but was disqualified…the difference in time between the first and the second – 16 seconds – had caused doubts from the start.’

The 16 second gap refers to the difference between Menu and Luiz (winner of the novices category). Presumably, Forestier hadn’t even set off before speculation arose over the speed of Menu’s time. Perhaps he was disqualified for pulling on the railing? It’s hard to think how else he may have ‘cheated’. It will remain a mystery.

With Menu disqualified victory went to the pre-race favourite, Forestier, who finished in a time of 3:12. He was followed by Lepage in 3:16 with Louis Prevost finishing third in 3:17.

eiffel tower 1905

‘The start of the first floor’

The morning papers and weekly magazines were full of praise for the performance of the athletes. One even calculated how quickly Forestier would have climbed Mont Blanc by stairs had he maintained the same pace – 2 hours and 15 minutes, apparently.

One paper asked, ‘Is this to say that ‘on the stairs’ cyclists are better than regular runners? This is possible. What is certain is that the ones who came first were especially trained at this sport.’

La Verticale 1905

Illustration of the event by Achille Beltrame featured in La Domenica del Corriere, 1905

Le Petit Journal concluded, ‘The event was remarkably organised… It allowed us to see the endurance and agility of all the sportsmen – cyclists, footballers, runners, walkers – that took part in this unique competition.’

 Perhaps the best quote from all the coverage:

After all, why would it be stranger to race up the stairs than to run on the road or on a track?

Why, indeed.

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Main images 1903

Quatorze juillet (14th July), or Bastille Day as it’s commonly known, is France’s national day. It commemorates the storming of the Bastille at the beginning of the French Revolution of 1789. It has long been a day of celebration and festivity throughout France.

14th July 1903 was a day of sporting revolution. Competitive stair racing began in France.

Read the story of what is probably the earliest documented stair race in history.

Le Championnat de l’Escalier, 1903

Organised by a publication called Revue Sportive the race took place on the steps of the famous Rue Foyatier (Foyatier Street) in Montmartre, Paris. Rue Foyatier now leads right up to the Sacré-Cœur, but the basilica was still under construction in 1903, so it’s not exactly clear where the racers finished.

The event involved a straight sprint up 256 steps. According to reports, ‘it was a great success, which was deserving of its innovation, in the centre of gay Montmarte on a day of national celebration’.

The event was split into four categories: men, ladies, boys and girls. Below are photos/pictures from the event with the original captions translated (in quotation marks where included, otherwise captions are our own).

action from the ladies 1903

‘A series in the women’s division’

More than 100 women, men, girls and boys turned up at the start line to take part in the event.

It was ran in a knockout tournament style, with the first to the top of the 256 steps advancing to the next round. It took 28 rounds across all the categories to find the winners.

winning the ladies championship 1903

‘The champion in the women’s race’

championnat de l'escalier 1903

‘Some of the competitors at the finish line’

1903 stair race Paris 4

You can see from the photos the event attracted a large crowd of interested spectators. You also get a real sense when reading the coverage (particularly later on with the Eiffel Tower races of 1905 and 1906) that the sport was immediately respected in the highest regard by sports reporters.

1903 stair race Paris 6

Montmatre race 1903

‘The finish line in one series’

1903 stair race Paris 3

The winner of the men’s category was a Mr de Baeder (or just, Baeder). He also happened to be the director of Revue Sportive, organiser of the race, and the starter on the day.

The women and girls championship was won by Miss Marguerite Rittrier.

Apparently there was also a category for veterans (seniors) and one of the participants was ‘the famous coach’, Succi. He was ‘much encouraged’ by the crowd who ‘did not expect to see him at an event of this kind’.

One report said, ‘Although having demonstrated the endurance to which he accustomed us, Succi could only take second place. He had probably forgotten to lose weight’.

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‘Mr de Baeder, director of the Revue Sportive, wins the championship’

1903 stair race Paris 1

Action from the boy’s race

1903 stair race Paris 5

If you’re ever in Paris, head to Rue Foyatier, to where it all began, and run those steps. This purest of sports began there over 115 years ago.

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