First vertical marathon

Singapore Infopedia

by Nureza Ahmad


The first vertical marathon in Singapore was held on 3 May 1987. A total of 130 men and 50 women took part in the race up 1,336 steps to reach the top of the world’s tallest hotel at the time: the 73-storey, 226-metre-tall Westin Stamford (now known as Swissôtel The Stamford). Winners Kenneth Keng and Helen Gilbey clocked in at 7 min 20 s and 9 min 4 s respectively.1 The event raised S$20,000 for the local charity, Community Chest.

The inaugural vertical marathon was jointly organised by the hotels Westin Stamford and Westin Plaza to raise funds for the Community Chest. Participants of the race, which was open to the public, competed in climbing 1,336 steps in the shortest time. They had to be between 16 and 40 years old, and in reasonably good physical and mental health. The event was limited to 250 people and each participant was required to find sponsors to raise at least S$73 – a dollar for every floor of the hotel.

At 9 am on 3 May 1987, the marathon began with batches of four participants running up the steps of the hotel. Seven cameras were placed at various points along the route to telecast the event live to spectators on the ground floor of the building. Officials from the Singapore Amateur Athletic Association acted as marshals, timekeepers and recorders.4  

Air steward Kenneth Keng, 34, and College of Physical Education lecturer, Helen Gilbey, 31, emerged as winners in the men’s and women’s events respectively.5 Keng’s achievement in the race earned him a place in the 1987 Guinness World Records for being the fastest in stair-climbing.6 

The race, now known as the Swissôtel Vertical Marathon, is organised yearly by Swissôtel The Stamford.

Nureza Ahmad

1. Tan, S. (1987, May 4). Gruelling climb to success. The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Vertical marathon nets $20,000 for charity. (1987, June 18). The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
A race up 73 storeys to raise funds for Chest. (1987, April 7). The Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
A race up 73 storeys to raise funds for Chest. (1987, April 7). The Straits Times, p. 28. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Tan, S. (1987, May 4). Gruelling climb to success. The Straits Times, p. 32. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Tall order to break vertical marathon record. (1989, April 15). The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Swissôtel The Stamford. (n.d.). Race for a cause. Retrieved 2016, May 20 from Swissôtel Vertical Marathon website: 

The information in this article is valid as at 2016 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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