How tower races & stair climbing can take your fitness to new heights


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Sick of the horizontal monotony of life? Then let’s discuss the elusive, quad-burning delight of stair climbing and tower running, shall we?

These vertical races — where you start at the first floor and run all the way to the top — are held in buildings and skyscrapers all over the world and are growing in popularity. It’s not just a crazy way to push your body to the limit; stair climbing (aka stair running) is a great cross-training tool for runners and fitness enthusiasts.

Veronica Stocker runs up the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas during the 4th annual Scale The Strat event in March 2012. Photo by Towerrunning.com.

Stair running strengthens the muscles around your knees, as well as your glutes and quads. It also builds up your stamina and lower-body strength. Running up a building is known as one of the most challenging races you can do because you are overloading the lungs, heart and legs. Before you make plans to ascend, say, the Empire State Building, there are some safety tips to consider when starting out.

Active.com suggests the following:

Focus on your form

Maintain proper form by leaning slightly forward and striking with the balls of your feet. Pace yourself. Use the handrail for balance if you need to.

Don’t run down

Quickly descending any steep decline like stairs stresses the knees and ankles. Use elevators or walk down slowly. If you’re in a stadium, descend at an angle rather than walking straight down to minimize impact.

Start gradually

When you’re starting out, start with two round-trip sets. As you get stronger, build to five, and run them no more than twice a week. Never exceed 30 minutes at a time.

Walk if you need to

Alternate between one floor of walking and one or two floors of running. Gradually increase the running as you become fitter and more comfortable with the workout.


New 24-hour world record set

Elite athletes Mark Trahanovsky, PJ Glassey, Kacie Fischer Cleveland and Kristin Frey recently set an elevation world record by climbing the Bank of America Building in downtown Jacksonville, Fla., for 24 hours on Jan. 4. That’s 123,480 steps climbed (their goal was 100,000); 76,440 vertical feet (their goal was 75,000); and 5,880 floors (their goal was 5,000). Wow!


Upcoming runs

Some of the most popular tower runs are held in iconic skyscrapers like the Willis (Sears) Tower in Chicago, which has 2,109 steps and 103 flights. The next race is on Nov. 3. The Empire State Building in New York City has 86 stories, 1,576 stairs. The 36th annual race is on Feb. 6. One Boston Place as 82 flights of stairs, 41 floors and 789 stairs. The next race is on Feb. 2. Fountain Place in Dallas is the largest stair climb in North Texas. The building has 52 flights of stairs and 1,040 steps. The next race is Jan. 26.

Visit Towerrunning.com and Lung.org for more upcoming races.