Edmonton's Tim Young is, quite literally, climbing to new heights as an elite stair runner.

Every year, several climbing races are held around the world, with competitors running up the stairs of some of the tallest towers and skyscrapers.

Young has been running stairs at an elite level for more than 22 years, and decided to take part in his first high-profile races last month.

"The more consecutive stairs the better," Young said of his decision to amp up his training.

Young competed in two of the biggest international races in North America, held back-to-back in Chicago. He scaled the 108-storey Willis (Sears) Tower in the SkyRise race, and climbed all 58 storeys of the Lasalle Tower in Chicago during the Climb for Life competition.

Tim came in 7th for the first race, and won the second,  scaling a total of 3,315 stairs in a single day of competition.  

The University of Alberta staffer scales at least 16,000 stairs a day in his training for the grueling races, squeezing in his workout during his coffee breaks and lunch hours on campus.

"I take stairs every chance I get," said Young, who estimates that he has run 50 million stairs at the Tory tower during his daily running ritual.

So how did he master an activity that makes most people grimace?

"Gentle persistence," said Young, 38, who says it's important for novice stair climbers to remember that their hearts "won't explode," even when sweat, pain and sore muscles suggest otherwise.

"In any workout, you want to get a routine going, you want to be doing it very regularly, otherwise your performance will go downhill very quickly."

Young admits that stair climbing, sometimes called "the lonely road," has a reputation for being boring. But he has found ways to beat the monotony.

"My brain never slows down though, and when I run, my brain is running faster, thinking about a million things, " he said. "If you focus too much on the training it can take you down, and it can feel like a chore."