Stair Climbing

One of the developments of my fitness training was taking up stair climbing. Stairs had been a common theme in my exercise program because it was something I could do. I had to go up stairs frequently at work and at home and although I would get out of breath I could manage steps pretty well. I started out doing 10 minutes of step aerobics in my garage, and slowly built on that. After a while I started using an old Nordic Track skier I hadn't used in years but had enjoyed in prior years. I began to consider where I was going with my exercise program. Did I want to develop into an endurance athlete, a body builder, where was I headed? I was looking for a running race for my son on the Tuxedo Brothers web site and noticed there was a race up a building in Indianapolis, the "Bop to the Top" held at the AUL building in downtown Indy. This sounded interesting and I began looking for more similar runs, I found a site tower running that lists tower runs all over the world. That is when I found the Go Vertical run up the Sears Tower on Nov. 16 2003. I entered the race and began to train for it.

 Your ALT-Text here Stair races have been a great encouragement for me; they give me something challenging to prepare for. The races themselves have been different than I thought they would be, I originally thought that I would be serious and competitive about the races. I have found the races are really a celebration of "I can do this" and a reward for my preparation, more than a test. I really enjoy meeting other runners at the races and talking stairs. I have met many great people stair climbing, some are relatively fast and some are relatively slow but all of them are out there doing it!  The vast majority of my stair climbing experience is very solitary (which is great) but it is nice to have time to come together with others pursuing fitness. The picture to the left is Linda and I in the lobby of the One America tower in Indianapolis before the Bop to the Top.


Go Vertical                   Sears Tower, Chicago, Illinois

My first Go Vertical in November 2003 was a big milestone for me, I was not sure what to expect having no way to train for a continuous upward climb of that length. I was pleased with the results of my first stair climb. I finished in 94th place out of around 600 runners which put me in the top 16 percent of the runners. I feel that is pretty good for a guy who would get out of breath bringing in the groceries a year before.

Everyone associated with the event was great and I had a wonderful time. My shirt with the before picture on the front and back brought many congratulations and encouraging comments. I had three very nice interviews, one with Sharon Wright from NBC5 just prior to the race (which my mom happened to see live) and segments were played at the news at 5 and 10 O'clock.

Click here to listen to the 30sec. Channel 5 report (I am the second interview)

I completed Sears Tower again in November, 2004 and had a great time again. I met many interesting people and had some recognize me as the fat guy with the web site. The best thing about Sears this year is that it was a beautiful clear day in Chicago and the view from the top was awesome, it is one thing to look down after taking the elevator to the sky deck, there is a feeling of accomplishment to have climbed up there. My climbing time at Sears was OK but I was slowed by the only real injury I've had in my Journey which was an aggravation of a broken ankle  I had in high school. I was fine for the race but my training for the race was much less frequent than previous races.

Bop to the Top          One America building, Indianapolis Indiana

This has been a great race for me, it is sort of my home field located about 20 minutes from my house. WASWAYFAT.COM has been a floor sponsor for the last two years and have enjoyed running up the 37 floors. The Bop has been around a long time (2005 was the 22nd year) and there are many folks who run it annually. The attendance is good with about 700 people running the last two years. I ran the first time on January 24, 2004 and again January 29, 2005.  The first time I ran it I thought it would be a sprint compared to my only other tower experience (Sears Tower) I found out that I could get just as out of breath in 37 floors as I did in 103 floors. I finished the 806 steps in 6min 18 seconds in 2004 and 6 min 3 seconds in 2005. My 2005 finish put me 95th in a field of 696 (top 14%) and third of 35 in the “big guy” class of male Bopers weighing 200 – 225 lbs. (I weighed 203 on race day).  The Bop is unusual in that you have two handrails to use from the bottom to the top. The event managers do a nice job of spreading out the start times (seeding by estimated finish time and allowing 30 seconds between starts) so that there is practically no traffic or passing. All the stair climbs I have competed in tend to give me (and most everyone else) a raw throat and cough. I believe this is primarily due to the high level of breathing that goes on but may be atmospheric and the Bop gives me as much or more a cough than the longer climbs. I also like the weight classes as an option to give big folks a chance to compete on a more level field. As with all the stair climbs the Bop is a Charity event, The Bop supports Riley Children's Hospital here in Indianapolis. The picture on the right is the starting line, On your mark, get set ....

Step up for Kids            Aon Center, Chicago, Illinois

Step up for Kids in Chicago at the Aon Center (2nd highest tower in Chicago, 3rd tallest in the US), This run was similar to the Sears Tower in length going up 81 Floors, 1643 steps. For some reason this is my fast track, I seem to place better here than at the other races, I feel strong on in the stairwells and it just suits me real well.  In 2004 I finished this race 96th out of 1274 and in 2005 I came in 98th out of 1291, both in the top 8% of finishers. Speed and time are not real big deals with me but now I have the bar set for myself for races in the years to come.

This race probably has the nicest atmosphere of the races I have been in, the Building is beautiful, there has been a band playing and many volunteers that help keep things going well. 2005 was even nicer by ending on the 80th floor and getting a view from the top of the building in a beautiful meeting room.

Hustle up the Hancock            John Hancock Building, Chicago, Illinois

2005 was my first time to Hustle up the Hancock, what as different and interesting about the Hancock is the size of the event, not in height but in the number of participants. The stairs were sort of crowed and passing was difficult because the flights of stairs were short with many turns. My time was 15 minutes 5 sec which is about where I wanted to be (5 sec less would have been better), I ended up in the top 8% of the field (both time an placement was almost identical to AON). This race is difficult to get in requiring registering in early November to climb in late February. There will be 2,765 people climbing the 94 Floors of the John Hancock Center on February 27.  In addition, about another 1,000 people will climb 42 Floors in a second stair well in the building.  That’s almost 4,000 climbers to celebrate with after climbing the 1,632 stairs to the Hancock Observatory.  There were lots of people at the top and it was just a real interesting spectacle in seeing the number of people. I can not tell you how appropriate it is to have a stair climb to promote lung health!


 Jin Mao tower                                           Shanghi, China

One of the real exciting opportunities that didn't quite work out was that I was contacted by a group in Shanghi, China to be their guest (expenses paid) at a stair climbing event at the Jin Mao tower there. Jin Mao is a beautiful new building that is about the same height as the Sears tower, one of the 5 tallest in the world. I was pretty pumped about the opportunity, but they informed me that this year there was not enough sponsorship interest to have a race, but maybe next year (2005-2006).

I really enjoy running up stairs, it doesn't pound you like running on roads. I have gradually gotten stronger and quicker at running the stairs and feel confident that I will continue to to get stronger and faster. One thing I like about stairs is how consistent they are, there are no machine settings, parts to wear, the weather is the same, all that changes is me.