Reach for the Stars: Where to Train for Vertical Marathons in Singapore
Admit it, you didn't pay as much attention in science class as you should have because other topics were more fun, but it's time to give Sir Isaac Newton, the father of the theory of gravity, his due. He proved the popular theory that what goes up must come down.
Velocity notwithstanding, your interest in going up and down is likely more fixed on vertical marathons that have won the hearts of serious Singaporean runners not content to conquer horizontal space. Training for vertical marathons in Singapore gives you a chance to beat your personal best, but the best thing about them is that they keep you mentally and physically fit. The big question is: where to train? The solution is easy. Just look up.
The first vertical marathon capturing the imagination of Singaporean men and women took place on 3 May 1987, the year France performed nuclear tests at Muruora Island and Fiji experienced a military coup. While history was made elsewhere in the Pacific Rim, 130 men and 50 women signed up for the nation's first vertical marathon. The goal? Race up 1,336 steps to the top floor of the Westin Stamford Hotel.
At the time, the Westin Stamford was the tallest hotel in the world and the objective — raising money and awareness for Singapore's Community Chest charity—made the event particularly noteworthy. Winners Kenneth Kang, who landed in the Guinness Book of Records, and Helen Gibney recorded the best times, but the real winners were the recipients of the S$20,000 raised to benefit Community Chest projects.
Best Training Locations
Finding training locations for vertical marathons is as easy as looking up and figuring out how to gain access. It might take a single request to use the stairwell of the city's Swissôtel Vertical Marathon in preparation for that facility's 73-story competition, but as a "civilian" you need to take advantage of public opening hours in buildings that may not always be accommodating.
If you are unable to locate a resource, take the advice of Singapore permanent resident and 5-time Empire State Building Run Up champion Suzy Walsham from Sydney, Australia. She commandeers the 30 flights of stairs within her residential condominium building and has put together a personalised routine that includes 10 floors of vertical sprints interspersed by 30 seconds of rest. She repeats the entire circuit four to five times when she's at the peak of her training cycle.
If you intend to make use of stairs in tall buildings, train during off hours. Late in the evening or early in the morning when people are less likely to be found in stairwells. Do minimize your noise level when training at residential buildings.
Hill running adds another variety of training in your preparations for the vertical marathon. Great examples of places to train in Singapore are Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Cloud Forest Dome, MacRitchie Nature Trail, Mount Faber or Fort Canning Hill.
Consider These Venues
Do you need more prodding and specific suggestions to find a vertical marathon training location? The following venues might be your cup of tea. Check them all out and if you are particularly resourceful and daring, challenge yourself to try them all. Most of the buildings are usually accessible by public during normal operating hours, if in doubt it will be good to check with building management or security.
1. Venue: The Pinnacle at Duxton
Location: 1 Cantonment Road
Challenge: 50 floor staircase.
Details: The highest HDB in Singapore allows public access. Access to the 50 storey skybridge cost is $5 and limited to 200 people at a time.
Hours: 50 storey skybridge only: 9am to 10pm. daily, except during special events.
2. Venue: Overseas Union Bank Center
Location: 1 Raffles Place
Challenge: 63 floors above ground; 4 floors below ground. Try all 67 if you dare!
Details: The second tallest building in Singapore.
3. Venue: Republic Plaza
Location: 9 Raffles Place (entrance is on D'Almeida Street)
Challenge: Train by running all 66 floors.
Details: Shares "tallest building" honors with OUB Center and Plaza One.
Hours: Mix of offices, retail space and eateries means building is open from 8am to 8pm on weekdays; 11am to 4pm Saturdays.
4. Venue: United Overseas Bank Plaza One
Location: 80 Raffles Place, Singapore
Challenge: 66 stories in tower one. Sky Lobby (37th and 38th floors) closed after September 11, 2001 attacks.
Details: 60th story restaurant is the highest eatery in Singapore. Mosque is located in the building basement, so women may not wish to train below the ground floor.
Hours: Bank only: Mondays to Fridays: 9:30am to 4pm; 9am to 12.30pm on Saturdays.
5. Venue: Capital Tower
Location: 168 Robinson Road
Challenge: 52 stories; 35 elevators. City's 4th tallest building.
Details: Commercial offices throughout the building; The China Club (member's only access) on the top floor. Public parking for 415 cars; observation deck.
Hours: Mix of offices, retail space and eateries means building is open from 6am to 10pm on weekdays; 7am to 7pm on Saturdays.
6. Venue: AXA Tower
Location: 8 Shenton Way
Challenge: Sixth tallest skyscraper in Singapore. 52 stories served by 16 double-decker elevators.
Details: Mixed commercial/retail/restaurants. Treat yourself to a meal at The Lawn at Shenton after you train!
Hours: Eateries are open from 10.30am to 9pm on Mondays to Fridays; one of the largest Singapore car parks (700 spaces!)
7. Venue: Toa Payoh Central; Blk 79A-E
Location: Blk 79A-E, Toa Payoh Central, (S) 311079
Challenge: Off the beaten track development with 40 stories of stairs plus a controversial high-speed elevator that makes stairs a sensible option for vertical runners.
Hours: Accessible 24/7.
8. Venue: Bukit Batok Nature Park, Memorial Site
Location: Lorong Sesuai
Challenge: The remains of 120 steps up to the top of the hill of the once Syonan Chureito shrine built during WWII.
Hours: Accessible 24/7. Recommended before dark.
Your first vertical marathon deserves the best training regimen you can muster, and while you're testing out various locations, you might want to come up with a training directory of your own for all the friends you'll make once you become well known on the vertical marathon circuit!