Posts Tagged ‘Towerrunning’

Pyramidenkogel-Aussichtsturm

Britain’s Sarah Frost took third place at the Pyramidenkogel-Turmlauf in Keutschach, Austria on Friday afternoon.

The British number one reached the top of the distinctive tower’s 441 steps in 2:45.04 to continue her impressive run of form in 2019.

‘It was a better result than I expected, so I am super stoked’, said Frost.

‘There’s still a large gap between myself and the legends of Windisch and Walsham, so I can’t wait to get back to training in London – lots of work to do to catch up.’

Austria’s Veronika Windisch, who set the course record at the inaugural event in 2018, returned to take the narrowest of wins ahead of Australia’s Suzy Walsham.

Windisch clocked a winning time of 2:36.42, while world number one Walsham finished agonizingly close in 2:36.68, to claim second.

Walsham followed the race with a ski jump run-up at the Red Bull 400 event in Planica, Slovenia on Saturday, where she finished fourth overall.

Sarah Frost is set to return to action on home soil at next month’s NSPCC Gherkin Challenge, where she is hotly tipped to break her own course record.

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London skyline

This year saw the fewest number of stair climb events in the UK since 2014.

In 2015, a then record 14 stair running events seemed to herald a new era for the sport in the UK. This boom continued for a spell and in 2018 there were 16 pure stair races.

But this year the number of events has dropped off and the looming loss of another big race next year is casting a shadow over the future of tower running in the UK.

What’s the problem? Is it just a blip or is UK tower running in trouble?

Tower running is too London-centric

While it makes sense that the ‘home’ of tower running in the UK should be London – the proliferation of tall buildings is ideal ground for an HQ – it’s a necessity for the growth and promotion of the sport that opportunities are available for people in other parts of the country to take part as well. Unfortunately, these opportunities are disappearing.

In the last six years there have been stair races in Belfast, Birmingham, Bristol, Leeds, Leicester, Manchester and Portsmouth (we’re not including stadium stomps in this analysis, but Edinburgh would be included if we were). Planned events for Middlesbrough and Liverpool didn’t quite come to fruition for varying reasons, but for a time the scene outside of London was seemingly healthy and growing.

But in 2019 only Leicester and Manchester have hosted stair races outside of the capital. And, at the time of writing, the Christie Tower Run at Manchester’s Beetham Tower won’t be returning in 2020.

Not only has the sport’s spread throughout the country ceased, it’s fallen apart completely. It’s a massive disappointment.

Fortunately, London should be hosting a good set of stair races for the foreseeable future. But there’s a catch.

Tower running poverty: the reliance on charities

GherkinChallenge_2018-476

Although saddening, it’s no massive surprise that almost all the events that were once run around the country have ground to a halt.

Apart from the Spinnaker Tower-thon event in Portsmouth, every one of those events was put on by a charity. The events teams in those often small organisations are solely focused on getting the maximum return from every event they organise. If for just one year they don’t get the sort of return they expected or needed from the work and investment they put in, they often call time on their venture into stair racing and move onto promoting alternative activities that are more profitable for the charity.

But it’s not just a problem for charities. Even without any charity connection or fundraising minimum, plus a very reasonable entry fee of around £15, the Spinnaker Tower-thon struggled to attract the sorts of numbers needed to make it worth their while to continue hosting it. After a handful of years they called it a day.

Sometimes a charity will ride out a small turnout in the first year or two and dig in to see the event grow and grow. The LOROS Tower Run in Leicester is a brilliant example of this. They’ve been growing year-on-year since they launched in 2015, and hopefully 2020 will be their biggest event yet. They even offer a highly reasonable flat entry fee with no fundraising requirement, which has been very well received by the tower running diehards here in the UK.

But fundraising continues to be a challenge for committed stair climbers. Of the six stair races in London this year (we’ve excluded the multi-event Guy’s Urban Challenge that finishes with a stair climb), only one of them offered a straightforward non-fundraising entry at a reasonable price; the Broadgate Tower Run-Up back in July.

The Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) event at the Walkie Talkie Building, Shelter’s Vertical Rush, the NSPCC Gherkin Challenge and the Rainbow Trust’s Grate48 event at the Leadenhall Building all require, for the most part, a commitment to raise at least £130 for the charity (GOSH are asking for £250).

There are some small exceptions, though. For £149 you can take part in the Gherkin Challenge without having to raise any additional funds – the alternative is to pay £20 entry and fundraise £250.

For most of the regular UK tower runners who tend to pay outright for their events, to save them the hassle of constant fundraising, the self-funded option provides a not insignificant saving of over £120. But paying £149 for a race lasting less than six and a half minutes for most of them isn’t really sustainable, especially if you’re hoping to do multiple races each year.

The race organiser on behalf of the Rainbow Trust’s Grate48 has managed to secure 10 male and 10 female entry fee only places for that event in November, which is fantastic. Everyone else, though, will have to pledge to raise £130 to take part.

Access is everything

"Security staff at the Shard, London."

The fact is, there wouldn’t be a tower running community in the UK if it wasn’t for these charities putting on these events. So there is a deep gratitude there, for sure. It’s highly unlikely anybody would be racing inside the Gherkin, Leadenhall or Tower 42 if it wasn’t for the charity connection. But that’s also the problem.

Vertical Rush and the Gherkin Challenge have each been running for over a decade, but will they run for another decade? If, for whatever reason, these charities decide this means of fundraising isn’t working for them anymore and stop organising the events, the ‘sport’ of tower running in the UK will very likely disappear.

Will any of London’s big towers open up for non-charity affiliated stair climbing events? So far, only Broadgate Tower has done so. Perhaps others will in the future, but its a precarious position to be in for a ‘sport’ whose followers and advocates have ambitious notions of international legitimacy and even Olympic participation.

You simply can’t build a sport on the back of just a handful of venues that could potentially deny participants access at the drop of a hat, with nobody in the tower running community having any say or impact in the decision making process.

Of course this isn’t a problem for the UK only. Tower runners around the world face the same issues, whether its the dominance of charities in the organisation of races or just general issues with access.

Hope for the future?

Hopefully, the fantastic London-based Total Motion Events will continue their excellent work putting on events at Broadgate Tower, regardless. Their Total Motion Towerrunners group has seen a big rise in interest and they’re now hosting training sessions at Broadgate Tower in London two nights a week. The relationship between Total Motion and Broadgate Tower is certainly a cause for much needed optimism.

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London’s Broadgate Tower is host to weekly tower running training sessions

Participation at Vertical Rush, LOROS Tower Run, the Gherkin Challenge is all on the rise, so that’s another positive. But if the number of events held each year continues to fall, the tower running eggs begin to drop into one basket held by the charities, and that’s a problem. If they call time on their respective events, the bottom falls out of it all.

The loss (still to be fully confirmed) of the Christie Tower Run is a blow, but 2020 may yet see the return of other races, such as the popular UpSlideDown event at the ArcelorMittal Orbit in London’s Olympic Park which didn’t run this year. It’s to be seen.

Perhaps as tower running garners increased attention, more race organisers will sit up and explore options for putting on stair climbs at alternative venues. There are certainly enough options in London. Tower running doesn’t just have to function around the high-profile towers – although it would be nice.

People have been running stairs in the capital since at least 1730 and one of the first competitive stair races in London was organised back in 1968. Ideally, with this rich base, the sport would be further along in its development.

Ultimately, towers aren’t purposely built for people to race in, so, in order to take part in their chosen sport, tower runners will always be reliant on people whose main interest isn’t tower running. Benevolent real estate moguls with a diehard passion for stair running aside, that means the power will forever be out of the hands of tower runners.

Tower running could have a bright future in the UK, but unfortunately achieving that doesn’t rest solely with those who have a love for it. And that’s a real tough spot to be in.

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.’

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Accurate depiction of me, trying to cope with the current heatwave, work and the London Underground 🚇🌇😩 Still can’t stop smiling after #tmrunup2019 at the weekend though. In the process of planning my next set of races! Training with @tm_towerrunners is about to get even more serious! You know, once I can pick myself up off the floor. 📷 by @bensnapsstuff, who can even manage to make finish line collapse on the floor shots look good! #towerrunning #towerrunninguk #totalmotion #totalmotiontowerrunners #stairrunner #stairrunning #verticalrunning #towerrunner #lovestairs #takethestairs #run #runup #runners #runningmotivation #cardio #fitness #BroadgateTowerRunUp #TBTRU19 #london #skyscraper #londonrunners #VerticalWorldCircuit #VWC19

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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

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!