Stairway to heaven
Let us keep in step!
The challenge seems enormous: 800 stairs, over 130 metres up, and all this one step at a time, as fast as the legs and lungs can take. Even imagining this slightly masochistic ‘entertainment’ leaves you breathless. Is this sport only for enthusiasts of extreme thrills?
Not at all. People of all ages engage in it, sometimes the age gap reaches several dozen years. Not all of them are runners. If anyone from the practise group makes a bet, it is with himself or herself: Can I do it faster the next time? Or more times? Every two steps, not every one step? Running, not walking?
Let us put you in a cage
There are many practise groups in Poland, such as the national ‘Biegam, bo lubię’ (I run because I like it). The one I have in mind is quite distinct. It is called ‘Biegamy po schodach’ (We run the stairs). Based in Warsaw, it is run by Fundacja Wsparcia Ratownictwa RK (RK Rescue Support Foundation). Trainings are free of charge, taking place once a week in Warsaw skyscrapers: Marriott hotel (42 storeys) InterContinental hotel (48 storeys, counting from -5 level) and famous Palace of Culture and Science (30 storeys). The runners usually have several hundred stairs to cover (800 in Marriott hotel), but frequently it is more difficult to bear stuffiness, heat and monotony of cramped, claustrophobic staircases than elevation.
Ministry of Foreign Affair - flickr.com (CC)
Where did the idea behind the group come from? There was demand: there are more and more people willing to run the stairs of tall buildings. In addition, the Foundation, in line with its name, solicits funds to support rescue activity, and training is a good way to promote it. It is a pleasure (to those who like effort) and does some good.
City in motion
Tower running, or running the stairs to the top of skyscrapers (and other buildings with stairs, such as the Eiffel Tower), is a relatively new, demanding discipline. It emerged from a running experiment, escape from practise routine and running competitions. Similar to parkour, it engages city space into running, although in a very different way.
The discipline may be young, but it already managed to set up international structures (Towerrunning World Association), the world cup on several continents (Towerrunning World Cup), and the world championship that took place for the first time this year, in Qatar. First and foremost, it managed to attract a wide range of enthusiasts all over the world, also in Poland.
Tower runner – a proud name
Why is it worthwhile to write about it? Firstly because Poles are good at it! The first world champion is a Pole, Piotr Łobodziński, who won the world cup twice and the European championship once (to mention just a few of his accomplishments). Dominika Wiśniewska-Ulfik, a talented Polish mountain runner, ranked third among the ladies. A golden and a bronze medal for Poland during a single event certainly is something! As a team we were also very close to the podium. We are doing well!
Dominika Wiśniewska-Ulfik winning brozne medal
Secondly (or maybe firstly) running the stairs is great for the body: it improves your body form and function... So if you are unable to practise in skyscrapers, like in Warsaw, it does not mean you cannot start your tower running adventure. Of course you can! For a start, stop using the elevator and escalator. If you do not live is a high block of flats, maybe one of your friends does? It would be a very original reason to visit! Dominika, world championship bronze medal winner who lives in Silesia, practises in a block of flats of ‘only’ 10 storeys. She also runs up the Silesian mine slag heaps (she calls it ‘slag heap running’), practises ‘dry runs’ and takes part in numerous Polish mountain run competitions.
Excuse me, I would like to exhaust myself
As you can see, you do not need to be a highlander to be good at mountain running. And running the stairs. You can ask, ‘What if I would like to prove myself? But it is too far for me to go to Qatar.’ You can choose from the events organised in Poland. The Race to the Top of Rondo 1 in Warsaw (a part of Towerrunning Grand Prix, the most prestigious events in the world), Sky Tower Run in Wrocław, Altus Cup in Katowice (open Poland’s championship), and a non-standard event: Race on the Stairs of the Bielawa Church Steeple. It is not far to go abroad too, you only need to cross the southern or western border... If you are looking for similar emotions, you can take part in the run to the top of ski jump tower in Karpacz, small town in Poland, next to Karkonosze Mountains (Kill the Devil Hill).
In January 2015, there was a long-distance race on skyscraper stairs to the top of... Mount Everest, perhaps the first in the world. It was held in Warsaw’s Marriott hotel (Marriott Everest Run). The competitors were to run or walk to the top 65 times in 24 hours. Only several dozen people made it. They climbed an altitude of 8,870 metres. The event will surely be repeated in February 2016. To enrol you only need to be 18.
Of course those for whom money is not a problem and will climb the height of the discipline can race in skyscrapers such as Taipei 101, The Torch, Willis Tower, Empire State Building, etc.
See-ming Lee - flickr.com (CC)
It is not important whether you practise and run in your block of flats, on a park hill, Kasprowy Wierch mountain or the top of a skyscraper: it is important that you are active and do some good for yourself. Perhaps you can persuade others to join you? The more the merrier!
Łukasz Smogorowski, Eurodesk Poland
The author partook in all of the above stair runs in Poland.