Fit & Fab

Climbing up in the world

Stair-climber Richard Sirrs broke the previous record at a stair-climbing race at The Gherkin in London in 2015.
Stair-climber Richard Sirrs broke the previous record at a stair-climbing race at The Gherkin in London in 2015.ST PHOTO: GIN TAY

Top stair-climber Richard Sirrs has taken part in races in places such as Paris, London and Bangkok

What is your secret to looking fabulous?

It is about having a consistent and sustainable approach to exercise.

It is very important for me to keep up with my fitness routine as it benefits me not just physically, but mentally as well. I feel restless when I do not get my dose of exercise. I run up stairs, on the track and at MacRitchie Reservoir.

I am a competitive person, so staying fit is a must as I regularly take part in races - from aquathlons (a two-stage race involving swimming and running) to vertical marathons. I have been participating in vertical marathons for a few years now and am considered the top stair-climber in Singapore today.

How did you get into stair-climbing?

I was backpacking in Bangkok in 2011 and saw a race at the Banyan Tree Hotel. I was intrigued by the concept and decided to have a go at it. I was surprised at how difficult it was. I finished 18th. I went back to the same race last year and came in first.

Which other races have stood out for you?

In 2015, I was the fastest runner at the inaugural United Kingdom Championship series at The Gherkin in London, when I ran up 41 storeys in four minutes and 23 seconds, breaking the previous record.

In 2016, I was invited to the La Verticale de la Tour Eiffel in Paris. Back then, it was by invite-only, but now, it is a mix of invitation and balloting.


  • AGE: 33

    HEIGHT: 1.83m

    WEIGHT: 72kg

    Apart from running and swimming, he climbs stairs to keep fit and regularly takes part in vertical marathons.

    To date, the business lead at an environmental consultancy, who moved from Britain to Singapore in June 2016, has taken part in more than 20 vertical races.

    In Singapore, he participated in the annual Swissotel Vertical Marathon last year, where he came in second for running up 69 storeys in seven minutes and 32 seconds.

    He also heads a stair-running club called Total Motion Towerrunners, which was set up in April this year. The club currently has more than 20 members and they regularly train together at Pinnacle@Duxton.

    He is married to Ms Fiona Chen, 33, a senior editor at an online travel magazine. They have no children.

You run up an open stairwell, so I could hear my friends shouting for me almost up to the mid-way point. You can feel the wind blowing through a door and see the lights of Paris below.

It grows quiet when you are half-way up. That is when you can hear the creaks of the metal framework and the wind. It is a magical experience and the event was screened on Eurosports live. But it was a very tough race and I did not do well.

Has there ever been a time when you were not fit and fab?

When I was in primary school, I competed in running and swimming at county levels. I was also part of the rugby and cricket teams in primary and secondary school.

Unfortunately, I neglected exercising when I was in university and ate unhealthily as well.

I resumed exercising when I started working as a teacher in northern Spain - I really enjoyed running around the mountains.

What is your diet like?

I do not adhere to a particular diet, but I try to eat healthily. I enjoy two slices of peanut butter toast with coffee for breakfast. My Singaporean wife prepares a lunchbox for me, which is usually a salad.

Dinner is a fuss-free affair, which can be a takeaway from an economy rice stall or a plate of steak with steamed vegetables and potatoes we cook at home.

What are your indulgences?

I have a major sweet tooth and I cannot resist chocolates, Haribo sweets and biscuits.

How do you maintain a healthy work-life balance?

I used to cycle to work. There was a gym I could shower in, but my new office building does not have one, so I no longer do so.

I am thinking of joining the gym near my office so I can squeeze in a workout during my lunchtime.

What are the three most important things in your life?

Health over financial gain, my wife and acquiring knowledge.

What is your favourite and least favourite part of your body?

My wife says I have toned legs so I will go with that.

I do not like my teeth - they are stained from years of drinking tea and coffee.

What are your must-dos before and after a workout?

I do not really have any, except for drinking tea after a workout.

How has your active lifestyle influenced your family and friends?

I got my friends and family interested in running and stair-running.

My brother Daniel also took up stair-running. We even compete in the same races at times.

How extensive is your collection of sports-related paraphernalia?

I have a collection of trail running shoes as they wear out very quickly.

Would you go for plastic surgery?

Only if I lose all my hair.

Do you think you are sexy?

Only when I wear my sexy outfits.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2019, with the headline 'Climbing up in the world'. Print Edition | Subscribe