Tower Running: Taking the Elevator is Not an Option

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Do we have any StairMaster fans out there? You know, the stationary machine at many gyms that is like a treadmill but with steps? Well, that machine could be used as training for a competitive sport called tower running.

It is as it sounds: tower runners run up towers. Typically, the highly competitive races take place on skyscraper staircases, but any man-made structure is an open course for tower runners.

The sport of tower running was born in Europe and spread to the United States quickly, with its first big race in 1978, where participants ran up the Empire State Building, ESPN reports. That same race continues today, with nearly 600 runners climbing the 1,576 steps each year.

The European Tower Running World Association (TWA) governs the annual Tower running World Cup that hosts nearly 200 races in 33 countries each year, and over 150 of them are in the United States. In 2012, more than 10,000 runners climbed towers competitively.


“There are a variety of races within tower running,” an article by ESPN says. “There are the long vertical climbs such as the annual Sky Rise Chicago, a race up the Willis Tower (103 ights) that draws more than 2,000 runners, and the Hustle Up the Hancock (94 oors), also in Chicago.”

There are also sprint races; one popular example is the 417-step race up the Revolutionary War monument in Bennington, Vt., which an elite can complete in less than two minutes. Other races o er variations: the tower can be climbed in a sprint fashion, first one to the top, or with a time limit to see how many flights one can climb.

TowerRunning USA, an organization that provides a calendar, ranking and recaps for tower runners, says that there are two main goals within the sport: to promote stairclimbing as a healthy form of exercise, and to promote stairclimbing as a competitive amateur sport.

Two Tower Running competitions will be held in Chicago in November. The first, Sky Rise Chicago, will be held on Nov. 6 at the Willis Tower where participants will run 2115 steps up the 103 floors. Climb for Life Chicago at LaSalle will be held on Nov. 13, which has 58 floors for runners to climb.

For the full schedule, visit the official TowerRunning website.

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Holly's running career began in high school; after being bummed about not making the volleyball team her sophomore year, she decided to join some of her middle school friends on the cross country team. She also did track in the fall, where the 1600 m race was her niche. Since then, she has run several 5Ks, and completed her first half marathon in July 2015. She graduated from Illinois State University in May 2016 with a degree in journalism.

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