WTF is Tower Running?

Taking the stairs to new heights around the world.

Photo by: Sebastian Costanzo

Stairclimbers be damned! The enthusiasts of this sport don’t fuck with that stationary bullshit. Instead, they take their fancy footwork up to the tallest towers in the world. They don’t wait around for elevator malfunctions; despite easier ways to ascend the buildings, these nut jobs choose to take the stairs, and do it in the name of Tower Running, a sport with big butts and breathtaking views.

Fuck the Elevator

While disco junkies were sneaking cigs in the stairway, the first official stair run took place at the Empire State Building in 1978. People were running upstairs for kicks for many years prior but this event was timed and eventually led to organized climbs all around the world. Currently, there are over 200 races held annually at both indoor venues (skyscrapers) and outdoor staircases. Germany’s Treppenmarathon is the longest race around but places like Switzerland, Austria, Poland, London, India, Taiwan and most recently Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, step to the stairs as well.

Staircrazy

Photo by: Fernando de Sousa

When the price of real estate causes any city to build vertically, tower runners start frothing at the mouth because as of 2010, running up stairs is something that can be done professionally (for cash money) by entering the Tower Running World Cup. This organization realized that people were training for stair challenges all over the world and figured out a way to quantify things. Since each tower is unique in difficulty and people rarely race head-to-head, it was difficult to determine who the top-of-the-stairs dogs were. A German dude, Sebastian Wurster, started up a tabulation system that ranks towers by various factors and records the runs. Sometimes people do it for glory alone, most of the time it’s to raise awareness for charities, and every now and then an event can earn you some green (4,500 euros for winning the Millenium Tower Run Up Extreme Climb).

Towers in the Running

The races are usually done at the crack of dawn to avoid pissing off the 9-5ers. If you’re awake at 5 am and itching to take the hard way up, here are some of the towers that attract the most foot traffic every year:

La Torre Colpatria, Bogota, Colombia

Should you find yourself in Colombia with more energy than you can handle, try running up this big ass tower. The Colpatria tower is a 50-story skyscraper in Bogota and the second largest tower in South America. Tower runners climb its 980 steps every December.

Photo by: Allie Caulfield

Swissotel, Singapore

If your legs can make it up to the top of this 73 storey tower early in the am, you will be rewarded with an incredible sunrise over the glistening city. Southeast Asia’s tallest hotel, the vertical marathons here are always held for a good cause and serve to raise money for community schools and projects.

Photo by: Jason Bake

CN Tower, Toronto, Canada

One of the classic towers climbed when this thing first became a sport of sorts, the CN Tower Climb is all about giving back to the community. Every year, people flex their asses up the 1,776 steps of the tower in the name of United Way Toronto, an organization dedicated to improving the city one sweaty step at a time.

Photo by: Matt Brown

Tower 42, London, England

This year’s “Vertical Rush” race to the top of Tower 42 is dedicated to raising money for alleviating homelessness in the area. This race is great because not only do you get to ascend a tall ass building (London’s first skyscraper) for a good cause but once you reach the top, you’ll get to peep the fresh views of the city from up high.

Photo by: Francisco Diez

Taipei 101, Taipei, Taiwan

Until big ass Dubai got into the skyscraper-building game, this guy was tops. Standing 101 stories high, the giant is completely green, earthquake-proof, and can withstand a typhoon. Climbing this thing will require some serious glute strength. If you’re the cheatin’ kind, the Taipei 101’s elevator will take you to the top at a rate of 55.2 feet per mutha-fuckin second.

View from the Top

Photo by: Allie Caulfield

Sure climbing Kilimanjaro or Everest come with both bragging rights and incredible views but taking the stairs all the way up these towers have their own visual perks. When you climb a mountain, you are in the elements the duration of your ascent. Being confined to a walled stairway, trapped with just your legs and determination, creates a claustrophobic nightmare. But the sheer contrast of being thrown out into the open observation deck or rooftop at the end of the upward journey bubbles up a kind of adrenaline you won’t experience on even the steepest, deadliest of mountain climbs.

If there’s a tall building around, chances are a sweaty tower runner is hanging out in its staircase, warming up for the World Cup. Strap on your sneaks and pummel your way through a bunch of sweaty international butt cheeks.