Coquitlam ‘Stair Master’ Challenge Attracts Elite Tower Climber

Coquitlam Crunch Diversity Challenge organizers created the Stair Master component of the event three years ago to provide another option for fitness advocates to support the charity that promotes diversity. The Stair Master sees competitors running up the 437 timber west stairs of the Coquitlam Crunch trail to determine the fastest ‘Stair Master’ in four ages groups for both male and female athletes. The Stair Master is the first event of the day and will start promptly at 8 a.m.

This year, elite tower climber Shaun Stephens-Whale of Roberts Creek, B.C. will be joining those vying for the title on Saturday, Sept. 8  and he’s registered in the 16 – 35 age group.  Shaun is known for competing in such stair races as the Eiffel Tower climb in Paris, France;  the Rainier Tower climb in Seattle, Washington; and he’s the current record-holder for the CN Tower climb in Toronto.

The 28-yr-old said his love for running started at the age of 12, when he saw a brochure for the BC Lung Association’s Climb the Wall event at the Sheraton Wall Centre. “At the time I already considered myself a serious runner, competing in many of the Vancouver’s local road races. The thought of running up a building was both a nauseating and exhilarating proposition – one that still captivates me to this day.” Shaun prepared for that first race by sprinting up and down the single flight of stairs in his living room while his dad sat on a couch, encouraging him and calling out splits. “50 times up, that was the goal, and four minutes of burning would just about get me there.”

“Of all the different types of training I do, none puts the body in more agony than a hard stair workout: lungs burning, legs flushed with lactic acid, vision squeezed as stars start to appear in your periphery,” said the former University of Victoria student who has decided to chase his dream of becoming one of the best tower runners in the world.

Tower running has seen tremendous growth with races occurring all across the globe and federations like vetting for the world’s best racers. Alongside the growth in competitiveness, stair climbing as a fitness and wellness tool is becoming more recognized with campaigns such as Take the Stairs Day. “This shouldn’t be surprising,” says Shaun, “as there is perhaps no better way of getting a quick, effective, full body workout than going up stairs.”

Although Shaun is now a serious contender for the 2018 Stair Master title at the 2018 Coquitlam Crunch Diversity Challenge, there are four age groups (15 yrs and under, 16 – 35 yrs, 36 – 64 yrs, 65 yrs or over) in both male and female divisions. A total of 24 medals (gold, silver, bronze) will be handed out for the Stair Master.

In 2016, the inaugural Stair Master had only nine people take part and Trevor Schmidt was the overall winner with a time of 2:08. With the event growing to twenty-five competitors in 2017, the overall winner was Steven Hughes with a time of 2:00. Despite doubling in size, the Stair Master only saw two competitors in the 15 and under age group, and that was Nathan Chow and Liepa Bajarunas, who both walked away with a gold medal. There were no entrants in the 65+ age group. This category will be evaluated for the global ranking of the TWA (Towerrunning World Association)

“We’re very excited to have Shaun competing this year!” said Alex Bell, event founder.”So many people come to the Crunch just to do the stairs. We know the Stair Master will grow, and we want to encourage all ages to try it. I know that there are some fit seniors out there, because I see them on the Crunch, and there are loads of Tri-Cities youth that would make the stairs look easy.”

The Stair Master will see competitors starting at 30 second intervals, and those that cannot make it to the top on a run, are asked to step to the side path to continue up walking, as not to impede the next contestant. The Crunch trail remains open to the public during the challenge, but the west stairs will be closed from 8 – 8:30 a.m. for the Stair Master. Crunch users will be able to cross over and use the new east stairs during that time.

Online registration is now underway thanks to Running Room, and timing is being handled by Trio Sports Events.   Registration for the Stair Master is also available on event day  (on location) at 7 a.m.  — Stair Master starts at 8 a.m. sharp. Registering online allows you to pick up your race kit in advance.

The 9th annual Coquitlam Crunch Diversity Challenge supports the Coquitlam Foundation’s  Community Diversity Fund, as well as the Dogwood Seniors Society’s dragon boat team, Nothin’ Dragon and their youth mentoring programs.

The 2018 event is supported by New Earth Marketing, Sandpiper Signs & Decals, On Track Dental, Oddball Workshop Apparel, Joep Olthuis of Shutter Up & Shoot, The Tri-City News, Yellow Dog Brewing, Mariner Brewing,  Magenta Printing & Imaging, City of Coquitlam, snapd Tri-Cities, Vancity, Body by Brandt, Rod Macbeth, Pasta Polo, Eagle Ridge Chevrolet Buick GMC,  Coquitlam Chrysler, Optimum Family Chiropractic, Shaunnessy Veterinary Clinic, lululemon, Starbucks, Jurgen Kaminski, and Hydro Pop Event Services Inc.

Get a reminder by RSVPing at the Facebook event page.

The Coquitlam Crunch ‘Diversity’ Challenge is an annual event founded by Tri-City’s resident Alex Bell, which celebrates diversity and supports the Nothin’ Dragon Masters senior dragon boat team and their community programs, and the Coquitlam Foundation’s ‘Diversity’ Fund. The event started in 2010 and takes place at the Coquitlam Crunch hiking trail in B.C., Canada. The event started in 2010 and takes place at the Coquitlam Crunch hiking trail in B.C., Canada. The Challenge features a Stair Master competition; the Make It Or Break It 4-hour competition; and a Recreational category.


Coquitlam Crunch ‘Stair Master’ Competitors Challenged to Beat Helsinki’s World’s Fastest Stair Run!

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7th annual Coquitlam Crunch ‘Diversity’ Challenge a Success!

Under new leadership, and with many new improvements in place, the 7th annual Coquitlam Crunch ‘Diversity’ Challenge,  held on September 10th was deemed a success by organizers. This year’s event saw the addition of a timing system provided and overseen by tricity’s Trio Sports Events, and pre-event registration took place through the Running Room, with local race kit pickup at the Port Coquitlam location.  All the event photos can be seen on Facebook HERE.

“Although our numbers were not as high as we’d anticipated, the weather was perfect, and almost everyone that participated said they’d be back again next year,” said Nothin’ Dragon president, Brian Kenny who co-chaired the event with paddling teammate and three year Crunch volunteer, Robbin Whachell. “When the sponsors say it was worth their while, and they want to return, you know the event went well!” said Whachell.

Monies raised from the event will  benefit both seniors and youth through the Nothin’ Dragon Masters senior paddling team who mentor challenged youth, as well as to build the ‘Diversity Fund’ housed under the Coquitlam Foundation, which was created by Crunch Challenge event founder Alex Bell in 2010.  Bell served as an advisor this year and both he and his wife Laurel were actively involved on event day, and Bell had the  honourary roll of handing out the gold, silver and bronze medals for both the Stair Master and Make It Or Break It categories, which were split into four age groups in both male and female divisions.

Adding to the event excitement was the heroic 24-hour Crunch marathon by Port Moody resident Guy Black, who successfully completed his goal with a total of 20 laps of the 4.5 km trail loop from bottom to top and back.

The inaugural Stair Master competitors! Check our results page to see who placed.

The inaugural Stair Masters competitors! Trevor Schmidt (in fluorescent green) was named the Stair Master for 2016. Check our results page to all the times. (Photo: Joep Olthuis)

“Guy’s feat was greatly supported by the community, and he rarely walked alone, even during the night. “A lady named Frida, who I never met before, walked with me Friday afternoon and then showed up at midnight with her daughter and daughter’s friend,” said Black.  “They were wearing bright headlights and arrived at our support tent and walked with me to the top and back. Frida was concerned for my safety and she showed up again around 3:00 am and walked with me once more.” You can read Guy Black’s post marathon recap HERE.

Guy was supported the entire 24 hours by Diane Lee of Coquitlam’s Kang-Ho Hapkido Martial Arts Academy.  Many fellow academy members came out to cheer him on, and walk with him. His effort was also dedicated to Amanda Todd’s Legacy, and Carol Todd was out at the start and completion of Black’s marathon.  On Saturday, Honourary Colonel Ted Hawthorne of the British Columbia Regiment presented Guy with a Colonel’s Challenge Coin for his community work in honouring veterans.


Guy Black completed 20 laps in 24 hours, and is seen here with Honourary Colonel Ted Hawthorne of the British Columbia Regiment who presented Guy with a Colonel’s Challenge Coin for his community work in honouring veterans (Photo: Joep Olthuis)

The Crunch Challenge’s inaugural Stair Master component (group photo seen at the top) had competitor’s run the 437 stairs of the Crunch to see who was the fastest, and a mother, young child and the family dog took the tiresome run up the stairs (doggy first).  Trevor Schmidt was named the Stair Master for 2016 with a time of 2:08.o.  See the official results of the Stair Master HERE.


Several of the competitors in the inaugural Stair Master competition, to see who could run up the 437 stairs of the Crunch the fastest. Trevor Schmidt (far left) was named the Stair Master for 2016. Tara Carruthers (seen third in purple) was the top female competitor. Craig Premack placed first in the over 55; Liam Cotnor in the U15 group; and Carmen Lee in the 16-35 age group. Check our results page for more. (Photos: Joep Olthuis)

“We’ve already been in touch with the City of Helsinki to see about sending our  future winners to attempt their mountain and stair climb which inspired the Stair Master event at the Crunch,” said Brian Kenny.  “We are quite sure our stairs are much harder and longer than the stairs in Finland, and we will invite their fastest stair runner here.”

Although former record-holder of the Make It Or Break It Matt Sessions did not attend this year, some serious competitors came out to see how many times they could do the full loop of the Crunch in 4-hours.  Olympian Tina Connelly took the 2016 title matching Sessions with 8 loops as the new record holder, with a time of 3:56.48 — a distance of 35.2 km.  Connelly said entering was a last minute decision.  “The experience was a ‘challenge’ for sure, but I was pretty confident that I could get 8 loops in.  I planned to do the first 3 loops harder so that I could get a good buffer of time to work with, once the legs fatigued on the last few stair runs, and it seemed to work well for me.  As far as next year, I’m not sure. I think trying to do 9 loops in 4 hrs would be almost impossible for me so, I’m pretty satisfied with what I did here and that may be it for me. I’ll leave it to the young ones.” Read our feature about Connelly HERE.

To view all the results of the Make It Or Break It, click HERE.

“The event is well on its way of becoming a signature sport and community event for  Coquitlam, and has the potential to become one for the Vancouver Lower Mainland, and the west coast region,” said Robbin Whachell, who said she has met people who drive over the Port Mann Bridge to climb the Crunch on a regular basis. “I met a woman in Surrey who told me she carpools with her friends, and they love the Coquitlam Crunch, because it’s a whole lot easier than driving all the way to the Grouse Grind, and it’s free.”


The one to beat in 2017! Olympian Tina Connelly is the 2016 “Make It Or Break It” winner and new record holder with a total of 8 loops in 3:56.48 — a distance of 35.2 km. Check our results page for all the results in four age groups. (Photos: Joep Olthuis)

Next year’s date has already been announced and the event will take place on Saturday, September 9th, 2017. Interested sponsors can contact the organizing team at

The Coquitlam Crunch Challenge would not be possible without our volunteers, partners and sponsors.

Thanks goes out to the New Earth Marketing; Rod Macbeth and 98.7 CKPM FM The Point Radio; Eagle Ridge Chevrolet, Buick, GMCPasta Polo; Coquitlam Centre; Thrifty Foods  Vancity Port Moody, Wiivv Custom Fit 3D-Printed Orthotics, Jessica Prasad, Starbucks, MaxFit Movement Institute, Xaler Massage, KD Fitness, Tri-City Printing, and the City of Coquitlam.

(Photos by and special thanks to event photographer,  Joep Olthuis,


Just some of the faces at Coquitlam Crunch ‘Diversity’ Challenge 2016 from left to right: Robbin Whachell, Janet Toddington, Mayor Richard Stuart, Sheynal Saujani, Alex Bell, Terry O’Neil, Jodie Wickens and children, Selina Robinson, Laurel Lawson, and Brian Kenny. (Photo: Joep Olthuis)

The Coquitlam Crunch ‘Diversity’ Challenge is an annual event founded by Tri-City’s resident Alex Bell, which celebrates diversity and supports the Nothin’ Dragon Masters senior dragon boat team and their community programs, and the Coquitlam Foundation’s ‘Diversity’ Fund. The event started in 2010 and takes place at the Coquitlam Crunch hiking trail in B.C., Canada. The Challenge features a Stair Master competition; the Make It Or Break It 4-hour competition; and a Recreational category.

“The concept of diversity encompasses acceptance and respect. It means understanding that each individual is unique, and recognizing our individual differences.  These can be along the dimensions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, socio-economic status, age, physical abilities, religious beliefs, political beliefs, or other ideologies.  It is the exploration of these differences in a safe, positive, and nurturing environment. It is about understanding each other and moving beyond simple tolerance to embracing and celebrating the rich dimensions of diversity contained within each individual.” – Source


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