Posts Tagged ‘Tower running training’

Mark Bourne Stairclimbing Australia

Mark Bourne – winner of the 2013 Empire State Building Run-Up, seven-time winner of Melbourne’s Eureka Tower Stair Climb, holder of numerous course records and one of the top stair climbers in the world over the past decade – is the right man to take tower running advice from.

Bourne spoke with Men’s Health (Australia) to give some expert tower running tips, including pointers on warming up, pacing yourself and establishing a rhythm during a race.

Here are some of the highlights:

The lead up to the race

‘You definitely don’t want to be training the day before the race. I might do a light jog two days before, but it won’t be anything strenuous.’

‘Have confidence in your preparation and don’t introduce new things into your training routine.’

Warming up

‘Some 10 or 20 metre sprints at about 75 per cent would be a good warm-up. If you can find a small single stairwell to run up then that will also get the blood pumping around your body.’

Eat light

‘It’s not like a marathon so you don’t need to go carb loading. The worse thing you could do is fill yourself up to the point of feeling sick.’

‘It’s a personal preference but I also have a good hit of caffeine in the morning.’

Mark Bourne towerrunning

How to run a stair race

Aim for a steady pace

‘You’re going to be tempted to race off as quickly as you can, but you need to take it steady. Start off conservatively with a pace that you think you can maintain. And don’t worry if you find yourself running parts of the race and walking other bits, it’s bound to happen.’

‘The lactic acid will build up and burn deep in your legs, if you have to slow down then just do it. Walking intensely for a few flights will serve you better than trying to run through a pain that you can’t shake.’

Two steps at a time and use the railing

‘Make use of the railing, it can assist you when you’re going around corners. The other thing professionals do is climb two steps at a time. Whether you are walking or running, always aim for a couple steps in each time you go forward.’

Establish a rhythm

‘It’s not just a physical battle but a gruelling mental slog. You need to find a zone where you can just concentrate on your stepping rhythm and tunnel your vision towards the goal of reaching the top.’

‘It’s best to ignore any progress and avoid looking at the stairwell numbers. From the word go, see how far you can get before working out how high you are, the numbers will only slow you down.’

For the full list of tips, including what to do after a race, check out Bourne’s interview with Men’s Health Australia.

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Suzy Walsham tower running

Suzy Walsham is one of the greatest female tower runners of all time.

Reigning tower running world champion, and a ten-time winner of the famous Empire State Building Run-Up, Walsham is the most consistent stair runner on the circuit, very rarely finishing in anything other than first place.

A former track and field star for the Australian national team, Walsham won four national titles (3 x 1,500m and 1 x 800m) and competed in both distances at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, before taking the sport of tower running by storm in 2007 by winning the Empire State Building Run-Up at her first attempt.

Heading into the 14th year of her stair running career, she remains practically unbeatable and shows absolutely no signs of slowing down. In March 2020 she will head to Paris in an attempt to secure a sixth straight win at La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel. She will also likely be heading to the Empire State Building (date TBC), to go for an incredible 11th title.

In the video below Walsham gives some insights into her training routine as well as what she eats to fuel her greatness.



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This excellent, but unfortunately one-of-its-kind, three-part documentary gives a great insight into the sport of tower running.

It focuses on a group of stair climbers from the Pacific Northwest as they prepare for and race the Big Climb at Seattle’s Columbia Center.

It features well-known names from the stair climbing community, including Canadian superstar Shaun Stephens-Whale, and is definitely worth a watch.

adidas & VICE present: Tower Runners Part 1

adidas & VICE present: Tower Runners Part 2

adidas & VICE present: Tower Runners Part 3


Pre-race nerves

In the right amount, pre-race nerves can sometimes enhance performance, but when they get out of control they can really suck the enjoyment out of an event.

There are loads of strategies available to try and tackle them, such as breathing exercises, listening to music or tensing and relaxing each muscle group.

Read on to find out three of our favourite methods for tackling pre-race nerves.

Have your gear packed the night before

It’s the night before race day, what are you doing? Up late watching the UFC? (guilty) Watching the Bulls play? (guilty). Or are you in bed early with your race bag packed and ready by the door? Do you know your route to the tower and how long it’s going to take to get there? Have you planned what you’re having for breakfast?

All of these things if left to the last minute add to the stress of race day. A little bit of time taken to plan ahead and you can head into your race with only one thing on your mind…giving everything you have in the stairwell, just like world number one Suzy Walsham.

Visualise the race

The importance of visualisation for success in stair running is more important than for any other running discipline. How so?

Well, if you wanted to, you could run around 50 fairly competitive 5k races a year in the UK just turning up to your local free Parkrun event. Every single week somewhere in the country or near a city you live in there will almost certainly be an organised race to take part in. This allows runners to build up race experience and more importantly pacing strategies. There are then more blocks with which to build your vision before each race of how things are going to potentially play out.

But this just isn’t the case with UK tower running. Even if you had managed to sign up to every stair race in the country last year, you would only have raced less than 15 times. Most of those races would have been different too. Different turns, vastly differing numbers of stairs and widely different numbers of fellow climbers. Figuring out a pacing strategy for a building you get to enter once a year is difficult. Sure, if you can get access to a tall tower for your training you can work on pacing and technique, but how many of us have that luxury?

This is where the importance of visualisation comes in. You often have to work with limited experience and knowledge, so you have to take the bits you do know about and enhance them and make them clear and bright in your mind. This can be tricky, but if you can get it right it really helps come race time.


If you’ve raced a certain tower before, then draw on that experience. Picture the buzz around the start line, imagine dashing into the stairwell, feel the lactic acid building and your pulse racing upwards. Remember where the real hurt kicks in and have a strategy for handling the effect that has on your mind and will. All this will go quite some way to helping you settle your pre-race nerves. Have a race plan in your mind and stay focused on executing it.

If you haven’t raced the course before, then do some research. Ask around to people who have raced it. Look for pictures online of the stairwell; how many stairs on each flight? what way do they turn? how close together are the railings?

Piece together an idea of what lies ahead and see it over and over again. Imagine crushing each flight, taking each landing turn smoothly, and kicking hard at the end of the race. Once the race is over make sure you recall the stairs and your experience so you can PB at next year’s event.

Check your expectations

If it’s your first climb and you’re not usually very sporty, then perhaps you’ll be nervous about finishing at all, or worried about the potential pain. Listen, you’re a lot stronger than you think. We really wish people would unchain the physical limitations they put on themselves. When we speak to people about stair climbs, we too often hear ‘oh I could never do that’. Or on the Facebook pages of events, you will always see people posting nervous messages asking if it’s ok if they walk or saying they probably won’t make it. You can walk and you will make it, and when you get to the top you will feel amazing! Trust us on that. The buzz on that last flight of stairs, no matter how fast you got to the top is just brilliant. So lose the nerves. Be proud you’re taking part and raising important funds for charity, and most importantly enjoy the day.

For those stair climbers who are set on being competitive, it’s a slightly different story. Your nerves are all gonna be about performance. Will I win? Will I make the top ten? Will I get an age group medal? It’s great to have these athletic aspirations, and they can drive you on to good times. But if you don’t keep them in check they can also ruin the weeks leading up to a race. One useful strategy is to have a ‘good’, ‘great’ and ‘excellent’ goal for your race. You can decide for yourself what these are, and hopefully they will lessen that fear of ‘failure’, because at the very least you are going to realise one of them

Also remember, “working hard doesn’t guarantee success, it only gives you the opportunity to succeed.” Give your best during training and on race day, and then whatever the result is you can be proud of yourself.

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Mark Sims is likely the most successful British stair runner ever. He has chalked up wins at The Gherkin, Spinnaker Tower, The Great Yorkshire Stair Climb (Bridgewater Place, Leeds), Beetham Tower (Manchester), and was winner at The Royal Liver Building (Liverpool) nine years in a row. He has also had success abroad, finishing eighth at the Empire State Building Run Up, which is one of the showcase events on the stair running calendar. That top ten finish in among the world’s elite runners is arguably his most impressive performance.

During the build up to this year’s Towerrunning World Cup Final in Vienna, Mark kindly took some time out to answer a few questions about how he prepares for a race, what tips he’d give to a novice climber and what world tower he’d really like to run up.

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What does a typical week of training look like for you as you prepare for a stair race?

I’m fortunate enough to be able to use the stairs where I work after 5:30pm so depending on family commitments I will try and train on them 2 to 3 times a week. I’ll do 3 to 4 timed ascents of differing lengths (either to target my speed or endurance), and to increase the intensity I use leg weights.

Away from the stairs I do some strengthening exercises, mostly squats of between 200-400 reps, as well as calf raises and sit-ups. I’ve also been trying to add a bit more endurance running by doing my local Park Run (5km) of a Saturday morning

Alongside this I’m cycling five days a week to and from work which exercises similar muscles.

What sort of technique do you use on the railings?

Depending on the width of the stairwell I’ll either use both sides or just the inside rail. I’m mostly using it to take some of the weight off the legs and also to help give me some kind of rhythm/pattern.

What key tips would you give to a novice stair climber preparing for their first race?

Know what you are up against. So have an idea of how long it will take you to cover the number of steps you are racing over. This will then allow you to focus your training better. I’d also want to tell them that during the race it may hurt on the way up, but the feeling that you get when you’ve finished is well worth it, and as they say, the pain is only temporary.

What race would you really like to do? or what global tower would you really like to run up?

The Torch in Doha, Qatar has held a race since 2012 and for March 2015 it will be the location of the world championships – I’d really enjoy being part of that.

What are your favourite and least favourite aspects of stair running?

I believe that if you make the training as hard as possible then the racing will be easier, so my favourite aspect would be the racing and the views you get from the top, and least favourite is pushing yourself in training.

Do you have any pre-races rituals?

None, but as a Christian I do like to pray before I race.

How do you tend to pace yourself during a race?

This made me laugh when I thought about it as if I were being brutally honest my answer would have to be badly, as my pace definitely slows the further I am into a race. However the plan is always to start off at a steady pace and get into a good rhythm and then push myself as hard as possible for the last quarter of the race.

What are the key qualities needed to succeed in stair climbing, and how can they be developed?

From a purely athletic point of view you need to be strong both physically and mentally, and the best way to develop these is practice. However, I’ve seen a vast range of people competing in stair running events for various reasons and success can be measured in so many different ways.

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