Stair climbing extraordinaire Shaun Stephens-Whale summited the Eiffel Tower in less than nine minutes on Thursday.
The 27-year-old finished sixth at the Verticale de la Tour Eiffel on March 16 completing the circuit in 8:30.01. The iconic tower in Paris hosts the annual race featuring 1,665 steps attracting the world’s best in vertical running.
“The race was a spectacle I have never seen before,” the Roberts Creek, B.C. native says. “Racers were sent off on a starting ramp (like in the Tour de France) and the stairwell itself never ceased to amaze with every turn taking you every which way, there were flat 80m cross-over landings, long narrow shoulder width flights, a spiral staircase and even some downward steps.”
The Eiffel Tower is 324m tall or approximately 81 stories. Stephens-Whale finished 35 seconds back of the winner, Poland’s Piotr Lobodzinski. The Canadian was in ninth through the first checkpoint and moved through the field thanks to strong splits improving three spots by the finish. The race is held in a time trial format as runners are sent off individually at given intervals.
Stair climbing is officially known as tower running. Stephens-Whale, who earlier this year set a course record at Rainier Tower in Seattle, is a regular on the world circuit. In addition to competing locally in Vancouver, the former University of British Columbia varsity athlete competed recently at the Empire State Building in New York City as well as at the Etihad Tower in the United Arab Emirates. The Canadian also set a course record at a race at the Las Vegas Stratosphere in February.
Stephens-Whale was one of two Canadians who raced the Eiffel Tower climb with the other being Michelle Ko who finished 24th among women.
The sport is becoming increasingly popular, reflected in some of the prize purses at certain races. The Climb to Abu Dhabi, for example, offered a total purse of US$18,000. Stephens-Whale placed third in the elite male race on that occasion.