Going up stairs – it’s a skill we master at a relatively young age, and one that thereafter seems a pretty benign, sometimes inconvenient part of daily life, but much like eating hot dogs, carrying eggs on spoons, frisbee or even ironing, it’s an activity that some sadistic fitness fanatics have managed to turn into a competitive sport.
While races to great heights have been run for a fair time now, it was only in 2009 that the establishment of the Vertical World Circuit took things to a new level, pitting elite runners against a tour of the world’s tallest and most iconic skyscrapers, including our very own 330-metre-high China World Summit Wing
Returning this month for its sixth run, the knee-buckling course route is fairly self-explanatory: starting in the lobby, racers spiral round the same fire escape staircase all the way to the 82nd floor, before finishing up on the city’s highest helipad for – smog permitting – some breathtaking panoramic views.
Fortunately, with the event open to layfolk like you and I, you don’t have to be part of the elite stair-running One Percent to compete, though you’ll do well to get anywhere near its course records: Australian competitor Suzy Walsham, reigning women’s champion and the sport’s dominant leading light, went from pavement to ‘pad in just 11 minutes and 46 seconds back in 2013, while Poland’s Piotr Lobodzinski set a new record in 2016 by summiting in a lactic acid-defying 9 minutes, 47 seconds. (Piotr went on to also win last year's race, but only managed a slowpoke time of 10 minutes, 6 seconds).
The Vertical Run takes place at China World Summit Wing on August 25. Registration runs from now until Tuesday 31 July and costs 180RMB for the 82-floor Full Challenge and 150RMB for the 19-floor Fun Challenge. For those of you who'd also like your friends to suffer, you can take part in the 82-floor Team Challenge (teams of four) for 720RMB. Visit www.beijingverticalrun.com to register.