Posts Tagged ‘SkyPoint Sea to Sky Q1 Stair Challenge’

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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