Posts Tagged ‘rue foyatier stair race 1903’

Over the last ten days or so, I’ve spent hours poring through pages and pages of archived French newspapers. As the third edition of the modern Verticale de la Tour Eiffel is due to take place later this month, I wanted to piece together a thorough account of what I had long assumed was the first recorded stair race – the Eiffel Tower stair climb of 1905. But just as I was finishing that piece, I caught wind of a stair race that had taken place two years earlier elsewhere in Paris.

There was no specific date mentioned for the event, just a year – 1903. And so I returned to the archives, and starting with 1 January 1903 began the at times tedious, but more often exciting, task of reading through multiple newspapers in search of a mention of a stair race. I eventually found it and here is the story of what is possibly the first ever stair race.

Le Championnat de l’Escalier, 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 and 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.

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 we’re not sure exactly 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.

action from the ladies 1903

‘A series in the women’s division’

Unfortunately there is no mention of times in the reports I found (I am hoping that with further research I may discover some more comprehensive coverage), so we don’t know what sort of speeds they were clocking back then. We do however have times for the Eiffel Tower races of 1905 and 1906, and when we tell the full stories from those events you will be very surprised at how the athletes from back then match up against the elite stair climbers of today.

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’

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) that the sport was immediately respected in the highest regard by sports reporters.

Montmatre race 1903

‘The finish line in one series’

The fastest time on the day belonged to a Mr de Baeder. He also happened to be the director of Revue Sportive, organiser of the race, and the starter on the day.

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

If you’re ever in Paris (and some of you reading this will be there soon for the Eiffel Tower race on 16th March 2017), head to Rue Foyatier, to where it all began, and run those steps. This purest of sports began there 114 years ago.