THERE are many people who choose to climb the stairs instead of taking the lift in order to stay fit. However, they are few and far between. Soh Wai Ching plans to change that.
Asia’s top towerrunner, Soh, who is also president of the Malaysia Towerrunning Association, aims to encourage more Malaysians to take the stairs. To do that, he needs help from the Youth and Sports Ministry as well as corporations.
Soh took up towerrunning three years ago and has a degree in Sport Science (major in exercise) from University Malaya.
On Nov 18, he became the new Guinness World Record holder for the Greatest Vertical Height Stairs Climbing in One Hour (Male) by clocking a distance of 1.295km in an hour. The previous record of 1.227km was held by David Robles Tapia of Spain.
Four Seasons Hotel Kuala Lumpur gave Soh permission to have 12 training sessions held over a month at its building in order to get ready.
“I did this to inspire sportsmen and sportswomen. To take on the Guinness World Records was one way to boost the sports industry.
“This was on my checklist, to make it to the Guinness World Records, make Malaysia proud and to also promote the towerrunning sport.
“I also do a lot of running on the road. That was one way to build up my endurance,” he said.
He also runs with weights.
As lovely as the hotel venue was, it came with its own challenges.
“The hotel stairs from the 22nd storey and above are very humid.”
“The hotel occupies the first 20 storeys of the 65-storey building while the rest are for private residences. Some areas are air-conditioned, some are not and some areas are dusty. However, the stairs were really easy to climb as they had handrails that I used to pull myself up,” he said.
Although the run was enjoyable, Soh prefers the challenge of running up a taller building.
“The Four Seasons Hotel is considered the third tallest building in Malaysia but I prefer something that is even taller.”
Does he plan to climb all the tallest buildings in the world?
“I have actually travelled around the world to climb tall buildings such as the Empire State Building in New York and the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
There is one building that is still on my checklist, which is the Burj Khalifah. Until now, they have not let anyone run up their staircases.”
He plans to write to the management and seek permission once the situation improves globally.
“The same goes with the Petronas Twin Towers. We haven’t got permission to run up the staircases there.”
KL Tower started towerrunning competitions in the late 1990s. However, towerrunning started in 1905 with competitors running up the Eiffel
Tower in Paris, and the race at the Empire State Building in New York has been held every year since 1978.
“If you want to promote the sport, you need to put a camera on every floor like they do on the Taipei 101, which holds the world championship of towerrunning. Every five floors, there is a camera that is linked to a big LED screen. So everybody can see what happens at the staircase. It is then live-streamed.”
The Eiffel Tower, which has an external staircase, has its runs live-streamed too.
“My parents actually woke up early to watch me run up the Eiffel Tower.”
Soh wants to make towerrunning a community event, by having contestants run up and down the stairs at MRT and LRT stations. Maybe even get a beverage company to give out a free gift to those who use the stairs.
He also plans to work with corporations to get their staff to use the stairs at their office buildings to encourage a healthy lifestyle.
“This is one way to promote the sport,” he said.