Posts Tagged ‘Ryoji Watanabe’

The Empire State Building Run-Up is just a few days away. Here’s a rundown of the men on the start list for the 44th edition of the event.

Wai Ching Soh (Malaysia)
Soh Wai Ching wins the Empire State Building Run Up 2021

The reigning champ is back to defend the title he won last year with a 10:46 finish. He’s spent the last week warming up with wins at the US Bank Tower in LA and the Space Needle in Seattle, while the earlier part of the year has also been full of victories and new course records at events in Europe, Asia and the USA. Far and away the most active tower runner in this line up, so anything other than a faster win than last year will be a big upset.

Ryoji Watanabe (Japan)
Ryoji Watanabe at Tokyo Tower race 2018

Third in the Vertical World Circuit in 2019, Watanabe is making his debut at the ESBRU. Throughout the VWC he showed himself capable of getting reasonably close to two former ESBRU champions Piotr Lobodzinski and Mark Bourne, so should give a good account of himself.

The last time Soh and Watanabe squared off in the same event was at the 3,398-step Shanghai Tower International Vertical Marathon in November 2019. The Malaysian finished 28 seconds – and one position – ahead of Watanabe in that event to take fifth. Both men have made significant improvements since then, with Watanabe chalking up numerous wins in Japan this year. This really is the clash of the night. Watanabe is well fired up, telling Soh in an Instagram exchange earlier in the week, ‘I’ve been waiting for the day to fight you again!’. Here’s hoping for a close race.

Fabio Ruga (Italy)

The Italian won the European Tower Running Championship in Poland earlier this year and will be making his fourth ESBRU appearance (if he makes it to the start line – TBC). Ruga’s best time at the Empire State Building is the 11:18 that earned him third in 2019, when he was just four seconds behind Wai Ching Soh. He’ll almost certainly need a sub 11-minute finish to win. Although constantly racing in the mountains, Ruga hasn’t had many outings in 1,000+ step buildings lately and that stairwell rust is probably going to have an impact. Hope to see him back on the podium but top spot might be a stretch.

Sproule Love (USA)

One of the all-time great American stair climbers, Love made his debut at the ESBRU all the way back in 1999. He’s been on the podium in New York a number of times over the years, most recently finishing third in 2018. His times at the ESBRU have varied quite a lot recently, ranging from a blistering 11.15 in 2016 to a 12.35 last year that was good enough to earn him fourth.

If he can bring back that sub 12-minute form this year, we might see an American on the podium again. But keeping up with the top visiting international athletes all the way to the 86th floor will be a tall order for The Ghost. Chance of a top five finish again for Love this year we reckon, but he’ll have to be on top of his game to ensure he holds off enough of the European challengers.

Görge Heimann (Germany)

Heimann made his one and only ESBRU appearance back in 2016, where he clocked a very respectable 12:20 to finish sixth. He won the German Tower Running Cup this year so is evidently in good shape. Imagine he’ll be hoping to finish around the lower 12-minute mark again this time and fingers crossed he manages it and it’s enough for another top-six finish.

Omar Bekkali (Belgium)

The Belgian policeman has raced three times at the ESBRU and has a PB of 11:53, which earned him second place in 2018 behind Frank Nicolas Carreno. He was a bit slower in 2019 (fifth in 12:12) and then couldn’t make the 2020 race. Highly active in years gone by, but has been largely absent from the scene this year. Not had his attendance confirmed, but if he does race it will be a case of wait and see what sort of shape he’s in once the race is over. Would be good to see some Euro athletes in the top five, so we’ll have fingers crossed Bekkali comes in fit.

David Roeske (USA)

Roeske has made six ESBRU appearances, debuting in 2015. His time each year has hovered around the 12 and a half minute mark, although last year he clocked a slightly slower 12:44 to take fifth. If everyone on the start list turns up, that sort of time probably won’t be fast enough to earn fifth again.

Best of the rest

Troy Alston – a spread of wins in the US saw Alston surge to third in the world rankings earlier this year. Highly accomplished at sprint and long-distance climbs, he’ll be looking to make an impact on his ESBRU debut.

Josh Duncan – the 2018 USA Stair Climbing Champion is well familiar with the 1,576 steps of the Empire State Building. He ran 13.31 at the 2019 event but an understandably slower 14:21 last year.

Mark Ewell – another successful American tower runner, with a good 13.26 PB at the ESBRU.

Mark Henderson – finished in an impressive 12.52 in 2019 and will surely be happy to chop any time off that this year.

Cole Hetzel – he’ll be the youngest man in the lobby of the Empire State Building but definitely one to watch. He debuted at the ESBRU last year after bagging a lottery entry and finished in 14:37. He subsequently went on to win Bop to Top in Indianapolis in January and then came second (third overall, with Wai Ching Soh winning the race) at the USA Stairclimbing Champs at Scale the Strat, Las Vegas a few weeks later. He’ll be looking to clock something much faster than last year’s time.

Josh Jackett – making his long overdue ESBRU debut this year, Jackett is the man behind the excellent Stair Life, the leading website for all things stair climbing related in the USA. A handy tower runner himself, he’s had a win and podium finish this year. No idea how he’ll fair in NYC, but hoping he has a great race.

Jason Larson – a strong athlete with tons of stair racing experience and wins around the States. Has dipped under the 13 minute mark a couple of times at the ESBRU and will be looking for more of the same tonight.

Stephen Marsalese – The Beast from the East made his ESBRU debut way back in 1996 and has clocked up 25 appearances in total. He’ll be looking to chop some time off the 14:40 he posted last year and get his finishing time back down closer to 14:00. He’ll no doubt be bolstered by the win he secured at the Corning Tower in Albany, NY last month.

Martin Pederson – the Danish athlete had to skip the Elite race last year due to travel restrictions. This year his Elite invite was pulled but he’s bagged a place in the Open. If he doesn’t get bumped up to the Elite wave, hopefully he’ll get a clear run in the Open. He clocked 13:11 in his debut in 2019, but admits to not being as good shape this year so will probably be very happy with a sub 14-minute finish.

Ryoji Watanabe set a new course record at Tokyo Tower on Sunday, becoming the first person to run the 500-step course in under two minutes.

Watanabe finished in a fantastic 1:59.98 to reach the top ahead of the chasing Takaaki Koyama.

Ryoji Watanabe Tokyo Tower
Ryoji Watanabe lies flat out after his winning run at Tokyo Tower

The exciting event more than lived up to pre-race expectations, with a close race highly anticipated.

The in-form Koyama set a personal best 2:07.09 as he followed shortly behind Watanabe.

You can see the strong finish from both athletes in the video below.

Behind Koyama, Akie Yajima finished third in 2:10.13, with 2016 champion Naoya Endo in fourth. Hiroichi Uesugi finished in fifth place.

Tokyo Tower hosts one of the final Asian tower races of 2020 this coming Sunday.

It’s the ninth edition of the popular event in Japan, that sees runners sprint up 500 steps.

In the men’s event there is potentially an exciting clash of former champions. Japanese number one tower runner Ryoji Watanabe (2017 and 2018 champion), Takaaki Koyama (2019), and Naoya Endo (2016) are all on the provisional start list.

Takaaki Koyama reaches the top of Tokyo Tower to win in 2019

Koyama is heading into the event following a strong win last weekend at the Sapporo TV Tower, so will definitely be in good form.

Ryoji Watanabe won the event in 2017 and 2018

Watanabe, who finished third overall on the Vertical World Circuit in 2019, hasn’t raced on the stairs for months but did win ahead of Koyama at the Building Climb Cup race in Niigata back in January.

If Watanabe is anywhere near being in top condition, he will be the man to beat on Sunday. He ran an incredible 2:01 to win in 2018, finishing 16 seconds ahead of Koyama.

Ryoji Watanabe towerrunning

Ryoji Watanabe kicked off his 2020 tower running campaign with a win at the Building Climb Cup race in Niigata, Japan.

Held at the Next21 building, the event consisted of three qualifying runs up 19 floors, with the top-ten fastest men and women (cumulative total time) advancing to the final.

The final involved two runs to the 19th floor, with the athlete with the fastest cumulative time declared the winner.

Next21 Niigata tower run

Next21 in Niigata, Japan

Watanabe (JPN), who finished third in the Vertical World Circuit last year, dominated the whole event. He laid down a marker in the qualifiers, running the fastest time in each of the three rounds (2:26, 2:23 and 2:28).

He then stepped it up considerably for the tightly contested final. He ran 2:09 in the first round, marginally faster than second-placed Shota Nakamata (2:10) and Hayato Matino in third (2:11).

Ryoji Watanabe towerrun

Ryoji Watanabe in action at Next21

But Watanabe, who won the race last year, showed his caliber in the final run to secure victory. He finished in 2:06, some way ahead of Nakamata (2:12) and Daiichi Ishikubo (2:13).

In the women’s division, Mie Takahashi finished on top clocking a consistent 2:53 in both of her runs in the final.


Mie Takahashi on her way to victory

Takaaki Koyama wins single climb event

Takaaki Koyama clocked a super-fast 2:04 to win the Short event. Eighth in the Vertical World Circuit rankings last year, the Japanese athlete is a rising star on the tower running circuit.

Takaaki Koyama

Takaaki Koyama begins one of his climbs

He held off Watanabe, who clocked 2:08, to secure victory in the single sprint event.

Fastest woman in the Short race was Yumi Uchiyama who finished in 3:16.

All the results from the race at Next21 can be found here.

There are also excellent photos from the event available here.

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Sarah Frost smashed her own course record at the Broadgate Tower Run Up last Saturday to win the London leg of the Vertical World Circuit.

The British athlete held off competition from a loaded field of international stair climbers to reach the top of the 877-step tower in 4:40.

‘I feel amazing right now,’ Frost said at the top of the building in the City of London. ‘My plan was to forget what everyone else was doing and focus on my own goal which was breaking the five-minute barrier.’

‘My training must have paid off because I smashed it. I’m so very happy to be at Broadgate, a really special race for me because I train here and it’s so great to have the VWC here as well, bringing in lots more elite athletes. I’m already looking forward to the next race.’

Frost’s previous record of 5:04 was also bettered by four other women, with three of them dipping under five minutes.

Yuko Tateishi (JPN) was second in 4:52, while Anais Leroy (FRA) took third in 4:55.

Watanabe destroys men’s record

Japanese tower runner Ryoji Watanabe took an incredible 17 seconds off the previous men’s course record as he stormed to victory in 3:41.

Watanabe’s victory brings him up to fifth position in the current VWC rankings, and follows on from his win last month at One World Trade Center in New York.

‘As London is quite far from my country, Japan, I’m very happy to win the Broadgate Tower Run Up,’ Watanabe said at the finish. ‘I’m also very excited to have won two races of the 2019 Vertical World Circuit. Because the course was shorter than other VWC races, it was difficult for me to adjust during the race, but I was able to prepare the strategy for London after my New York win and perform well. I’ll be doing my best to win the next VWC race in Beijing in August.’

British newcomer Laurence Ball continued his incredible start to tower running by taking second place in 4:00.06.

Ball won his debut tower race at the Walkie Talkie Building back in March, and followed it up with a fourth-place finish at Vertical Rush two weeks later.

This great video captures some of the action from the day.

Full Broadgate Tower Run Up results

Piotr Lobodzinski and Suzy Walsham took the first victories in the 2018 Vertical World Circuit on Sunday at the Lotte World Tower International Sky Run in Seoul, Korea.

Just a week on from their respective World Championship wins in Taipei, the pair raced up 2,917 steps to the top of the world’s fifth tallest building to kick off the nine-race VWC series.

Lobodzinski extended his unbeaten run in 2018 by holding off the challenge from Australia’s Mark Bourne and Japanese star Riyoji Watanabe.

The Bull of Bielsk Podlaski reached the top of the 550+ metre tower in 15.53, with Bourne behind in 16.16. Watanabe finished in 17.19.

It was Lobodzinski’s 123rd stair climb event, and coincidentally and fittingly the race covered 123 floors.


For Walsham it was a more comfortable victory as she finished over a minute faster than her nearest rival en route to setting a new course record of 18.45, two seconds faster than the time she set at the tower’s inaugural race last year.

Korea’s Ji Eun Kim gave the locals something to cheer about as she took second in 19.49.

Alice McNamara from Australia came in third in 20.08. Having missed the World Championship last weekend due to illness, McNamara will surely be extremely happy with taking a hefty 12 seconds off her time from 2017. A great return to competition.

The next stage in the series takes place on Thursday 24th May at Tour First in Paris.

London, which was announced last week as host for the penultimate event in the nine-race series, will be the only other European venue.

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Piotr ‘Showtime’ Lobodzinski stormed to victory at Taipei 101 on Saturday to secure his second consecutive tower running world title.

In a dominant performance, the 32-year-old Polish star won both races in the two-part championship format to finish well clear of second-placed rival Christian Riedl.

The championship event began with a ‘sprint’ up the first 35 floors of Taipei 101. Although Lobodzinski was a clear pre-race favourite, it was in this shorter race that he was expected to face his toughest test. But in the end it wasn’t nearly as close as some had anticipated.

Setting off first at just before 7.30am local time, Lobodzinski powered up 824 steps in just 3.39. He was followed into the stairwell by known speedster Frank Carreno, who some had anticipated winning the sprint event.

However, the Colombian athlete, who won the Empire State Building Run Up 2018 back in February, was some way off the blistering pace set by Showtime. Carreno finished in 3.50, with Germany’s Riedl third in 3.55.

Less than 90 minutes later the athletes were back at the start line ready for the second race of the day. This time they would be going up 2,046 stairs to the 91st floor of Taipei 101.

With Lobodzinski undefeated in 2018, and rarely beaten in longer races, he was largely expected to take the win in the longer race. Pre-race speculation had considered the chances of Mark Bourne, one of the only men to have beaten Lobodzinski in a tall tower in recent years, presenting a challenge, but it wasn’t to be.

Lobodzinski reached the 91st floor in 11.11, with Riedl just behind in second (11.15) and Japan’s Riyoji Watanabe in third (11.48). Carreno was fourth in 11.49 and Bourne fifth, just a few hundredths of a second behind the Colombian.


The top six men at the tower running World Championship 2018: (l-r) Riyoji Watanabe, Christian Riedl, Piotr Lobodzinski, Frank Carreno, Mark Bourne, Gorge Heimann.

With maximum points from both races, Lobodzinski was crowned World Champion. A third-place and second-place finish across both races secured Christian Riedl second place overall, while Frank Carreno did enough in both races to take third place.

With his win in Taipei, Lobodzinski adds a second world title to the one he won in 2015 in Doha.

What next for the Polish superstar? The nine-event Vertical World Circuit (VWC) begins next week in Seoul at the Lotte Tower. Lobodzinski was beaten there last year by Mark Bourne, so will be expected to return to Korea to exact revenge and set himself up on the way to another VWC title. In this sort of form, who would bet against him?

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