Suzy Walsham is a professional vertical runner and says people find it hard to understand what she does for a living.
“Some people are confused as they don’t know what it is, and then you explain that you run up towers and buildings and then they say that they didn’t realise it was an actual sport,” the women’s world number one said.
“People are usually quite impressed as everyone can relate to walking up stairs and they know how hard it is. So to be climbing up some of the world’s biggest and most iconic structures is quite impressive for them.”
This week, she and other fans ran vertically up the Eiffel Tower in the latest round of the sport’s world tour. Australian Walsham trains hard every day for challenges like the Eiffel Tower after running her first race, the Swissotel Vertical Marathon, in Singapore in November 2006.
“I did the race for a new challenge... and also because the first prize was a trip to New York to do the Empire State Building Run Up and I thought that would be awesome. I won that first race and got the trip!”
Others lining up for the challenge include Laure Chardin, 45, a French nurse who was seen training on the stairs prior to the race.
“It’s a short but intense race,” she said. “I run up the steps two by two and there is no stopping till I get to the top.”
There are two vertical running federations – the Tower Running World Association and the International Skyrunning Federation – with 200,000 runners taking part in 300 races according to the former.
There are two kinds of races – the bruising mass start when runners elbow each other for position and the more sedate time trial, when they start in small groups and the times of all runners are collated at the end to find the winner.
Walsham and 130 fellow competitors are used to running up tall building with stairwells and the Eiffel Tower presents different challenges – open to the elements and with 1,665 uneven steps rising to 324m.
“For the Eiffel Tower, it is a difficult race because for the first two levels, the stairs are not uniform,” said the 45-year-old former accountant.
Then comes the worst bit when the stairs thread up the middle of the tower.
“Near the top, you are just trying to hold it together to finish,” said Walsham, who has won the Eiffel Tower climb four times.
Men’s world number one Piotr Lobodzinski from Poland has been racing up towers for eight years.
“Yes, I am professional stair climber,” said Lobodzinski who set the record for climbing up the tower (seven minutes and 48 seconds) in 2016.
He runs 100km per week on the flat and in addition does several stair sessions of 49 floors.
“The human body is suffering a lot, because it is a short, extremely painful effort, but after the finish line I feel happy that I did it,” he said. – AFP Relaxnews