Tired of that local 5K race? Bored with yet another 10K? How about a Marathon? No, been there, done that! Well, then maybe it’s time for a race up some stairs, which is what many will be doing this week in a well-known skyscraper in Manhattan.
Look, as a runner you’re more likely to eschew elevators for a jaunt up the stairs anyway, so why not get serious about it? Stair climbs are races up flights of stairs within tall buildings all over the world. In the U.S., these “vertical road races” are contested in cities from Seattle to San Antonio and Hartford to Honolulu. Chicago, generally considered the home of the world’s first skyscraper, has stair climbs in as many as five separate buildings throughout the windy city, such as Presidential Towers, the John Hancock Center, and the Willis Tower, formerly known as the Sears Tower.
Stair climbs are excellent forms of cross-training since they require competitors to move their body weight vertically, working against gravity. Not only does this type of racing build mass in the quadriceps and calf muscles, it also gives the arms a good workout since participants use hand rails and banisters to pull themselves up each flight -- a tactic that is allowed and strongly encouraged. A Web site that promotes the sport of stair climbing is stairclimbingsport.com. They claim that 15 minutes of climbing stairs is equivalent to 30 minutes of running. This group is particularly focused on including stair climbing as an Olympic event, believing that the first word in the “Higher, Faster, Stronger” Olympic motto applies more to their sport than to any other.
Most stair climbs are held in the winter or spring before higher temperatures cause stairwells in high buildings to heat up like ovens. Appropriately, February has gained popularity as “Tower Running Month,” according to the website towerrunning.com. The American Lung Association sponsors stair climbs throughout the country as a unique way to support those with lung disease. One of their events is the Run the Republic stair climb in Colorado, where elite climbers scale the 56 floors of Denver’s tallest building, Republic Plaza, in under nine minutes. Another of their events is Climb California, which encourages athletes to run for healthy air and healthy lungs and take it “one breath at a time.” The average participant in their Los Angeles race needs about thirty minutes to negotiate the 1,377 stairs to the top of the Aon Corporation Center, once the tallest building west of the Mississippi.
The classic, of course, is the Empire State Building Run Up, which is being contested this Tuesday. The 86 flights - - 1,576 steps from the lobby to the observation deck - - carry runners nearly a quarter of a mile above 5th Avenue. Aussie Paul Crake holds the amazing record of 9:33, while Thomas Dold will be going for his sixth straight victory there this week. Unfortunately, Crake is no longer competing since sustaining a serious injury in a accident. Be aware that for this and many other stair climbs, entries are limited each year in order to accommodate the narrowness of the stairwell. You can read more about this sport and the Empire State Building event here. So, how does one train for a stair climb? Perhaps towerrunning.com has the best and most practical advice for future competitors: “Find stairs . . . then climb them!”
* * * *
P.S. Thanks to Old Man Running.org for this nice review of my book!