More than 400 runners are preparing for a vertical challenge – running up the 1,576 steps of the Empire State Building.
The Run-Up at the New York landmark usually takes competitors more than 10 minutes – with Australian Paul Crake setting the men’s record in 2003, covering the 86 flights in 9:33.
The women’s record of 11:23 was set in 2006 by Andrea Mayr of Austria.
Among those taking part in the February 7 event are elite athletes, members of the emergency services and people who win spaces via a lottery.
Tower running or stair climbing is not new, but it is growing in popularity. For anyone not immediately daunted by the prospects, there are similar tower running challenges in the UK – and a whole community has sprung up around the discipline.
Here’s how London’s skyscrapers compare with the Empire State Building and the world’s longest staircase.
Patrick Gallagher, head of Tower Running UK, said: “The sport is certainly growing year-on-year, with more events in the UK being added and more people taking part. There were just over 2,000 participants at events around the UK last year, but as stair climbing gets more coverage we should see a lot more people trying out this uniquely challenging activity.
“For me, tower running is monotonous, often lonely and always painful, but that’s why I love it. It’s a really honest, stripped back sporting activity that asks a lot of you, but pays you back in abundance.
“Going up is always demanding, but the sense of accomplishment, often coupled with incredible views of cities at the top, makes it totally worth it. In nearly all races, you’re in an internal stairwell with no views to outside so you don’t really get a sense of getting higher and higher.
“I mean your burning legs and lungs let you know you’re going up alright, but it’s only when you exit at the top to a viewing deck or a rooftop that you get a sense of how far you’ve come.”
Inspired and ready to feel the burn in your legs? Here’s what you need to do next.
To attempt the 932 steps of Tower 42, get in touch with homelessness charity Shelter. It is marking its 10th year at the tower in 2018 and has also unveiled a new evening event as part of Vertical Rush. It allows runners to see the London skyline by night once they reach the top. They also get to celebrate with champagne and canapes in Vertigo 42, the tower-topping bar.
To sign up for day and night events, visit the signup page here.
There’s a range of different charities giving you options to run up the 1,258 stairs of The Leadenhall Building. Among them is Care International which stages its run-up Stairs And The City on April 14.
The Tower Climb for Great Ormond Street Hospital takes place on March 3 at 20 Fenchurch Street, aka the Walkie Talkie. On reaching step 828, runners will be rewarded with 360-degree views of London from the Sky Garden – and a glass of champagne.
If London’s towers all seem a bit daunting, one race considered an introduction to the sport is in Leicester. People can run up the 351 steps of St George’s Tower for the hospice charity Loros.
The run-up started three years ago with around 40 people taking part – and more than 400 people are expected to take part on March 10 this year.
“It’s gone from strength to strength,” said Andrew Ward, events manager at Loros. “We do get a lot of people who want to run every one (tower races), but the vast majority are people who are very new to tower running.
“Some people like to walk. Others want to run all the way. The great thing is you can go up with the intention of putting in a good time or just finishing it. You can make it as much of a challenge as you want it to be.”
At the other end of the extreme is the world’s biggest staircase at the Niesen Railway in Switzerland which runs alongside a train track and is 11,674 steps.
People can take part in the Niesen Stairway-Run, but all spots on the 2018 race day are already filled.