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In two weeks I'm going to take part in a stair climbing (tower running) race. It involves climbing 35 floors / 700 stairs.

I've never done something like this and I'm not sure on what to expect in terms of difficulty or total time.

For example, as an intermediate runner, I knew what to expect after going from 10k races to half-marathons in terms of required effort and finishing times. But for this event, I'm going in totally blind, with no idea on how to pace myself.

Should someone who runs regularly and can go for one hour / 10 kilometers without difficulty be "safe" from injuries and capable of handling the effort?

The only piece of information I found was on the race's site, where they had a registration form for competitive runners. If you expected to finish the 35 floors climb in less than 4:30 minutes, you had to provide a race result to prove you can run 10 km in less than 40 minutes.

I'm not asking about my particular number of floors (though it would be helpful) but more generally, on how running experience translates to stair climbing.

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  • Is the building open to general public? If so, you could just try some test runs.
    – Enivid
    Nov 2, 2023 at 19:24
  • @Enivid it's an office building, so not really an option. They did organise some practice runs but I was unable to attend them. As I side note, I did some stair climbing during my long runs in the park but it was not a continuous effort of just going up on stairs. I will return to this question with an answer based on my experience if there aren't any relevant ones by then
    – BBog
    Nov 2, 2023 at 19:56

2 Answers 2

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After completing the race today, I can answer my own question.

I don't think speed is a factor that will translate to tower climbing, only endurance. So, for reference, I'm a runner that can do up to a half-marathon (21 km) and around two hours of continuous effort.

Like Sean Duggan pointed in his answer, there are only a couple of things that translate from running to stair climbing / tower running:

  • the ability to pace your breath trough strenuous effort
  • the ability to push your leg muscles through pain and tiredness
  • your endurance and ability to recover with small breaks, when needed

The races are a lot shorter than regular running. I finished my 35 floors / 700 stairs race in 06:34 minutes, with the winner coming in at 03:19 minutes and the last place at 14:19 minutes.

So it's closer to a sprint than a marathon.

Runners who do trails and steep hills will have more of an advantage. In my particular race, the stairs were rather steep. The burn in my leg muscles was much closer to the one felt when running up very steep hills rather than actual stair climbing, since the ones encountered in parks, subways, etc. tend to be less abrupt.

As for pacing, even though the short time might make it look like a race where you go all out, the high level of effort required actually makes it more suitable to a long run strategy: follow a moderate pace that you are able to sustain for a long time and only push near the finish time, if you have fuel left in the tank.

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    Thank you for coming back to give your own account. I've never raced on stairs, although there was a time when I was pretty well trained for it due to at one point working in one of the upper floors of a double-digit building where the elevator was relatively slow, resulting in me doing most of my ascending and descending on foot, which led to me doing what was probably a jogging pace up and down for ten flights at a time.
    – Sean Duggan
    Nov 11, 2023 at 20:19
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This may be highly anecdotal, but I've found that there is very little transfer between running on relatively flat ground, and racing up stairs. Running on flat ground involves as much stabilization as actual need to push against the ground. In comparison, running up stairs involves basically a series of small jumps as you go up each stair. That said, the general cardio training from being a runner will still serve you in good stead. You know how to breathe without huffing and puffing, you've got generally good muscular conditioning, and you've already worked past some of those mental blocks regarding continuing to move when tired.

As regards safety, as usual, listen to your body. If you start feeling sharp pain, there's a good chance that you've either injured yourself, or your body is hitting its limits. You're going to want to be especially careful about lifting your knees and feet high, because a trip while going upstairs tends to drop your body onto a lot of sharp edges, assuming you manage to avoid tumbling down the stairs after your fall, and less than an inch of failing to clear the step can easily lead to a trip as your foot catches the edge. Keeping one hand trailing the railing can help if you need to catch yourself. Also, when ascending and descending in a stairwell, don't underestimate how disorienting the relatively rapid turning can be. I unfortunately don't have good advice on how to avoid the disorientation, but it is something to be aware of. I had to descend about 30 flights of steps at a walking pace for a fire drill several years ago, and about 10-12 flights down, I found I had to really focus to keep myself descending at an even pace without swerving because my brain was just sort of screening out the monotonous descent.

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  • Thank you, a very helpful and smart answer! As a note, in this sort of races there is no descending involved, fortunately. As you pointed out and also noticed myself during training, going down stairs is actually more problematic than climbing them
    – BBog
    Nov 3, 2023 at 12:10

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