When people ask what I do for fitness, and I reply that I love tower running, the usual response is a squished up confused looking face and the follow up question “What’s that?”
It’s really quite simple, find a tower and run up it as fast as you can. That’s tower running. Obviously it’s a little more refined than that, with floor transition technique, single or double stepping, to free run or use your hands, it is actually a very technical sport when fractions of a second can be the difference between a podium finish and not.
I had been looking for a new fitness challenge, something to drag me out of the doldrums of road running, and I stumbled upon the Gherkin Challenge. A race up London’s Gherkin’s 37 floors in aid of the NSPCC. I gave it a go and without any training or experience, I figured that just going all out for as long as possible would be the best tactic, and then just sheer tenacity will see me through to the end. How wrong I was! By floor 10 I was completely spent. Tenacity got me to floor 25 and then I have no idea how I got to the top because it was all of a mental blur. I had completely exhausted myself and climbed to the top of one of London’s most iconic buildings, all in 8 minutes. This was amazing, a physical event that was physically demanding but over with in less than 10 minutes. I won’t delve into other analogies…ahem.
I needed more of this, I had caught the tower running bug, but what was disappointing was the lack of tower running events that just carried an entrance fee, they were all charity fundraising sessions and my nearest and dearest were getting slightly fed up of me constantly asking to be sponsored for the same thing. I used work as an opportunity to complete a new challenge and did the Vertical Rush in aid of Shelter, but rather than bother my family, I got the chance to raise money from colleagues and put together a work team to try and get others interested in the sport too. So off we went and as a team of 5 we climbed Tower 42.
I kept searching for tower running clubs to no avail, when quite unprompted, I saw a tweet from Total Motion Towerrunners advertising an event. Turned out there was a club right in London who trained weekly at the Broadgate Tower near to Liverpool Street station. I signed up for a session and joined. In 2018 I ran the Total Motion Run Up and completed the 35 floors in 6 and a half minutes. So when this year’s event was announced, and that there was an option to do the ultimate challenge of climbing the tower 16 times, I simply had to do it.
The event, as always with Total Motion Events, was spectacularly well run. Reception was fast and efficient, instructions were clear and organised, there was plenty of entertainment and opportunity to warm up, then before you know it you’re flying up the tower. I say flying, I learned my lesson from the Gherkin and I was pacing myself with a nice steady rhythmic double stepped walk using the handrails. Time was not my goal here, finishing it was! I’ll let my Instagram post tell the rest of the story.
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This was the second hardest physical and mental test I’ve ever completed, but what an experience the #TMRunUp2019 was. . 16 times up the 877 step Broadgate Tower in just over 2 and a half hours of climb time, but this was never about the time. This was just about getting to the end. . Climbs 1-4 were tough. I’ve not trained in the tower for almost 2 months, so these climbs were a massive shock to the system and the legs took a while to adjust. . Climbs 5-8 were relatively easy. The blood was flowing, the legs were loose, and the stairs were really kind to me. . Climbs 9-12 were an utter bastard! This was the tower running equivalent of hitting the wall. My feet went numb, my legs heavy, and my joints felt like they belonged to a much older man than me. . Climbs 13-14 were a sheer test of mental tenacity. My brain was no longer functioning properly; at one point I couldn’t work out what floor came after floor 14! My legs were screaming for me to quit, my Achilles tendon on my left leg felt like it was sure to pop, and the popped blisters on my hands meant holding the handrail was agony. . Climbs 15 and 16 were always going to be physically tough but by this point there was absolutely no way I was quitting or letting injury stop me from finishing. I was taking 2 or 3 floors at a time before resting and eating as many jelly babies as I could. . Crossing that finish line for the final time was such an exhilarating feeling, and it meant so much to me having my family there to see me do it. . A big thank you to @mattjhudson and @total_motion for putting on a superlative event, and as always to the many volunteers cheering us on throughout and keeping me energised with jelly babies. A special thank you to @howardhike @sarahchaneyfrost Will and all the other @tm_towerrunners who were so lovely and encouraging on the steps 👍🏻😁 . #towerrunning #towerrun #towerrunninguk #towerrunner #towerwalking #towerrunningdad #towerrunningsport
Featured photo is by Ben Lumley who was the official photographer on the day.