It might not be famous but one of the most challenging extreme sports events in the world is skyscraper running, or stair-climbing.
This involves basically taking a tall building, or indeed any structure, and racing to the top as fast as possible up the stairwell. For a further take on endurance some races are run not up a building once, but over a time period of as long as 24 hours.
Skyscrapernews has spoken to the only professional skyscraper runner in the world, Stefan Minten of Bonn in Germany, who has climbed to the moon and back, in distance terms quite literally.
Skyscrapernews - What got you into skyscraper running?
Stefan Minten - It was a COINCIDENCE. I had a 5 day rest holiday and I decided with somebody to fly to New York because we found a cheap travel offer. After we had made the typical sightseeing walk with climbing Statue of Liberty, World trade Center, Central Park, we arrived at the Empire State Building.
During our visit, I remembered a race that I had seen in the television and then I said to my travel partner, "I want to start in that race!" The look on her face more than ignorance, because she thought I made a joke. It was then the thinking of competing in races was born.
But then, it took me more than three months to have an invitation from the organisation. It was harder to get a registration than to make the race.
For the race I trained in a big building in my hometown and try to make the 1576 steps in 40 min but to my own surprise I did the race in 18.38 min and I was happy.
After the race I had an interesting time speaking with an Italian girl, keeping in contact with her, accepting invitations to Malaysia, then at a race in Kuala Lumpur the Russian winner of Moscow tower race invited to his competition in Moscow, 2 weeks later.
Skyscrapernews.com - Which is the hardest tower you've done so far?
Stefan Minten - It was in the capital of Malaysia, Kuala Lumpur - the hottest stair-climbing race in the world!
There was the first 800 meter running uphill through a jungle area with poisonous snakes, and other nice animals like dangerous monkeys, sometimes a baby python at the entrance (the official race hotel is direct at the Startzone) and then climbing 2,056 steps by a temperature from more than 40 Grad Celsius and 90 per cent humidity at 7.30 in the morning and more than 8 hours jetlag! That is heavy!
Skyscrapernews.com - Can you tell us about some of the records you've set with running up famous towers.
Stefan Minten - In the time of my running since I was 4 years old in a small club in Bonn, my hometown, I have made a few world records in stair climbing.
The highest meters of all the tallest towers together (501m + 442+381+et.)
The most starts in the world championships of Stair-climbing, and also the most starts in European championships.
Climbing the old and new seven wonders of the world such as the Great Pyramid in Egypt and the Petra night run in Jordan.
I have raced in more than 50 countries.
The most stairs climbed in competitions and demonstration races (4 millions)
Climbing all 5 main religious buildings - a church, a mosque, a synagogue, a Hindu temple and a Buddhist temple that had poison snakes.
The most aircraft kilometers travelled in flying to the competitions.
The German climbing record for the Empire State Building (6 in a row).
Climbing the most castles, citadels, airports, museums, train stations, airports, parliaments and the most Hop to the Tops which is a race against V.I.P.s.
The highest stair-climb in an aircraft as the captain changed for me the high from 11500 to 11888m.
The deepest below sea-level -400m Dead Sea--Jordan/Israel that are the lowest stairs in the world.
I am the continental record holder for Australia.
I have climbing the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
I have trained so many kilometers by bicycle that I have more than circled once around the world.
In total, all stairs added together step-by-step is greater than the distance from the Earth to the Moon (384,403 kilometres) and 24 hour races in stair-climbing are equal to scaling the height of Mount Everest (8,848 metres).
Skyscrapernews - Can you tell us how fast you've done famous buildings like the Empire State Building?
Stefan Minten - My personal record for the Empire State Building in New York is 16.34 min and my racing times at Taipei 101 (the tallest completed building in the world), plus other places like Malaysia, Sydney, Moscow, and Philadelphia are lying at same level, so that shows me that I can run the same numbers of stairs by the same time speed worldwide, and that makes me proud.
Skyscrapernews.com - How do you become a professional skyscraper runner?
Stefan Minten - After I finished the world championships of stair climbing in Sydney, Australia I was tired from the race and also from the extra ordinary jet lag. I thought that sport, traveling and work is in this moment not possible together to organized and I decided to speak with my boss. We talked and thought together that I could stop the work for a few years and come back after to my career so a few months later I was the first and only one professional Stair-climber in the world!
Skyscrapernews.com - Where do you see skyscraper running in ten years time?
Stefan Minten - A part of the Olympic Games! Haha.
But seriously, I hope that we have competitions in countries worldwide wherever cities have big buildings but that it has the same exotic and funny family flair like now!
Skyscrapernews.com - What's the history of skyscraper running?
In 1978 the first competitions were organised in Toronto and New York. That was the official start of the sport's history.
Skyscrapernews.com - Do you think that as towers get taller and taller they will become more of a challenge to climb, a bit like mountaineering, and we will see more people doing this for the challenge?
Stefan Minten - I hope so.
When I count now all the starters worldwide in stair-climbing competition we come to more than 2 million people and that is a big number. That means more competitions and more starters!
After September 11th I was the first sportsman in Ground Zero in 2002 and found it was no longer so easy to organise a stair-climbing event because of security reasons. That makes sense and is naturally understandable because there is sometimes a fine line between sport and daily happenings.
For example I had a race in the Middle East and the organizer actually gave me a bodyguard for protection and later a bomb attack happened near my competition area.
So I can say I can understand both sides, because on one side I have been a sportsman since I was a kid and love the sport with my heart but on the other I understand those who cannot always give the authorization for races.
Skyscrapernews.com - And finally, what's the best music for it?
Stefan Minten - My favourite is Safridoo from Safridoo, there's an interesting story to this.
Somebody gave me an authorization to climb the 5 wheel roller coaster (which is near 40 meters high) in my hometown circus festival and when I started to climb in the middle of the stair-walk I became a little panicked. It was windy so I thought for safety I would stop climbing, but at this moment somebody in a circus shop nearby played this song. It had me feeling more comfortable and I finished my race. My dream is to meet Safridoo once in my life to say a personal thank you to them.
Skyscrapernews - Thanks for talking to us Stefan.