In 1492, Christopher Columbus proclaimed the world to be round. In 2005, Thomas Friedman argued it now to be flat. Uploading, outsourcing, and off-shoring in this globalised age, Friedman said, has fundamentally changed the landscape of our modern world. Though our earth may no longer be as round as it was 500 years ago, it is by no means flat. Take for instance, Landmark 72 Tower in Hanoi. Have you seen it? It’s really tall. The tallest in Vietnam. It’s got 1,914 stairs. Take that Thomas.
Though it’s probably the case that soaring buildings all over the world are further evidence of our globalised, ‘flat’ earth, a few of these modern day monuments are being re-imagined with activities far removed from the typical financial endeavours associated with skyscrapers. On Sep. 30, over 500 runners will compete in a race from the bottom to the top of Hanoi’s Landmark 72 Tower. And these runners will in fact be RUNNING.
Survival of the Fittest?
Running up the steps of a skyscraper could seem a bit puzzling. What does it mean? Is it a statement about the return of physicality to a world that has become increasingly digital? Is it symbolic of a post-colonial conquering of the new frontiers of sky? Is it because someone lost a bet? Is it for buns of steel?
The race marks Hanoi’s entrance into the club of other cities with skyscrapers up which people run. The Vertical World Circuit (VWC) as it is called, includes New York, London, Basel, Berlin, Taipei, Milan, Singapore, and Sao Paulo.
“Vertical races”, the organisers say, have been around since the 1970s (but probably before that if you count social climbing). Stair-climbing clubs can currently be found across North America, Europe and Asia, with professional stair-climbers training year-round to be the first to reach the top of some of the world’s tallest buildings.
Though a relatively new sport, fitness enthusiasts are stepping up, especially those intrigued by the different urban settings that it can bring them, as well as those who enjoy the fact that walking uphill, compared to the same exercise on flat ground, consumes up to 10 times more calories.
A skyscraper is defined as having 100 metres or more of vertical climb at a 33 percent incline. Like hiking up a mountain, but with fewer bugs and chances of getting lost, stair climbing requires strength, endurance, and a touch of faith that the view is worth it.
Director of the event, David Shin, believes it is.
“One of the main objectives of the Landmark 72 Vertical Run is to promote Hanoi as a leading destination for competitive sports, business and tourism,” he explains. “And as the event is being held in Vietnam’s tallest building, it will naturally attract significant attention overseas.”
And, dear reader, your attention too. Both amateur and elite athletes are expected to turn out on Sep. 30 at the foot of Vietnam’s tallest building. Elite participants in this year’s inaugural event in Hanoi include reigning world champions, Thomas Dold and Valentina Belotti. Included in the amateur category will be Word magazine’s own managing and deputy chief editors, Debbie Clare and John Thornton.
You, too, can take part in this event, to climb stairs like you’ve never climbed them before, with a purpose that few in the world have had. You, too, can have buns of steel and scream “King of the world!” as you ascend the one thousandth nine hundredth and fourteenth step.
Online registration is open now and the fee is VND300,000. Prize money totalling VND105,000,000 will be divided and awarded to the first three male and female overall winners with the fastest times.
What will happen after you register is a lot of self-affirming goal setting, training and probably a little anxiety. On race day you’ll toe the first step with a pack of runners, equipped with a timing chip, and move with beauty, grace, and poise all the way to the top. That, or you’ll sweat, pant and heave your quivering limbs to the finishing line. Either way, you’ll most likely reach the top about 20 to 25 minutes later. If you are elite, you may get there in 10.
To register for the race, visit www.landmark72run.com, and to read up more about vertical running go to www.verticalrunning.org