Race Report: Under Armour 50 Flight Fight, Prudential Center, Boston.
On Saturday November 5, the day before the annual race at the Sears (Willis) Tower in Chicago, over 1,000 athletes from both the local area and from around the world descended on Boston’s Prudential Tower for a race celebrating the sports retailer Under Armour’s opening of a flagship store in the attached Prudential Center Mall.
The Prudential Tower is a 52 story building topped with a restaurant on the 52nd floor and a public observation deck on the 50th floor, and is second only to the 60 floor John Hancock building as the tallest in Boston. It is Boston’s only member of the World Federation of Great Towers, but had not hosted a stair race for several years. After an initial untimed ceremonial run of about 150 meters through front door and over a red carpet through the mall, the course consists of stairway a narrow enough to permit use of both rails, turning left, with two flights per floor. The timed portion of the race began in the elevator lobby on the first floor and concluded in the 50th floor observatory, representing an ascent of approximately 192 meters.
The registration was announced only weeks before the event. An event scheduled for the same day at the nearby John Hancock building was postponed as a result. Unique to the event, especially for US stairclimbs, was free registration, absence of other donation or fundraising requirements, and, most significantly, a $5,000 prize for the overall winner, and $10,000 prize for the fastest Massachusetts first responder for use at their firehouse or police station. Unfortunately, there was only one overall prize, and there were no gender specific prizes. In spite of the event being free, swag included a UA technical event shirt, finishers medal, and event photos. The event also required the top two competitors to race head to head in a second round for the grand prize.
The top three finishers were from outside the USA: From Poland, Defending World Champion Piotr Lobodzinski completed his first climb in 4:59. Canadian Shaun Stephens-Whale took second with a time of 5:25. Visiting from Columbia, Frank Carreno turned in a time of 5:27 for third place. Frank then proceeded to win at Willis Tower the next morning with a time of 13:10, seven seconds off the course record. Sproule Love was the top US participant, finishing fourth with a time of 5:49.
In the final round, Piotr beat his previous climb by one second, winning with a time of 4:58, taking the prize of $5,000. Shaun took three seconds off his first time and put down a 5:22. Both incredibly strong climbs, improving despite brutal efforts earlier in the day.
The women’s division winners were all from Massachusetts; with only a single overall prize, there was little incentive for elite women to travel for this event. Leah Eickhoff was first with a time of 7:07, Liliana Harrington was second with a time of 7:14, and Blair Robinson was third with a time of 8:06.
Brian Baxter of West Roxbury Massachusetts won the public safety division with a final time of 7:16, winning $10,000 for his department.
It was a fun event overall, although the final round was held in the evening, long after most participants left for home, or the race at Willis tower the next morning. Let's hope we get more races like this, with low/no entry and a real prize fund, but with a prize split and a prize per gender too.