Throughout the UAE we are surrounded by high-rises and stunning skyscrapers, but it’s a very rare occurrence for most of us to take a flight of stairs rather than a speedy lift to our final destination.
But, as we know, that’s not the case in Abu Dhabi on Friday.
‘Don’t go too fast at the start, don’t burn all your energy straight away.’ If you’re competing in the Climb to Abu Dhabi, you’d be wise to take on board the wise words of three-time world champion and event ambassador, Piotr Lobodzinski.
The beaming Pole is well versed when it comes to stair climbing and after picking up his third consecutive world series title in Hong Kong in December last year, the man, who has been combining training and competing with part-time museum work in Warsaw, is a master of his art.
For Lobodzinski, who has always been a naturally fit and keen endurance go-getter, vertical marathon climbing is the perfect fit.
Since his first race in the Polish capital back in 2011 and his first victory in Prague in the same calendar year, the 31-year-old has dominated the nine-race Vertical World Circuit Tour.
Although he’ll be cheering participants on from the sidelines in the UAE capital in his supportive role with the event, if Lobodzinski did compete in the elite category – he would scale Tower 2 of the Jumeirah at Etihad Towers (82 floors/1,617 steps) in around eight to nine minutes.
His speed, is in fact scary. He’s won about 70 per cent of the races he’s competed in and is the best there is at the moment.
“I started to travel around the world competing five years ago and I am now very experienced, and know the sport inside out,” he told Sport360 ahead of his return to UAE soil for the event, held under the initiative of the Abu Dhabi Sports Council.
“It is brilliant to have this event in Abu Dhabi and to help grow the sport in the Middle East. I’m excited to see a new generation of stair runners on show.”
Staying at the top isn’t easy and Lobodzinski’s training regime is strict – and it needs to be – if he is going to continue reaching the heaviest of heights.
“I run between 80-120km per week on flat roads and I train up to 20 hours a week, including the stair climbing exercises, with core work, gym and recovery factored in, in-between.
“My diet is normal and I’m not crazy about it, but I try to stay clear of fast food and fizzy drinks.”
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And for the day of the race itself, what does Piotr recommend you eat before competing?
“You should eat a light breakfast, two to three hours before, and keep everything normal – like you would for any other running event. Don’t do anything differently.”
While long-distance running can wear and tear your body down to the ground, climbing flights of stairs is different and has many health benefits, according to the world No1.
“My sport is quite specific and it is hard, you feel exhausted at the finish line. But I think it’s a very healthy sport to compete in and you don’t tend to pick up many injuries. Because of the up and down nature of stair climbing, it is actually healthy for your knees and ankles.”
And when it comes down to the race in the heart of the UAE capital this weekend, Lobodzinski very much reinstates his message that controlling your speed is very important.
“For anybody who is running for the first time, the first five to 10 floors goes quickly and your mind thinks it’s easy, a piece of cake.
“But, after that, you start to slow down and suffer. That’s why it’s important to conserve energy and start at your own pace, because otherwise the rest of tower running races can be horrible.
“It’s important that you try and control the adrenaline rush and not get too distracted by what other runners are doing on the staircase.
“You want to try and keep your legs as fresh for as long as possible, avoiding the build up of lactic acid and finish strong.”
In terms of technique, Lobodzinski advises runners to use the hand-rails at every opportunity and reach forward, giving every stride more leverage.
“This can really help your movement, control your speed and take some of the workload off of your legs – like sprinters do – using your arms wisely is a very crucial part of the sport.”
Lobodzinski is excited to see his sport traverse new cities and markets, giving more people the chance to learn about what is still, it would be fair to say, a niche sport.
And with growing prize money, glamourous race settings around the world and the support of major sponsors, the vertical circuit is very much on the way up.
If you are competing on Friday, you do have time for some last minute training.
Lobodzinski recommends that you try tackling the stairs at your apartment or work building.
“If you have time, don’t use the elevator, try the stairs. Get the feeling of running up them and see how your body reacts, what it feels like,” the runner said.
With just 30 days left to the third edition of the Abu Dhabi Tour, the four-day race has had its stages confirmed.
This year the Abu Dhabi Tour can boast UCI WorldTour status; unique for a race in the Middle East. WorldTour ranking points will be up for grabs every day, a very important goal for each of the teams and riders.
The vast majority of cycling’s elite teams will be at the start of the race (16 out of 18), and include some of the world’s best riders who have confirmed their participation.
The route will be similar to the first two editions.
Three stages dedicated to the sprinters and one to the climbers or brave punchers along a fast-balanced route, riding in between the desert and the sea, going from the mountains to the city.
The opening stage will take its now traditional route, starting and finishing in Madinat Zayed, and running entirely through the desert.
New features are packed into stage two, starting from Al Maryah Island, Abu Dhabi’s business and lifestyle destination, and featuring as many landmarks as possible: in this tour of the capital city fans can follow the riders past iconic locations such as the Corniche, the Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum, Al Reem Island, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Old Al Bahia, Al Sadar. The probable bunch sprint will take place on Al Marina, close to the Big Flag.
The third stage, as usual, is the mountain stage, where climbers and puncheurs will fight for general classification on the Jabel Hafeet uphill finish at an altitude of 1.025m.
The grand finale is once again confirmed for the iconic Yas Marina Circuit.
Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, the Founding Chairman of the Al Habtoor Group, confirmed the sponsorship for the second consecutive year at a press conference, held at The St. Regis Dubai, Al Habtoor City on Tuesday.
Al Habtoor was joined by Mohammed Al Habtoor, Vice-Chairman and CEO, Al Habtoor Group; Lt. General Mohammad Halal Al Kaabi, Head of the Organizing Committee, Zayed Charity Marathon and Colonel Mohammad Ali Amer, General Coordinator, Zayed Charity Marathon, at the announcement.
Following the success of last year’s event, the Al Habtoor Group-backed event, also known as the UAE Healthy Kidney 10K, will see thousands of people run through Central Park on Sunday April 9th 2017.
Speaking about the run that has now become an integral part of the New York sporting calendar, Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor said: “I am proud to announce the Al Habtoor Group’s sponsorship of the Zayed Charity Marathon in New York in honour of the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. The event raises awareness for a good cause and honours the generous, caring spirit of the Founding Father of the UAE.”
Lt. General Mohammad Halal Al Kaabi, Head of the Organizing Committee, confirmed a delegation from the Zayed Charity Marathon will visit two hospitals in the United States: one in DC and one in Baltimore. He added that the Zayed Marathon had generated $150 million over the past 12 years.
Al Habtoor, who attended last year’s marathon, added: “This shows the giving spirit of the UAE. This year has been named the Year of Giving, however the Year of Giving is every year for the UAE.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to showcase the UAE in New York. Emirati-style majlises were set up in Central Park, and people from all over the world got a chance to experience Emirati hospitality.
“It was a lovely atmosphere for a great cause to honour a great man.”
Al Habtoor Group, headquartered in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is one of the region’s largest and most respected conglomerates. Founded in 1970 by Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, the Group has grown in unison with the UAE and today has a diverse portfolio of successful business operating in key sectors of the economy (hospitality, automotive, real estate, education and publishing). The AHG has an unwavering commitment to excellence, which is apparent throughout all its units.