Attempting the Swissotel Vertical Marathon throws up a different set of challenges compared to your conventional 42km marathon race. Scaling 72 storeys up Southeast Asia’s tallest hotel is no easy feat especially when you’re battling gravity, fatigue, cramped and stuffy stairways as well as protruding objects. You’ll need a specialised training approach to condition your body.
Dr. Roger Tian, Consultant Sports Physician and Deputy Medical Director, Singapore Sports Medicine Centre, cautions, "Running against gravity greatly increases the stress on both the cardiovascular (heart and lungs) and musculoskeletal (bones, joints, muscles) systems. Environmental conditions within the stairwell such as humidity and ventilation will also increase the effort required as well as the load on the heart and lungs."
Suzy Walsham, winner of the Women’s Open category for five years in a row from 2006 to 2010, can testify. "It is definitely not easy! Be prepared for some intense pain and go in with a strong mind as you will need it, " says the Sydney-born Singapore Permanent Resident. "You need to try to relax and stay focused so you can keep on climbing those stairs as fast as possible," she adds, "It can also be technically challenging as each staircase is different, for example, the side the handrail is on; the direction you go up the stairs; whether there are landing areas between the stairs, etc. And there is not always a lot of room so passing other competitors can also be challenging."
Suzy (pictured right, in black) won the 2010 Swissotel Vertical Marathon Women’s Open category in 9min 13sec. This was just three months after giving birth! Her personal best for the vertical marathon is 8min 19sec, which she had set in 2008. The victory got her, and the Men’s Open winner, a ticket to the prestigious Empire State Building Run-Up 2011, a by-invitation-only competition.
The accountant trains all year round, competing in 10km road races as well to maintain her fitness level at peak condition. Suzy ramps up her training 4 – 6 weeks before a vertical marathon, incorporating stair sessions up the 30 floors of her condominium. She progresses from one to two stair sessions per week on top of the 70km she runs weekly. Suzy even squeezes in some speedwork on the stairs – covering 10 floors, resting for 30 seconds and going for another 10, repeating this circuit for about 4 – 5 times.
To aid those attempting their first Swissotel Vertical Marathon, we asked the 37-year-old to help design a basic training program.