Dubbed the ‘hardest kilometer in the world,’ Italy’s masochistic stair-climbing race is a mountain of 2,700 steps set alongside a mammoth hydroelectric pipeline.
Held last Sunday, April 17th, the Valtellina Vertical Tube race is as much spectacle as physical challenge. It’s open to any who wish to participate, but due to safety concerns and logistics, entry is restricted to 500 participants or fewer.
The course stretches 1KM in length, gaining hundreds of meters of elevation along the way. Runners sprint from the start then try and maintain a pace on the increasingly inclining course. Traction on the old cement is not helped by the rain and mist that plagued race day last weekend.
The grueling step race pits runners against 151 stories of climb, roughly one and a half times up the Empire State Building, along a near-endless line of narrow, weathered stone stairs.
A staggered, 30-second start ensures no one is shoved off the steps or trampled, and a rope runs the length of the climb so racers can hoist themselves along when not keeled over, pressing against their thighs.
This year, the women’s field departed first, with Emmie Collinge summiting first overall in 16 minutes, 10 seconds.
The men departed 30 minutes later, eventually crowning Francesco Puppi, in a time of 14 minutes, 20 seconds.
The race had an air of memorial for one of the event’s founders, Marco Gianatti, who died in a helicopter crash just months after the event last year.
Want to give the course a try? Info on next year’s tube race in Vatellina, Italy, is on the organization’s Facebook page.