Stage set for first ever ISF Stairclimbing World Championships in Dubai

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Dubai Holding SkyRun has become a popular fixture of the annual month-long Dubai Fitness Challenge.

Gulf Today, Staff Reporter

The stage is set as hundreds of participants signed up to take on one of the most anticipated events in the Dubai fitness calendar — the Dubai Holding SkyRun 2022.

With just a day to go until the start of the 17th edition of Dubai’s only official stair climbing race, excitement and nerves can be found in equal measure among the runners taking part this coming Saturday.

Held in partnership with the International Skyrunning Federation (ISF), Dubai Sports Council, Al Jalila Foundation and Jumeirah Emirates Towers – where the event will be hosted – the Dubai Holding SkyRun has become a popular fixture of the annual month-long Dubai Fitness Challenge.

With three categories: Elite, Open and Teams (of four), amateur runners can take on the 52 floors and 1334 steps alongside the professionals all in aid of Al Jalila Foundation’s Majlis Al Amal.  

This year, Dubai Holding SkyRun will also play host to the first ever ISF Stair climbing World Championships, which will see 21 professional stair-climbing athletes racing in the Elite category.  

Cindy Reid is one of the female Elite athletes gearing up for the challenge – and she has been busy putting in the workout hours ahead of the endurance event.

A typical training day sees the 40-year-old Australian mastering a 5-kilometre run, before getting in her steps on the stair master, and strengthening her glutes and legs with sets of squats and lunges.

“It is all quite lower body dominant and 100 percent mental capacity,” said Reid, who made her foray into stairclimbing challenges 12 years ago.

To date, Reid – a sponsored athlete for Stairclimbing – has scaled the stairways of more than 200 buildings across the globe. However, the Dubai Holding SkyRun will mark a memorable moment for the Australian. 

“Competing in the first ever Stairclimbing World Championship by the ISF is a special moment for me as it is my first stair race since the COVID-19 pandemic and the birth of my son two-and-a-half years ago.”

Another elite athlete taking part is Belgium national Omar Bekkali. The 44-year-old said he is in his final training preparations ahead of the vertical challenge, which includes a vigorous mix of pounding the streets, cycling and, of course, climbing stairs.

“My training is running between 8 to 15km every two days, and the next day cycling around 20km up to 35km. Every Sunday I do stair training over 32 floors up to 4 times (in a session),” said Bekkali. 

With more than 100,000 competitive steps under his belt, does he ever take the lift?

“Yes! I always take a lift to down, but never up.”

Plenty of amateurs will be hitting the stairs in a competitive race for the first time at Jumeriah Emirates Towers, and Bekkali shared some words of wisdom ahead of the big day.

“Just start slowly, try to feel the stairs and then try to focus on breathing well and looking to have control, then your maximum speed will come naturally,” he said.

Fellow stairclimbing athlete Mark Bourne will be taking part in the event for the first time and is bidding to cross the finish line first.

The 39-year-old Australian gets race-ready by doing a mixture of running, cycling and climbing. 

“My training is mainly running and cycling so each day is different, with a mix of more intense days and easier recovery days,” Bourne said.

Bourne said there are certain running techniques required for stairclimbing, to maximise performance and reduce the risk of injury.

“The aim is always to run two steps at a time the whole way, but everyone has their own technique for using the railing,” Bourne said. 

Malaysian Athlete, Wai Ching Soh is another lining up for the Dubai Holding SkyRun on 12 November, and said preparation is everything.

“Firstly, I will go and find out the course profile of the competition and do a rough calculation on what is the target time to aim for,” Soh said. 

“Then I will craft out a training plan leading up to this competition. Then mentally and physically prepare according to it.  

“A typical training day for me will be – in the morning – doing an easy long climb stairs session up to about 300 floors, evening will focus on a quality session like short or long interval training.  “

To date, Wai Ching Soh – who became the first Asian to win the Empire State Building Run Up (ESBRU) in their 43rd Edition (Year 2021) since 1978 – has taken part in 81 stairclimbing competitions and climbed up a total of 121,822 steps during competitive events.

“For training wise, I lost count!,” he laughed. “I guess it is a lot, as I climb an average of 200 to 300 floors per day, sometimes double sessions. The longest stair climb I have ever done is in Shanghai, running up the Shanghai Tower with a total steps number of 3398 steps.”

President of the International Skyrunning Federation, Marino Giacometti added: “It is with great pleasure that we are looking forward to the first ISF Stairclimbing World Championships, hosted at the Dubai Holding SkyRun on Saturday.

“After a two-year halt due to the Covid-19 pandemic, our top-ranked Vertical World Circuit® athletes, can’t wait to get on the stairs and push for, on this first occasion, World Champion titles and medals. Of course, the Championships are open, so one never knows if a surprise win is in store. We wish all participants an exciting event!”

Dubai Holding will award the top three male and female runners from the Elite and Open categories as well as the top three teams from the Team category in this year’s SkyRun.

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