Towerrunning 200 & WFGT Challenge
On July 21, the first ever Towerrunning Tour race took place in Russia. The venue for the race would be the Ostankino Tower, a television and radio tower in Moscow. The tower was previously the tallest free-standing structure in the world from its completion in 1967 (to mark the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution) until 1975 and is still the tallest free-standing structure in Europe topping out at 540m.
The race itself would be 1,704 steps to the main observation deck at a height of 337m. Previously, ten national championship races had been held at the venue with the last edition taking place in 2000 before a serious fire at the tower only a few months later. The course record stood at 11:55.
A total of 27 athletes would be competing in the race – 23 TWA athletes from the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Mongolia, Poland, Slovakia, the UK and the USA as well as four competitors from the host nation.
Pre-race favourites in the men’s race were recently crowned World Champion Piotr Łobodziński from Poland and world ranked #1 Christian Riedl from Germany. Łobodziński had been unbeaten so far in 2018 but Riedl had shown excellent form recently, winning Tour races in both Benidorm and Frankfurt in Piotr’s absence.
In the women’s race, the likely victor looked to be either world #2 Cindy Harris from the USA or Poland’s Dominika Wiśniewska-Ulfik. Amongst the domestic runners was Tatiana Avdeeva, winner of the 2010 Super Cup Moscow – Luzhniki half-marathon in a time of 1:20:29. How would the local star stack up against the established tower runners?
As race day dawned, the TWA athletes made their way from the hotel for an 8am rendez-vous at the race venue. Low level cloud meant we could barely see the observation deck of the tower!
Once through security and a pre-race medical, the athletes had a race briefing followed by a warm-up prior to the race start. The race would be in the usual time-trial format with a 30 second gap between participants. Start order would be determined by the most recent TWA rankings. The gents were first to depart with the ladies to follow.
Christian was first off the line as the newly ranked world #1, with Piotr chasing him!
Less than ten minutes later and with the course record smashed, Christian crossed the line in 9:51.8. Could Piotr beat him and maintain his 2018 unbeaten record? Piotr recorded a time of 9:52.6 – unbelievably only 0.8 seconds separated them! This was sweet revenge for Christian after last November’s Shanghai race with Piotr the winner that time by 0.9 seconds!
Slovak Tomáš Čelko proved he is coming back into form taking the final podium place in a time of 10:27. Tomáš will certainly be looking forward to defending his VBB crown in September and will arguably be in a stronger position this time around without the Donauturm race featuring. Rising star Wai Ching Soh from Malaysia finished in 4th just under 3 seconds behind Tomáš with Poland’s Paweł Ruszała rounding out the top five in a time of 10:48.
In the ladies’ race, Cindy Harris won comfortably by over 30 seconds in 12:15 making the trip all the way from Indianapolis, USA a worthwhile one and her points haul will help cement her position as the world #2 despite turning 50 years of age at the end of this year.
The runners-up spot went to Dominika Wiśniewska-Ulfik, clocking 12:48. Dominika admitted after the race that she needed more arm strength to have gone faster on what must be the steepest set of stairs ever tackled in a stair race! To say the final section resembled a set of ladders would not be such an understatement.
A typically gutsy performance from Italian Cristina Bonacina was enough to take 3rd place in 14:14, 12 seconds ahead of Mexican Maria Elisa Lopez with Great Britain’s Sonja Shakespeare 5th lady in 15:09. Local athlete Tatiana Avdeeva was the first local athlete home stopping the clock in a respectable 15:24 to finish in 6th place.
Following the prize giving ceremony, the athletes returned to the tower for a splendid lunch just below the observation deck affording fantastic views of Moscow from over 300m up.
A special thank you to the organisers for putting on such a great event and for working tirelessly with the TWA to make this race happen. We hope to be back!