Vertical Marathon in Dubai

Dare you tackle the tower that will have your ‘heart hammering’?

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The best runners finish in under nine minutes, and few stragglers are still running after half-an-hour.

So what makes some athletes tackle this marathon with a sense of pure terror?

That’s because this race is straight up – through 1,334 stairs to the top of Jumeirah Emirates Towers.

Last year’s Vertical Marathon saw 160 runners raise more than Dhs115,000 for humanitarian medical organisation MSF.

Fitness instructor Jo Phillimore, 41, won the female category with an impressive time of 12 minutes 22 seconds.

Her chances of repeating her success this year vanished when she tore knee ligaments in a skiing accident in February.

But Jo vowed she will hobble up the 1,334 stairs this month to ensure she still competes the popular event.

She said: “This will be my fifth year. I even did it a couple of weeks after the birth of my last child in 2009. That was definitely my worst time of 15 minutes seven seconds. I usually finish in about 12 minutes.

“It was absolutely brilliant to win, totally unexpected. I had no idea. To be honest, I was just really lucky. I think all the really fit girls were at the triathlon in Abu Dhabi.

“I tore a knee ligament while skiing in February so I can't run, play tennis or do body combat. So I'll hobble up and enjoy the great breakfast afterwards.”

So how does it compare to running a horizontal long-distance race?

“It's just so much more intense, said Jo. “You have to do the big stairs at the bottom then a big sprint to the start of the stairwell in the office block, so by the time you do the first set you're already sucking on air.

“I'm used to 10k and half-marathons where you pace yourself a bit more. This is just one big push to the top, hauling yourself up with your arms, legs screaming, heart hammering, feeling sick if you look at the floor markings too long. But it's still only a few minutes, compared with the hours and hours in a real marathon.

“I've been trying to persuade the people at my classes but they all say ‘52 floors? Are you joking?’ Everyone can and should compete. MSF is so worthwhile and it's such a brilliant thing to say you've done, especially for me as I'm leaving Dubai in the summer.

“When you say Vertical Marathon, people have some notion of ropes and pulleys up the side of the building. It could take you eight-and-a-half minutes or 30 minutes. You've still done it. If someone can take their baby up on their back, then it's not just for the elite!”
The Vertical Marathon takes place on Friday, April 29, at 8am. To take part, register at www.vm.msf-me.org along with a minimum pledge of Dhs500 for adults, or Dhs350 for children aged 17 and below. The registration deadline is April 27.

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