Sydney Tower Run-up

The 1504 steps up to the observation deck at the Sydney Tower was always going to be a quad burning run… and it didn’t disappoint. After talking about doing it for years, in 2010 I finally stepped up to the challenge. With the usual excitement  & nervous energy we all feel before a run I couldn’t wait to get started but there was something off putting about being able to see the end (almost directly above). Somehow the stand over tactics of Sydney tower were a little intimidating, but with the buzz of the announcer and the passing crowd of office workers cutting through Pitt st Mall on their way to work, we set off 60s apart for our own private assault on the 55 floors.

The mornings first participants were the 3 Triple M teams representing Gus Worland, Mark Geyer & Stuart MacGill. At 8:00am 25 or so Elites lined up and the hot favourite was the German professional stair runner Thomas Dold. Aiming to better the 10yr old race record of 6:52.

My personal race was never going to get me anywhere near the 7min mark but I wanted to give it a good hard go all the same. The course was simple… basically 55 levels of stairs, almost 110 flights, totalling 1504 stairs. Due to the building works there was a slight detour at level 3 & level 10 as we ran across some vacant office space, which was a welcome respite for the legs (although way too short for this runner). From Level 10 onwards it was just the repetitive alternating flights of stairs that took us up to the top.

The metal stairs were cold and barren and the stair-well an echo chamber for the gasping & puffing we were all churning out. Apart from the clang of stairs the only other noise to be heard was that of runners gaining on each other. I caught 2 runners ahead and was caught myself by one runner behind me through the race and the noise was classic.  For about 3-4 levels, well before you could see them, you could hear your pursuer huffing & puffing, slowly getting closer (& louder). The thought of someone on your tail pushed you along quicker for a few levels before the protest from the quads overruled the will to run on at top speed. Alternating running and walking, whenever I had the strength to run another few sets, I was at my max for the whole race. As early as Level 20 I was wishing I’d spent more time doing strength exercises as my legs were working as hard as they could. Hands on knees I pushed with everything I had and with the heavy breathing of a 2nd pursuer closing in close with about 5 floors to go I found a last ditch effort to run the final few & pop out on the observation deck for the short run around the circle to the finish line. Wow, talk about a lung burner. As I stopped to take in the great views the last 10mins hit me with a vengeance.

While bodies were strewn around the observation deck recovering & enjoying the view, the Grill team were doing a live broadcast and Gus Worland was showing the effects of his epic climb. Chatting to him between songs he showed us his blackened hands…. I didn’t realise the handrail was that dirty. Ah, No! He was pushing so hard at one stage he was on hands and feet climbing the 1504 steps. Well done Gus, you’ve obviously given it your all. Impressive stuff from a self confessed professional ‘sports watcher’. And you finished under the 30min mark. Great work!

The winner of the day was the German runner (& favourite) Thomas Dold. Unfortunately in his attempt for the record he fell just 10s short, with a blisteringly fast 7:02. Evidence of his effort could be seen at the finish as he spent the next hour or so recovering on oxygen. In the women’s event Vanessa Haverd won again in 2010 with an amazing time of 8:45.

As is the case with so many fun runs these days a great charity partner benefited from the fund raising and entry fees and the Sydney Tower Run up should be commended for supporting Surf Lifesaving Australia.  A very worthy cause and one I’ve spent many years of my life in.

As well as the age categories entrants some great team races were being run with defence forces, lifesavers and fire fighters all showing their strength & fitness. The most impressive was the guys & girls of the NZ and various Australian state fire departments who took part with full gear. As well as the heavy boots, helmets and not so breathable uniforms they all carried their oxygen tanks on their backs totalling 25kg of extra kit. It made me feel a bit silly looking at my light-weight runners, moisture wicking t-shirt & skimpy shorts. Well done guys I’m sure it was a tough climb but nothing compared to the daily rigours you put yourself through. With 5 Firies finishing in under 20mins (3 guys & 2 girls) & all 10 finishing in under 30mins i know who I’d want to rescue me from a burning 55 story building. Great work guys!!

For anyone curious or keen to take on the challenge next year I’d definitely recommend it. Its achievable for all levels and will certainly challenge everyone no matter how fit or strong. And with anything hard comes the great satisfaction after you’ve finished, and an inspiring view to match. Ohhh…
I know it’s a long way off til next years race, but I’ll put up another post this week with the top 4 exercises to strengthen your legs. Stay tuned…..

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