This 78-year-old ran to the top of 52-floor Dubai tower — four times

The Dubai Holdings SkyRun had competitors race to the top of the Jumeirah Emirates Towers via 1,334 stairs

Photo by Shihab
Photo by Shihab

Nasreen Abdulla

Published: Sat 12 Nov 2022, 1:39 PM

Last updated: Sat 12 Nov 2022, 5:05 PM

Out of over 250 runners who raced to the top of Dubai's Jumeirah Emirates Towers on Saturday, one stood out: A 78-year-old who scaled the building four times over.

It was the first time such a feat was achieved in the history of Dubai Sky Run.

Giovanni Potenza may not have won the race as he finished his first lap in 13 minutes and 49 seconds — but he was the biggest star of the day. Several runners even came up to him to take selfies.

“Dubai is a special place, and I really enjoyed this race,” he said, speaking through a translator after the race. “I am glad I was able to finish it.”

However, the Italian admitted that nerves got to him on the eve of the race. “I was a bit jittery, and I couldn’t sleep well,” he said. “And it affected my performance a bit. I think I could have shaved a few seconds off my time if I had gotten more sleep.”

The septuagenarian follows a strict diet and training schedule and explained that if he missed a day of training, it made him feel like he was missing a part of his life.

'My dream is to climb Burj Khalifa'

The 17th Dubai Holdings Sky Run had competitors run to the top of the Jumeirah Emirates Towers’ 52 floors via 1,334 stairs.

Malaysian Soh Wai Ching emerged as the winner, setting a new course record of 6 minutes, 52 seconds. The elite tower runner, who lived in Dubai until last year, says he dreams of running up the Burj Khalifa one day.

“That is my dream,” he said. “I also want to attempt a Guinness World Record by scaling the 10 tallest buildings in Dubai.”

The first Asian to win Empire State Building Run-Up, Soh broke the previous record of 6.55 minutes despite having two accidents.

“When we were running towards the building, another runner crashed into me,” he said. “And when I got to the base of the staircase, there was a mat on which I slipped and fell. So, both of these set me back a little bit.”

Here is Soh with his medal:

A new course record was also set in the women’s division with first female stairclimbing world champion, Yuri Yoshizumi, finishing in 8 minutes 14 seconds.


Age is just a number

For 61-year-old Jane from Australia — who has been tower-running for five years — it was the promise of breakfast that got her into her first competition.

“There was a stair-climbing in Sydney of 600 steps and afterwards there was breakfast overlooking the harbour,” she said. “I thought I’d give it a try. At least I would get a good meal and then became a fan of the sport.”

Since then, Jane has travelled around the world doing the sport and climbed several buildings including the Empire State building earlier this year. However, she said her life of tower-racing is a far cry from being a chef as a youngster.

“I was extremely overweight and as I was hitting 40, I realised I needed to make changes,” she said, then choosing to switch over to the fitness industry.

Experience of a lifetime

For first-time runner Jacqueline Ratcliffe, it was the experience of a lifetime. “I am still able to walk,” she chuckled. “But I have a feeling it is a delayed onset of soreness, and my legs will be lead for the rest of the day.”

This isn’t the only physical activity the Dubai Holding employee is doing. “We are practising to participate in the Gov Games so this was part of our training,” she said. The 37-year-old finished second in the open category, finishing the race in 13.02 minutes.

Part of the Dubai Fitness Challenge, the Dubai Holding Sky run will donate all proceeds from the event to Al Jalila Foundation’s Majlis Al Amal in support of the wellbeing of female cancer patients and survivors.


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