What is tower running and how did a Charlottean become the women’s national champion?

What is tower running and how did a Charlottean become the women’s national champion?
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Stair climbing is a national sport, and the U.S. women’s national champion, Stephanie Hucko, lives in Charlotte.

photo via Stephanie Hucko

photo via Stephanie Hucko

What is Tower Running?

Imagine: Sweating it out on the stair master, but this time you’re running up actual stairs and all the way up to the top of a building.

Essentially, tower running is a race up flights of stairs — the person who can reach the top in the least amount of time is the winner. Races can be anywhere from 20 stories to 200 stories. And it’s a world sport. Races occur annually in Paris, New York, Sydney and Milan.

Hucko has held the women’s national title for two years.

Previously a triathlon athlete, Hucko has run about eight races per year since 2013.

photo via Stephanie Hucko

In 2011, Hucko won the Duke Energy tower race, a race that occurs place annually in Charlotte.

After her win, she decided to start training for other races, and learned more about the sport of tower running. She uncovered a circuit of elite stair climbers and other races around the world.

And yes, people actually choose to run up this thing. 786 feet, 54 floors.

duke-energy-building-uptown-charlotte

Hucko is the real deal.

She’s been a top competitor in races all over the world, usually placing in the top three if not claiming first.

In March, she was invited to represent the United States in Paris at the race up the Eiffel Tower. She placed 3rd among competitors from around the world.

photo via Stephanie Hucko

photo via Stephanie Hucko

One of Hucko’s proudest accomplishments? Winning the race up the World Trade Center in New York.

“It’s iconic,” she says. The 104-story World Trade Center race is special to Hucko since she lived in New York during 9/11. She has won the race not once but twice — in 2015 and in 2016. The trophy she received is steel from the original World Trade Center building.

photo via Stephanie Hucko

photo via Stephanie Hucko

Tower running is unique as a sport because most of the races double as fundraisers.

The World Trade Center races raises money for first responders and military through the Steven Sillers Tunnel to Towers foundation.

A lot of tower races fundraise for lung disease through American Lung Association’s Fight for Air.

Is tower running too intense for you to try?

Hucko is encouraging, saying “it’s hard but it is achievable. You can get hooked on it. The feeling of looking out of a building like ‘oh my god I just climbed that’ is addicting. And regular people can do it.”

She says that any person interested in fitness and competing can try this, even as just a way to cross train or get fit. Physically, power running is like any other sport.

Hucko emphasizes the need for mental strength more than physical strength.

The elite racers understand how to push past their pain threshold. Hucko says that running up stairwells is especially taxing because you have nothing else to think about or look at. It’s just you in the stairwell. That sounds monotonous to say the least.

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