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Race you to the top of the tower! Vertical Rush review


Now in its eighth year, Vertical Rush retains the record as the UK's tallest and toughest tower-running challenge, with 932 steps and 42 floors to conquer. 

Here's how I got on when I tackled the 600ft ascent along with Nell McAndrew...

Getting breathless heading up the stairs of Liverpool Street Station did not inspire me with confidence as I headed to the start line of Tuesday's Vertical Rush race.

Click here to watch a video of our race

Nell takes a selfie with FEMAIL's Lucy Waterlow before they start the race up 42 floors. She said she felt nervous but 'I think I can do it!'

Nell and I take a selfie at the start

Tower 42 loomed into view as soon as I exited the Tube and seeing how high it stretched into the sky bought home the challenge ahead - stampeding up 42 floors and covering 932 steps.

The event in aid of housing and homelessness charity Shelter is for all abilities with teams and individuals pitted against celebrities and elite tower runners.London's Tower 42 hosted the eighth Vertical Rush

I had agreed to take part alongside model Nell McAndrew, 42, who boasts an impressive marathon personal best time of two hours and 54 minutes.

I helped Nell write her Guide To Running, published by Bloomsbury, so I know how dedicated she is to her training, clocking up 90 miles a week when she was preparing for the London Marathon in 2012. 

Since then, she's had a daughter, nearly three (a sister for her son, nine) so as a busy mother-of-two she no longer clocks up the same mileage, instead fitting in exercise as and when she can.

She currently takes part in her local 5k parkrun and British Military Fitness classes, as well as lifting weights at the gym under the guidance of former rugby professional Mel Deane.

So while she may not currently be in shape to run a marathon PB (but has plans to crack that in the future), she is still super fit and strong - so I didn't fancy my chances of keeping up with her.

Arriving to collect my number and red race T-shirt, the pre-race atmosphere was adrenaline-inducing with a brass band playing the Rocky theme tune and the professional stair racers warming up on exercise bikes. 

Nell admitted she was also feeling a little apprehensive: 'The music is making me feel a bit nervous!' she said, adding, '42 floors and over 900 steps, I think I can do it!'

We were led through a brief warm-up and then it was time to be funnelled through to the race start.

Due to the narrow staircase to be climbed - that can only fit three abreast - the runners are staggered going up. It doesn't influence the end result as everyone has a chip on their race number to give them an accurate time from start to finish - or rather, bottom to top. 

Once we had reached the start line, Nell bounded off ahead of me taking the steps with ease and was soon out of sight. I felt pretty sure I wouldn't see her again until the finish.

The first few flights went by in a blur as I tried to step as quickly as possible while using the banister to swing and propel myself anti-clockwise up the ascent (a technique I regretted when I had a sore shoulder the next day).

As you go round and round and climb higher and higher, it can soon get disorientating and I didn't have a clue how many minutes I had been going for or how long I had left to go.

Some runners had slowed to a walk and I was able to overtake, while other speedy people tore up behind me.A sign revealing the equivalent height reached - as high as Tower Bridge - at floor nine

However, we then came to a standstill due to a bottle-neck - which I later discovered was due to a poor woman collapsing and having to be rescued from the stairwell by first aiders who were quickly on hand.

Money saving expert Martin Lewis said he was near her the moment she got into trouble and stopped to ensure the up-coming runners came to a halt so she could be helped.

The hold up allowed me to catch up with Nell but once we were underway again she quickly darted off again.

I kept on climbing, aiming to run the whole way but getting progressively slower with my quads burning.

I still had no idea how many floors up I had gone, as I was concentrating hard on the floor to avoid tripping up.

I was able to glimpse some useful signs along the way though revealing how far up we were - for example, we surpassed the height of the London Eye, Tower Bridge and Blackpool Tower along the way.

Finally, the cheery marshals on the stairway shouted that there were just four flights to go so I made a final effort to 'sprint' for the finish.

Nell waves as she speeds up the tower. The mother-of-two currently keeps fit by joining in 5k parkruns, British Military Fitness classes and weight training with former professional rugby player Mel Deane

Nell was waiting at the top looking fresh and happy by the time I arrived.

Lucy during the climb'It was all right not too bad. I was out of breath at first but recovered, she said of her run, jokingly adding, 'I could do it again now!'

When the results were published, Nell was the top of the celebrity table with a time of 8 minutes 17 seconds (including the bottle-neck hold up and stopping to take pictures).

Meanwhile, I wasn't as far behind as I thought, finishing in 8 minutes and 54 seconds with a similar hold up and attempts to shoot video while running.

The overall winner was professional stair runner Piotr Lobodzinski who bounded up in just four minutes and 29 minutes and the fastest female, Lenka Svabikova, ran five minutes and 36 seconds.

At the top, runners got their breath back and compared aching muscles and stair climbing technique (one or two at a time?) while taking in the spectacular view across London. 

Nell admitted the view was 'well worth the climb', as well as the fact the event was all in aid of Shelter.

The race raised more than £350,000 for the charity's expert advice, support and legal services - which make a huge difference to thousands of families battling to keep a roof over their heads.Nell starts her climb bounding up the 42 floors

Celebrity runner Calum Best said afterwards supporting their work was the reason he took part - and he was delighted to finish as the first male celebrity.

He said: 'I can't quite believe that I managed to get up there so quickly – it's a lot tougher than you think. 

'But it's definitely been worth the effort to support the amazing work that Shelter does. I think it's great when charities put on an event that challenges you, while also helping others.'

Gail Porter, who made a quick exit to take part in a charity boxing match, agreed saying: 'I would happily race up Tower 42 all over again, because I know from personal experience just how scary it feels to lose your home.

'Shelter is as important now as it was 50 years ago, providing a lifeline for millions of families struggling every day to keep a roof over their head. 

'I feel blessed to have now come out the other side and be able to do something to help.'

In total nearly 1,100 runners took part including Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter.

He said: 'We are incredibly grateful that so many people have come together to take part in Vertical Rush – because every penny it raises and every aching muscle that goes with it, helps us to provide the critical frontline services needed for families facing homelessness.

'Shelter has been fighting bad housing and homelessness for the past fifty years, but sadly with the country in the grip of another housing crisis, we’ve still got a lot more work to. We won’t rest until everyone has a place to call home.'

Barry Rushmer, general manager of Tower 42 added: 'We are very proud of our long-standing collaboration with the charity and the turnout for this year's event is fantastic, with close to 1,100 sign ups, from celebrities, to press and members of the public. 

'On behalf of all here at Tower 42, I would like to congratulate all of those who have taken part, your sponsorship pledge will go a long way to help Shelter's vital work. We hope the view from Vertigo at the top was worth it!'

If you are inspired to take on the challenge entries are already open for next year's race via www.shelter.org.uk/verticalrush 

You don't need to be as fit as Nell to take part as you can walk all the way to the top if you need to. Unlike doing a race like a marathon, you also don't need to spend weeks training for it, just practise by taking the stairs over the lift whenever you can!

Nell and Lucy at the top of the tower were rewarded with a spectacular view over the capital after their energetic race to the top



1 Nell McAndrew – TV presenter, model and amateur athlete 00:08:17

2 Calum Best – TV personality, entrepreneur 00:08:56

3 George Lineker – Son of Gary Lineker 00:09:42

4 Sarah Lamptey – TV and radio presenter 00:09:48

5 Martin Lewis, OBE – Journalist, presenter and author 00:10:34

6 Jake Sims – Solo artist, former member of Stereo Kicks 00:11:28

7 Rachel Christie – Celebrity Love Island and model 00:11:31

8 George Gilbey – Gogglebox 00:11:36

9 Hatty Keane – R&B Artist 00:11:56

10 Kieran Mcleod – DJ and Big Brother contestant 00:12:37

11 Gail Porter – TV presenter and former model 00:12:38

12 Antix – Rapper 00:13:06

13 Pascal Craymer – Reality TV personality 00:14:51