Posts Tagged ‘suzy walsham’

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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In her 100th tower running event, Suzy Walsham added the title of World Champion to her long list of achievements on Saturday in Taiwan.

There were no surprises as the Australian won both races in the two-part championship format.

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Suzy Walsham, Tower Running World Champion 2018 (image – Suzy Walsham)

The event began with a climb up the first 35 floors of Taipei 101. Walsham was first into the stairwell and powered up 824 steps in just 4.31. Behind her in the initial standings was the expected competition of Zuzana Krchova (4.53) and Valentina Belotti (5.01).

With Walsham very rarely beaten over longer distances, it seemed like she had the Championship wrapped up with that clear victory in the shorter race. Only a complete disaster in the following full-length race up 91 floors would have prevented her from securing her first world title.

There would be no disaster, though, and amazingly, with only around 90 minutes rest between races, Walsham managed to pull out a PB at Taipei 101 as she stormed up 2,046 steps in 13.01, securing her fourth win at the iconic building in Taiwan.

The absence of 2015 world champion Andrea Mayr and Japanese mountain running star Yuri Yoshizumi from the Championship meant the most significant challenges to Walsham were removed, but in this sort of form the Australian appeared unbeatable anyway.

‘[It’s a] big milestone for me today, it is my 100th stair race,’ said Walsham, ‘I’ve achieved a lot over the years, it’s been an incredible journey, and so i’m thrilled to be here for that 100th race’.

With 100 races in a 12-year stair climbing career, Walsham is a six-time Vertical World Circuit winner, seven-time Towerrunning World Tour winner, nine-time Empire State Building Run-Up winner and is now a worthy and unrivalled World Champion.

Her attention now turns to the Vertical World Series that begins at Lotte Tower in Seoul this coming Sunday. Walsham won there last year and will return there again to seek out another victory and kick off her attempt to retain her Vertical World Circuit title.

Italian mountain running legend Valentina Belotti will attempt to add a tower running world championship title to her long list of achievements when she races at Taipei 101 on Saturday.

The in-form Belotti returns to the venue where she won from 2011-2014, with the hopes of mounting a challenge against race favourite Suzy Walsham.

A four-time medallist at the World Mountain Running Championships (one gold and three silver), Belotti’s participation in tower running events has been sporadic in the last four years.

But she returned to winning ways this past weekend, taking victory at the second edition of the 535 in Condotta event in Moio de’ Calvi, Italy.

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Belotti on her way to victory at 535 in Condotta (photo by Demis Milesi)

 

The course is very similar to that at the popular Valtellina Tube event and consists of a continuous staircase, 1.25km long, 2,527 steps straight up, with a 535m height gain.

Belotti finished the race in 20.53, ahead of Nives Carobbio (22.30) and Cecilia Pedroni (22.44).

The course at Moio de’ Calvi has very deep steps and an almost 80% incline at its maximum point, plus a 75% incline for the final 400m. That’s perfect preparation for the notoriously tall steps at Taipei 101.

Belotti is one of only two women to have run Taipei 101 in under 13 minutes. She set her fastest time of 12.54 back in 2013, although she hasn’t competed at the venue since she won in 2014.

But despite her absence from the competitive tower running scene in recent seasons, this performance on a particularly demanding course, plus her extensive experience in Taipei, puts her firmly in the mix for any discussion about who might come out on top at Saturday’s World Championship.

Even with reigning world champion Andrea Mayr out of the championship through injury, it will definitely not be plain sailing for Suzy Walsham. The Australian world number one will have to be at her very best to hold off strong challenges from Belotti, the Czech Republic’s Zuzana Krchova and American Cindy Harris.

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The tower running World Championship 2018 is almost here. On Saturday 5th May, the world’s best tower runners will do battle on the stairs of Taipei 101 to decide who will be crowned world champion.

We take a look at the venue, the course records, previous winners and the World Championship race format to keep you in the know ahead of Saturday’s big event.

The venue

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Formerly the world’s tallest building, Taipei 101 stands just over 509m tall. With the completion of the Burj Khalifa in 2010 it was knocked to second tallest building in the world, and in the years since then it has been eclipsed by eight other super towers. It’s worth having a read of the Wikipedia entry for Taipei 101, as it’s a very interesting building from an architectural and engineering standpoint and has also been internationally recognised for its ‘green’ credentials and sustainability efforts over the years. It’s a really prestigious venue for the World Championship.

The race stairwell is right-turning and has 2,046 steps, spread over 91 floors (of the building’s eponymous 101). The bulk of the steps at the building are notoriously tall. Somewhat uniquely, the landings include two additional steps between flights; so you reach the top of one flight, pivot 90°, take a step up, pivot again 90° and go up the next flight. That unfamiliar step layout is sure to throw a few racers out of their rhythm on race day and previous race experience in the tower will likely be a factor in the final standings.

Australia’s Alice McNamara won the Taipei 101 Run Up in 2016 and spoke about her experience there:

‘Taipei 101 has the challenge of a very steep, continuous staircase…there are no landings, just a 10-2-7-2 stair configuration all the way up. It is almost like climbing a steep spiral staircase on the 2 stair “landings” so it was very important to use the handrail on my right hand side to partially pull myself up.’

American stair climb legend, Kristin Renshaw (nee Frey), detailed her experience of the race in 2012 where she finished third, and the stairs sound pretty imposing when you read her description:

‘When I hit the monster steps, I knew it! They were exponentially larger than the ones we started climbing [on the lower floors of Taipei 101]; these steps were taller than any I’d ever encountered. I thought the steps in my training building were of decent size, especially the last two floors where they get taller and steeper, and Sears is known for having some giant steps, but those paled in comparison to the steps in the 101 tower.’

Course records

Taipei 101 got straight onto stair climb events when it opened, hosting its first race on Sunday 20th November 2005, less than a year after officially opening to the public.

The current men’s and women’s course records were set that day in 2005 and no one has come particularly close to beating them in the intervening years.

Former competitive cyclist Paul Crake (AUS) set the men’s record of 10.29. There’s an excellent interview with him on YouTube, which we highly recommend, where he talks about his life before and after the accident that left him paralysed.

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Australian Paul Crake setting the course record in 2005 at the inaugural Taipei 101 Run Up

It’s important to put Crake’s record time at Taipei 101 into context for those perhaps unfamiliar with his tower running accomplishments. In 2015 world number one Piotr Lobodzinski won at Taipei in 11.08 and in 2016, current world number two, Frank Carreno won the race in 11.47.

Australia’s Mark Bourne (current world number five and last year’s winner) has come closest to Crake, taking victory in 2013 in a time of 10.52 and in 2014 in 10.54. Former world number one, and seven time ESBRU winner, Thomas Dold (GER) managed to finish in 10.58 at the 2008 event, while Piotr Lobodzinski also managed a sub-11 time of 10.58 in 2014, when finishing second behind Bourne.

Impressive as they are, those sub-11 times are still quite some way off the incredible record set by Crake.

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Course record holder Paul Crake (left) received a lifetime achievement award at the Taipei 101 Run Up 2017

Reigning world champion Andrea Mayr, who sadly is out of this year’s event, set the women’s record of 12.38. In a similar way to Crake, Mayr’s time has remained largely unrivalled since 2005, and she is one of only two women to have gone under 13 minutes in the event’s history.

Mayr also clocked 12.54 in 2007, while Italian Valentina Belotti managed 12.54 on her way to winning in 2013.

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Andrea Mayr sets the women’s course record of 12.38 in 2005.

Taipei 101 Run Up winners: 2005-2017
  • 2005  Paul Crake (AUS) 10.29 and Andrea Mayr (AUT) 12.38
  • 2006 – Paul Crake (AUS) 10.31 and Andrea Mayr (AUT) 13.28
  • 2007  Marco De Gasperi (ITA) 11.39 and Andrea Mayr (AUT) 12.54
  • 2008  Thomas Dold (GER) 10.53 and Jenny Hsiao-yu Li (TWN) 14.53
  • 2009 – Thomas Dold (GER) 11.05 and Suzy Walsham (AUS) 14.20
  • 2010 – Marco De Gasperi (ITA) 11.09 and Melissa Moon (NZL) 14.16
  • 2011 – Thomas Dold (GER) 11.19 and Valentina Belotti (ITA) 13.51
  • 2012 – Mark Bourne (AUS) 11.26 and Valentina Belotti (ITA) 13.21
  • 2013 – Mark Bourne (AUS) 10.52 and Valentina Belotti (ITA) 12.54
  • 2014 – Mark Bourne (AUS) 10.54 and Valentina Belotti (ITA) 13.22
  • 2015 – Piotr Lobodzinski (POL) 11.08 and Suzy Walsham (AUS) 13.16
  • 2016 – Frank Carreño (COL) 11.47 and Alice McNamara (AUS) 14.23
  • 2017 – Mark Bourne (AUS) 11.24 and Suzy Walsham (AUS) 13.36
Race format

The World Championship event will be played out over two races, with the climber scoring the most points from the two races combined becoming the 2018 world champion.

The first heat will be a shorter race up to the 35th floor (824 steps). That will start at 7.30am local time (12.30am UK time), with runners being set off every 30 seconds. All TWA registered stair climbers in attendance will take part. Points will be assigned to the top 50 finishers in the male and female categories.

The final will start at 8.30am local time, and will be a full run up 2,046 steps to the the top of the tower. Again, runners will be set off at 30-second intervals and points will be assigned to the top 50 finishers in the male and female categories.

This new race format is a marked shift from the 2015 World Championship. At that event in Doha, Qatar the final was limited to the top 30 finishers in the male and female divisions in the first heat, which unlike this event was open to all. What’s more, finishing positions in the second heat that year determined start positions on an F1-style grid format in the final the following day.

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Piotr Lobodzinski takes off from pole position on the grid at the 2015 tower running World Championship in Doha, Qatar

The grid was set 150m back from the tower entrance and athletes had to run in to the stairwell. This allowed for a few position changes before the athletes even hit the stairs, which didn’t sit well with some.

Obviously, logistics mean that the event at Taipei 101 needs to be done and dusted on the Saturday, but the very limited recovery period (90 minutes) between the first round and final seems unduly harsh on the competitors. The short recovery period is certainly going to unstick some of them, and make their second climb unpleasant. It would be fairer to have the final at the very end of the day’s events, after all the non-elite and corporate teams have finished.

The removal of a pre-run into the tower is welcomed, though. As purists, we think all races should start as close to the stairs as possible.

We won’t get into a full discussion of what we consider all the pros and cons of the differing race formats, but we do think there should be a move towards uniformity at future championships, where possible. But of course the World Championship is very much in its infancy and some experimentation with the format is to be expected at this stage.

The World Championship was initially scheduled for 2017 in China, with the plan for the tower running World Championship to follow the biennial pattern of its track and field cousin. Last year’s very late cancellation was a bitter disappointment for fans, but the Taipei 101 race is sure to be an excellent one and we are super hyped for this exciting event.

Will Showtime Lobodzinski retain his world title or can Mark Bourne take victory for a record fifth time at Taipei 101? With reigning world champion Andrea Mayr out of the event, is there anyone left to pose a significant challenge to the almost invincible Suzy Walsham?

Keep an eye out later this week for our guide to the top athletes taking part in the 2018 tower running World Championship.

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Rich ‘Beyond Human’ Sirrs is the fastest UK stair climber on the circuit. He first blew onto the UK tower running scene in 2015 after a successful run of results while working in China. The Hull native caught the tail end of the inaugural UK Tower Running championship that year, and managed to set two British records in the process – at the Gherkin and the Heron Tower.

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In May 2016 he set a new British record at the Broadgate Tower and then departed our shores once again, this time heading for Singapore. We caught up with Beyond Human to see what he’s been up to since he left. Read on to find out how a grip strengthener and training alongside the best in the world have transformed him.

TRUK: We haven’t seen you racing in the UK for a while now – where have you been and what’s going on?

RS: I moved over to Singapore in June 2016 and haven’t had a chance to get back over to the UK yet. I’m living and working here with my girlfriend and really can’t say enough good things about the place. Plenty of training opportunities and chock-a-block with sports facilities – I have two Olympic sized pools within five minutes walk of my house! I’ve taken some time out from stair racing in 2017 and trained for my first aquathlon. I’ve enjoyed mixing it up and also seeing some benefits from adding swimming to my training. I’ve recently raced another aquathlon and ended up with podium place in my category, so quite pleased with that as my swim is still a little pedestrian.

My last race in the UK was at Broadgate Tower in May 2016 where I finished second behind an inform David Robles. I’ve seen there have been some close, competitive battles in my absence and I’d like to get involved in those races.

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Beyond Human salutes a victory in 2015 from the top of the winner’s podium

TRUK: So, how is training going?

RS: I’ve been suffering with shin and Achilles injuries from running for a couple of years now and I’ve made the commitment to try and injury proof my body with a regimen of strengthening and balance exercises, plus some custom orthotics, and so far it seems to be going in the right direction.

I’ve been doing a fair bit of trail running out here, and even managed to win a trail race in Malaysia earlier in the year, despite only being able to put down 10-15km a week running for the six months before it (lots of stairs and swimming though). Further proof stair climbing is a great way to maintain/enhance fitness.

I’ve been listening to podcasts when I’m open water swimming here at the beach in Singapore (big recommendation to swim and get MP3 on) usually Tim Ferriss or Joe Rogan and usually sports or nutrition related. Anyways I came across this guy called Pavel Tsatsouline and he was talking about strength training and how all the muscles can be recruited to fire together to greatly increase strength of a movement. For example, you can grip harder if you flex your glutes at the same time! It’s called muscle irradiation and it got me thinking that perhaps it could be an important factor in stair racing where you are literally powering up the stairs and firing so many muscles at the same time. The force you can pull on the rail and how the legs can fire you upwards must be an important factor and I realised then that strength training must be a key element and was one I was overlooking.

I’ve basically added a range of body weight exercises – chin ups, dips, press ups, leg raises…and grip training using bar and also a sprung grip trainer. I’m trying to give myself a more stable and efficient movement base to increase the force I can recruit to power myself up the stairs, but also to try and move and run more efficiently.

I was actually told all of this in 2014 by an inspirational P.E teacher and former Valencia CF (when they were good) strength and conditioning coach during my time as an English teacher in Northern Spain, but at the time I didn’t act upon his advice.

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TRUK: You’ve been training with Tomas Macecek (Czech stair climber, current world number 7) and Suzy Walsham (reigning ladies tower running world champion) out in Singapore. How has it been training with the world’s best?

RS: I took Suzy and Tom on my stair running tours of Singapore. It’s basically a 5km loop of Singapore CBD, which takes in 4 or 5 open access buildings of varying height 150-225m, with a variety of stairwells. We run to a building, ascend, come down in the lift, run to the next building, and repeat.

We go at a steady pace, not killing each other but also not slow. The key thing I noted from following them up was how stable and compact they looked in the stairs. There was an assuredness to their movements. No energy was being wasted hopping around or flailing arms around the corner. It just looked compact and stable and the turns were tight and controlled.

Tom is more of a power walker and seems to sort of sit into his stride. I’ve seen something similar in videos of the Colombian stair climber Frank Carreno (current world number two). I’m guessing that lowering the pelvis helps recruit more glute to the movement. Try it next time you walk up stairs, it feels weird but you feel kinda powerful as you stride up. Anyways I was running behind Tom, but still having to work pretty hard to keep up even though he was walking.

Suzy employs a technique where she has real quick feet as she ascends the stairs and then sort of takes a mini rest on the stairwell, which involves lifting the head slightly and opening the lungs up and then popping her head back down and whipping around the turn to do the rapid feet again up the next flight.

I don’t think we are anywhere near understanding what is the best way to climb stairs, however I’m personally starting to transition my training away from a bouncy run style to a more compact rail heavy walk which whips around the corners. I call this the ‘German style’ – Christian Riedl, Görge Heimann, Ralf Hascher all have a similar style to this, in my opinion.

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Beyond Human: Sirrs was profiled in a Chinese magazine in 2015.

TRUK: What does your training look like at the moment?

RS: On weekends I train in the local ‘council flats’ – 50 floors/160m or so I think. I have a left turning and right turning stairwell (my left is always slower – in fact at balls out I’m about 15 seconds slower on left turning than right. The only left turning race I’ve won is Heron Tower, and it wasn’t by very much.)

  • I start with 4 x 50 floors steady.
  • Then it’s onto 10-floor sprints up to the 50th. I’m looking for around 45 seconds to complete the sprint and another 45 seconds recovery. I’m using these more to develop my coordination and feel for the stairs rather than endurance so I don’t pay too much attention to recovery time.
  • Once a month or so I try to do a vertical km in this building, taking it easy but looking for the volume.

I will also do a lot of lunch time sessions during the week in my 36-floor office building:

  • 2 x 36 floors at a tempo pace, which is a steady pace that feels fairly quick but isn’t a full gas effort. This stairwell has very runnable stairs, which actually allow ‘aerobic stair running’. Basically I mean I can ascend and keep HR around 150 and still maintain a run. Not easy to do in most stairwells as it’s just too bloody hard on the body.
  • 2×10-floor sprints with recovery between sprints. 10 floor sprints are for me more about getting used to moving fast in the stairs and practising the coordination which it takes to move quickly without falling over. It definitely hurts, but for me the real pain comes in a 20-floor sprint, as you need time to get into that pain zone (it usually kicks in at around 16 floors). I’m not using 10 floor sprints to build endurance. It’s about coordination of hands and feet to whip around the turns. I don’t think the movements are easy and they take a lot of practice.
  • 20 floors steady + 16 floors surge. I recently introduced a training run where I take 20 floors at the tempo pace and then push for the last 16 floors. This hurts big time and helps to strengthen the mind to take on this zone when it inevitably arrives during a race. I started doing this after reading your article on Terry Purcell.
  • I also do a monthly vertical km here, too. Ascending seven times at a steady pace (around five minutes per climb). The idea here is to build some strength.

 

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“I could get used to this!” Sirrs embraces the perks of being a champion

TRUK: Do you do anything for recovery? How about diet and nutrition?

RS: I love eating too much, especially here in Singapore – got to be the world’s best place for food. Get anything you can imagine, all pretty well priced and eat outside every night. I consider my race weight to be around 70kg, but I’ve put on a little muscle recently since the strength training, so up that a couple of kilos.

I realise weight is a key factor in heaving yourself up the stairs and I’ve seen there is a trend for the top guys to drop weight. Some were definitely more bulky and muscular looking a few years ago and seem to have improved their times by trimming down.

It’s probably a place I can get some improvements in, but I lack a little will power when it comes to food! One thing i’ve started taking is probiotics. I suffered for three years with a recurring problem with yeast infections and gut problems. I put it down to training too much, which maybe was stressing the body and lowering my immune system. I started taking probiotics and it cleared up almost immediately and hasn’t come back.

TRUK: Can we expect to see you back in the UK anytime soon for a race?

RS: Not anytime soon!

TRUK: Where the f**k are the OPSRC (Orchard Park Stair Running Club) lads??

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To Hull and Back: the successful Orchard Park Stair Running Club (l-r) Michael “The Rampart” Johnston, Lawrence “Bleed ’em” Needham, Daniel “Beast Mode” Sirrs, Rich “Beyond Human” Sirrs and manager Paul “Toolbox” Spivey.

RS: I know mate, don’t get my started!!! I’m considering withdrawing their OPSRC membership. We cant have Total Motion Tower Runners as the best team in the UK! That keeps me up at night sometimes.

My bro (Daniel Sirrs) moved to Canada this year, hopefully we’ll see him in a U.S/Canada race in 2017! We have talked about doing a U.S trip in 2017 or 2018. I’m thinking Las Vegas race (Scale the Strat) could be good! We’ll have a good battle with West Coast Labels and Total Motion coming up soon and I expect it might be close! Imagine that, cross country style scoring format. That would be fun.

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Australia’s Mark Bourne and Suzy Walsham took decisive victories at the Asian-Oceanian Towerrunning Championships this past weekend, held at Taipei 101 in Taiwan.

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Taipei 101 (2,046 steps), venue for the Asian & Oceanian Towerrunning Championships 2017

The Aussie pair returned to Taiwan, having both taken a break from the race – a year off for Walsham and two for Bourne.

Walsham had last one in 2015 and Bourne in 2014, and they returned on Sunday to stamp their dominance on their rivals with clear wins in the eighth tallest building in the world.

In its 13th edition, the race at Taipei 101 is recognised as one of the toughest on the global race calendar.

Walsham reached the top of the building’s 2,046 notoriously steep steps in a time of 13.36 – 20 seconds off her 2015 winning time and personal best- but still well over a minute faster than fellow Australian Alice McNamara who came in second in 14.58.

Similarly, Bourne was well off his best pace at the 508m tall building – 10.52 set in 2013 – but managed to secure victory with a time of 11.24. Behind him was another Australian, Leon Keely – who has previously competed at the highly-demanding Orienteering World Cup, and was taking part in only his second ever stair climb.

Both Bourne and Walsham had taken wins at the Lotte Tower in Seoul, Korea (the fifth tallest building in the world) a fortnight before (you can see footage of Bourne breaking the tape in Seoul here where he beat reigning world champion Piotr Lobodzinski in the much-anticipated exhibition event) so were good bets for their victories in Taipei.

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Suzy Walsham and Mark Bourne (image courtesy of Towerrunning World Association)

With such dominant displays over the last few weeks, surely both athletes will be looking ahead to the World Championships in China next month with huge confidence? Bourne has shown himself time and again to be one of the only real rivals to Piotr ‘Showtime’ Lobodzinski, especially over the longer distances. Their expected battle for top spot will be one of the highlights of the 2017 season.

Walsham, for the most part, continues to exist in a world of her own at the top of the female rankings, so rarely is she troubled by her competitors. Only Japan’s Yuri Yoshizumi has beaten Walsham in the past six months, and Walsham avenged that defeat at the Lotte Tower Run. She seems undefeatable in 2017, and her rivals at the upcoming World Championship must surely know they are ultimately competing for second place. Andrea Mayr, where are you??

Congratulations to Christian Riedl on an amazing first win at ESBRU last night. The German held off last year’s champion Thorbjørn Ludvigsen to take the win by a very narrow margin of just three seconds. His winning time was 10:16. Australian Darren Wilson took third spot with a sub-11 minute finish. It was good to see Sproule Love take a few seconds off his 2013 time and take fourth, with Italy’s Emanuele Manzi claiming a strong fifth place, in what we think may have been his first attempt. This follows on from his recent second place finish at the Swissotel Vertical Marathon in Singapore last year, showing he may well be one to watch this season.

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In the women’s race it was in many ways business as usual as reigning ESBRU and Tower Running World Cup champion Suzy Walsham demonstrated her supremacy by taking an incredible sixth title, with a winning margin of over a minute. Americans Stephanie Hucko and Shari Klarfeld completed the podium, with only five seconds separating the pair in what must have been quite a battle on the fairly narrow staircase.

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