Posts Tagged ‘stair running’

It’s hard to believe that Londoners have been racing up stairs for almost 290 years, but it’s true.

In 1730, a young man took on the challenge of running up and down what at the time was one of the capital’s tallest structures.

Read on to find out more about what surely must be the earliest record of competitive stair running.

The venue: The Monument to the Great Fire of London

The Monument commemorates the Great Fire of London that happened in 1666. The renowned architect Christopher Wren (of St Paul’s Cathedral fame) worked on its design along with Robert Hooke, and construction began on it in 1671. By 1677, the 202 feet (62m) column was complete. It was positioned 202 feet from the spot where the Great Fire had begun on Pudding Lane.

Inside, a narrow spiral staircase with 311 steps led up to a viewing deck at the top. You can see the Monument in the image below (highlighted by red arrow), just east of the old London Bridge.

London in 1730

An engraving of London made in 1730. The Monument can be seen to the east of London Bridge, highlighted by the red arrow.

The Monument close up

A closer look at The Monument, taken from an engraving of the city of London made in 1710.

The Monument in 1753

The Monument in 1753.

The wager: the Baptist Head Tavern, Old Bailey

On Thursday, 24 September 1730, a group of men sat in the Baptist Head Tavern, which was at the southern end of Old Bailey, the road most famously known for featuring London’s central criminal court among its buildings.

A small excerpt in the following Saturday’s (26th September) copy of J. Read’s Weekly Journal gives all the information we have about what transpired next, so some of the finer details remain unknown.

Old Bailey map Baptist Tavern

The Old Bailey (O Bayley) can be seen on this map from 1739. The arrow shows the approximate location of the Baptist Head Tavern at the southern end of the street, facing the courts.

The group made ‘a considerable wager’ among themselves, placing money on whether a barman (‘a nimble little drawer’) at the Baptist Head Tavern could run up the 311 steps of The Monument and back down again in three minutes or less.

The Monument is around a mile east of the Old Bailey, with an easy 20-minute walk getting you from one place to the other.

At The Monument, the speedy barman managed to complete the stair running challenge in just 2:32, which was deemed ‘an extraordinary performance’.

The Monument stairs

The narrow staircase inside The Monument.

Apparently on his way down the stairs he was shouting, ‘Coming, coming Sir’.

The actual copy from the Weekly Journal is reproduced below:

1730 exerpt

Although it wasn’t a ‘race’ as such (though still a race against the clock), this is now easily the earliest example of stair running for sport we’ve seen. It pre-dates the earliest proper stair race in Paris in 1903, by a massive 173 years.

Earlier this year, The Monument made good promotional use of this historic event to challenge visitors to beat the record of the ‘nimble little drawer’.

The venue tends to be fairly busy at all times of the day, so getting a clear run up and down is very unlikely. But you can enter the site every day from 9.30am for £4.50 to give it a shot. More info available on The Monument website.

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Would you fancy your chances of beating a top tower runner if you could run up an escalator while they took the stairs?

A few years back, brave commuters at the Stadtmitte S-Bahn station in downtown Stuttgart got the chance to go up seven-time winner of the Empire State Building Run-Up, Thomas Dold.

The tower running superstar took the stairs, while members of the public, kitted out in full on safety gear, ran up the escalator beside him to see if they could beat him to the top.

Watch the video below to see how they all got on. This would make a great stunt in a London station ahead of one of the big charity climbs!

Race season will soon be upon us and no doubt there will be lots of newcomers to the sport taking on their first tower. With Vertical Rush for Shelter just a few months away training should be starting now at the latest, so we’ve put together some stair running tips to help those new to the sport.

Why stair climbing?

Stair climbing is the perfect workout as it’s free, low impact and high-intensity, which means you get a great fitness boost in a short space of time. No big long runs or expensive fitness classes here. You’ll likely burn as many calories doing a solid 15-minute stair workout as you would doing an hour long steady state jog.

Where to run stairs in London?

If you’re in London your best bet is to go to the Tower Wing of Guy’s Hospital. There you’ll find 700+ steps on a quiet stairwell (if you go in the evenings) that’s open until 10pm. If you’re not in London, you should be looking for hospitals and hotels as your go to training venues. If you work in an office with 6+ floors, or have access to a block of flats, that will be perfect too. Find out more ideas on where to run stairs in London.

guys-tower

Guy’s Hospital, London – tallest hospital in the world and TRUK training venue!

Take two steps at a time

If possible you really want to be taking two steps at a time while your training for a stair race and when you’re racing. If you’re hoping to make a fast time at Vertical Rush this is essential. It can feel harder but try single stepping the same distance and you’ll see you actually expend more energy, especially if you’re not just walking.

Use the railing

We see a lot of newcomers to stair climbing not touch the railing, but it’s far more efficient if you do. Not only does it keep you stable and straight, thus focusing your energy on going up, but it also helps you to take the turns on each landing a little quicker, which will save you time overall. Add to that a decent upper body workout and pulling on the railing is a no-brainer.

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US stair running legend Kristin Frey demonstrating a great rail technique – hand over hand like a pulling a rope

Coming down the stairs

Ideally you always want to get the lift back down after you have done your stair climb training sets. All the non-impact benefits are undone if you have to keep descending stairs once you reach the top. It will leave you with sore calves and quads for a couple of days after too. If getting the lift down is simply not an option then try and spread the load around your muscles by using different descending techniques each time (sideways, backwards, feet turned in and then out), or even each flight.

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Should have taken the lift – avoid descending the stairs when you can and be careful when you can’t

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