Participants of the 16th edition of the CCTV tower climbing contest sprint for the finish line 225 meters high the tower. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com]
Doctors have always recommended taking the stairs instead of elevators for people trying to get fit. But as humans we always look for an easy way to get to the top floors of a building by using elevators. Many believe that climbing stairs is time consuming and above all exhausting. But even if you do stick to an exercise routing that includes stair climbing, how high can you go? Beijingers found out when they raced up the stairs of one of the capital's tallest buildings during this year's climb up the CCTV tower.
The sport of stair climbing involves races to the tops of famous buildings around the world.
But it's not a sport that many people are willing to wake up early on a Sunday morning to do. Nevertheless, a very enthusiastic crowd in Beijing gathered this weekend on the grounds of the CCTV tower ready to take on the challenge of racing to the top.
Determined and ready to break the existing record set in 2005, the stair climbers all came to run up not 10, not 100, but 1,597 steps up to the top of the 225-meter-tall structure.
They first had to run 930 meters around the foot of the tower before reaching the staircase. It was a race for both the young and the not-so-young.
One of the participants was Zhang Yajun, a 55-year-old retired woman who has exercised regularly throughout her life.
Like the many other competitors, she came to tackle the challenge head on.
Zhang says age is not a barrier for her, and she will compete in the race again even thought she didn't win this time.
"The result is not important, because I think one needs different experiences in life, and I like to try difficult challenges," said Zhang Yajun.
Even though she didn't win, Zhang zealously made sure she crossed the finish line.
"Although I felt tired after the first leg of the trip, as I climbed higher and higher, I had only one thought in mind: I'll keep climbing. So the later parts of the trip became easier and easier for me. Because once you make the breakthrough, you'll find it easier and easier," said Zhang.
Shao Yuyin is another participant.
A former athlete who has been competed in international marathon competitions and a high school sports teacher at the moment, he is the incumbent record holder. He was here to challenge his own record that he set in 2005 when he reached the top of the tower in nine minutes and 51 seconds.
Although his former record has remained unbroken for five years, Shao has some advice for those who wish to challenge it in future races.
"The secret is to exercise every day. That guarantees you will be among the best runners. It's a nationwide banner that one hour of exercise each day can help you stay happy and healthy in life. If more people do exercises and strengthen their bodies, my record will soon be broken," said Shao Yuyin.
The Beijing Sports Bureau has hosted the race 16 consecutive times since the first race was held in 1995.
Zhou Tao, project manager from the sports bureau, explains what it takes to be one of the competitors, because not everyone receives approval to participate in the race.
"The competition itself is different from climbing stairs in general. Some people say, 'Well, I live on the 20th floor, and I climb stairs every day.' But our tower is really tall. So climbing the tower is different from climbing mountains or jogging, because mountain-climbing and jogging are aerobic sports. But the tower is a relatively closed space, so tower-climbing has high requirements for the climber's physical and psychological conditions," said Zhou Tao.
The manager says the climber never knows which floor he has reached and he might not be sure how he should distribute his energy through the whole climb.
"So first we want our participants to understand what tower-climbing means. Then we demand a physical checkup sheet from each of the participants, including heart and lung test results," said Zhou.
Running clubs started stair climbing races in the 1970s. The races now attract athletes from all sports, who are interested in cross-training.
Stair-climbing races are low carbon emissions competitions that demand a great deal of preparation. They are marathons where participants don't run on a flat surface, but rather elevate their entire bodies. Their bodies require much more energy which must be strategically distributed.
Stair climbing has been described as a grueling, strenuous sport and should not be undertaken without first consulting a physician.
2010 winner of CCTV tower climbing contest Liu Jianhai breaks through the finish line. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com]
Top 3 winners of the CCTV tower climbing contest 2010 being awarded. [Photo: CRIENGLISH.com]