DUBAI // Hundreds of runners stepped up to the challenge of ascending the 1,334 stairs of the Emirates Towers office block in a charity race yesterday morning.
The 230 participants in the Médecins Sans Frontières Vertical Marathon, organised by Jumeirah Emirates Towers and the Red Crescent Society, helped to raise Dh177,000 for the aid group. The race, in its eighth year, has now raised over Dh1 million.
Gustavo Ayres Netto, a 23-year-old Brazilian, climbed the 350-metre office tower in a winning time of 8 minutes 49 seconds, while Jo Phillimore from the UK was the fastest woman with a time of 11 minutes 57 seconds.
Mr Netto, a nutritionist and a triathlete, has been training for the event for more than a month.
"To train, I have been ascending between 160 to 200 floors a day," he said.
Mr Netto's fiancée was there to support him as he made the ascent. Along with the diamond-studded trophy he won, Mr Netto and his future wife received a free night at the Emirates Towers Hotel and a complimentary dinner for two.
In second place came Norbert Lechner, 28, of Austria. He made the ascent in 9 minutes 8 seconds. He flew to Dubai from Vienna to take part.
"I came specifically for this vertical marathon," he said. "I have competed in vertical marathons in London, New York City and now Dubai. There is a community of vertical marathoners around the world.
"It was hot running in the stairwell without air-conditioning. I'm used to training by running in the Austrian mountains where the temperature is around 10 degrees."
Taking third place for the female category was Alice Hartley, 39, an Australian legal manager who lives in Dubai.
"The reason I took part in this event is pure and simple - it's for the charity," she said. "I've been running on flats for years and wanted to go up. I wake up every morning at 6.30am and run 10km a day. I had a great time and made some friends, and I got an amazing trophy."
Last year's race involved 160 runners and raised Dh115,000.