Why are so many runners hitting the stairs?

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Teresa Leese; 25th July 2018

Here at Total Motion, we love tower running (if you hadn’t already guessed) and we talk a lot about the benefits it has, particularly for runners. So to make a change from us talking about it, how about hearing from an actual runner turned tower runner.

Elaine, is not just any runner, she is a regular ultra-runner competing in some of the toughest ultras around the world. Forever the challenge-seeker Elaine stumbled across the world of tower running in 2012 and hasn’t looked back since, boasting it's many benefits for her running. Now a regular member of the Total Motion Towerrunners club, one stair climbing session per week is very much part of her training schedule.

How did you first get into tower running?

I did Vertical Rush for Shelter in 2012 to challenge myself with something completely different and out of my comfort zone.

And how did your first attempt at a tower run go?

I didn't do any special training but absolutely loved it and have signed up for it every year since (along with many others!). I was reasonably good at it given my base level of fitness from running. I am not particularly fast, I much prefer endurance racing, but somehow the short distance seemed to suit me finishing in under 8 minutes. And I am pleased to say I am now much faster and edging closer to the 7 minute mark.

Have you always been a runner?

I actually hated sport at school so it certainly didn’t come naturally. But after joining a gym in an attempt to keep fit I started to enjoy the treadmill and then I progressed to running outside and never looked back. Running is excellent “me time” and has become a big part of my life, taking me across the world (Marathon Majors) and I’ve met some great friends.

What is your favourite distance?

Marathon or ultra. I’m not fast and the further I go the better I am relatively speaking. Although I have learned to love 5km through Parkrun, which has been a revelation!

What is the most difficult running race you have taken part in?!

UTMB (Ultra-trail du Mont Blanc). Its 100+ miles non-stop in the Alps with c10,000m of +/- elevation, going up to c2800m altitude. Even with all that, it was the sleep deprivation the second night which killed me the most. Nevertheless I did it, and although it is probably not what most people call fun, it’s the best thing I have ever done.

What has been your favourite race to date?

  • Running – UTMB (see above)
  • Tower runningLa Verticale Tower Run (racing up the Eiffel Tower!) This race is tougher than the London marathon to get into but somehow I managed to get a place for 2018 and raced earlier this year – what an experience. Iconic building, access to the upper level ( this is no longer open to the public) and the razzmatazz of a live streamed event. It hurt like hell and I absolutely loved it.

There is a 80km race held in Paris every year called the Ecotrail de Paris which I have done four times. It finishes with a run up to the first stage of the Eiffel Tower so I had experienced a small part of it before! This is a perfect example of the synergy between running and tower running. Then a few years ago La Verticale Tower Run was introduced as part of that race weekend alongside the Ecotrail de Paris, as a race in its own right with a full run up of the tower.

Is there a particular aspect of running that you think stair climbing helps you with?

  • Leg strength. Climbing stairs is basically doing weights (body weight) against gravity.
  • Learning my limits. I have never been able to push myself as hard as I can in a stair race – tasting blood in my mouth is a new level of exertion. In running I used to think ‘I’m close to the edge here’ and would often hold back but now I know I am actually nowhere near and find I can push my running to new levels.

Would you encourage other runners to include stairs in their training?

YES!

What is the biggest difference between the two?

Stairs are over quickly whereas ultras are clearly a lot longer, however, mental strength is just as necessary for both. 

Do you prefer running or tower running?

I prefer running for the “me time”. Stairs are always full on even in training as it is such hard work. There’s no going for a nice easy stair climb like you can a Sunday long run…

Do you do any other sports other than running and stair climbing?

Yoga (like most runners, I’m super inflexible). 

What is your favourite thing about being a member of a tower running club?

It’s a great group of people who are doing a sport they love just for the fun of it.  There’s no money or fame, but you do get wonderful views from the top of buildings you wouldn’t normally get access to, and a feeling of real achievement. 

What’s up next on your racing calendar?

  • Running - Lakeland 100 at the end of July followed by UTMB again in September. These are my main running events for the year and I have started having stress dreams about them already!
  • Tower running – The UpslideDown at the Orbit in the Olympic Park.  It’s a “sprint” event that doesn't exactly play to my strengths, but it’s a really fun event – you even get to slide down! And later in the year I'll be at The Broadgate Tower Run Up in November which is always fun as it ranges from elite tower runners to first-timers and you can even race up it more than once - vertical mile anyone?!

 

Have a go:

  • Taster session - So if you are a runner and hadn’t thought about (or maybe hadn’t even heard of) tower running then I would urge you to give it a go. Come along to one of our training sessions at Broadgate Tower, London – your first one is free!
  • Race - Or if you are already sold then sign up for our next event – The Broadgate Tower Run Up in November and let’s see what you can do on the stairs!

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