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Tower Running's Marathon Equivalent - The Vertical Mile

If you are not familiar with the world of tower running, it is essentially racing up the staircases of skyscraper buildings. Completing a tower run / stair climb is difficult enough with burning lungs and lead for legs but imagine climbing up more than once!

On average most tower climbs will be somewhere between 35 – 50 floors of 800 – 1000+ steps. For all the challenge-seekers out there sometimes a standard tower climb just doesn’t quite cut it and so we are seeing the popularity of the ‘vertical mile’ sky rocket across the running and tower running communities.

To provide some context, the vertical mile is the tower running equivalent of running a marathon. We all know that with some decent training and motivation, running a marathon is a very achievable goal for most. We see it every year at the London Marathon and the sense of achievement as people cross that finish line after months of training, is incredible. Don’t let the word ‘mile’ deceive you when thinking about the vertical mile. Instead, concentrate on the word ‘vertical’. This event should not be underestimated and will require a certain level of training but will also provide you with an incredible amount of achievement once completed.

Maybe you are already signed up for a vertical mile race, maybe you are just thinking about it, or maybe you have never even heard of tower running before this blog but now you fancy giving it a go! Here are a few words of wisdom from some of the top tower runners and multi-climbers in the UK and beyond.

Gretta Beckett

Gretta is an international tower runner who you will find climbing up various skyscrapers all around the world – a real fitness inspiration to follow on Instagram! @cosfit_uae

For most multi-climbs, a maximum allowance of time is given (generally 3 hours for a vertical mile). Try to use the full amount of time – your time going down is not included in your overall time so make sure you utilise it. Take the full amount of time and divide it by the number of climbs i.e. 180 mins / 12 climbs = 15 minutes. Therefore, if you take 10 minutes per climb you have 5 minutes to get down and rest before going again. In other words – be consistent!

Mark Howard

Mark recently completed his first vertical mile with a total climbing time of 1:02:56 (bravo Mark), 7 minutes ahead of his next closest competitor. This is what he had to say about it…

A few things that worked really well for me:

  • Take it two steps at a time with a steady pace and use the handrails as much as possible to pull yourself up too.

  • Remember to think about nutrition, I took an energy gel at the 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 points. I ate them as soon as I got to the top of the stairs to maximise time for them to kick in before the next climb.

  • Keep moving between climbs so you don’t seize up.

And a few things I would change for next time:

  • Go slower for the first few climbs, a lot slower.

  • Wear gloves or use tape on my hands – I got pretty serious blisters in the middle of my fingers.


Sarah Frost

Sarah also recently completed her first vertical mile with a total climbing time of 1:13:30 making her the fastest female on the day. She holds the female record at The Broadgate Tower for fastest single climb so from speed to endurance this is certainly the right person to be taking tower running advice from.

Smiling through the pain in between climbs

  • Go easy for the first couple of climbs until you can get into a routine of steady pace. Even if the initial climb feels comfortable, slow down! You will be thankful on the final climbs when you need every ounce of strength you can muster. This is where even a few of us elites went wrong on our last vertical mile.

  • Stair climbing is hot and sweaty work. I would recommend having your own water supply at both the top and bottom so you always have access to a drink. You could also have your own carbohydrate/electrolyte sports drinks handy too. I think the key is little and often, although I still managed 3 litres over the whole vertical mile!

  • I split each climb up with ‘landmarks’ to help break up the monotony of 420 flights. Every climb I set a goal of ‘reaching the next volunteer’, which helped break the staircase up into more psychologically manageable segments.

  • If you can, pair up! The stairs seem to fly by much easier with company.

If you want to experience a multi-climb but maybe you are not quite ready for the full vertical mile, Total Motion has introduced the ‘Quarter Vertical Mile’ at its November Run Up event. This is the perfect introduction and confidence builder to get you up to that full mile! Of course, there is a full vertical mile wave too but be quick as there are very few places left.

Looking for a Total Motion Stair Climb to compete in? Why not check out our upcoming events, non charity places are usually available too

Please sign up to our mailing list to be the first to hear about new events as we release details or for more information on tower running and our exclusive training sessions join our online communities:

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