“Please forgive me if I act a little strange, for I know not what I do. ” – David Gray
The other day I stood in the lobby of a downtown Philadelphia skyscraper with a guy who coordinates weekly training sessions in preparation for the Fight for Air Climb. This fellow who I met only minutes earlier explained that we (there were four others) were about to run up 56 flights of stairs. How do I get myself into these things, I wondered.
This was be my first encounter with stair climbing, or what some people call a vertical marathon, so I had no idea what to expect. Within the past few months I had completed a marathon and ultra-marathon, but I’d never climbed 800+ vertical feet. I was in for a humbling experience.
I started strong figuring I’d show the other guys what I was made of, but when I saw a sign that read 10th Floor my thinking immediately shifted to the 46 remaining floors I had to climb. By the 15th floor I was sucking wind and when I hit the 20th I thought it would be a good idea to stop looking at the floor signs. That didn’t work, and at floor 25 I realized I had 31 to go. When got past the 30th floor I noticed drops of perspiration on the stairs, and the higher I climbed the bigger the puddles became and the more sweat I treaded through. My thighs felt as if they would burst at the 40th, and each floor thereafter they screamed for relief. When I got to the roof I was ecstatic, until I realized I had to descend the same distance I had just climbed. Back down in the basement I turned and climbed the final four floors for the purpose to exceed the number of floors we would climb on March 21st in the Fight for Air Climb.
So what did I learn my first stair climb? That regardless how good your condition, fifty-plus floors is going to kick your butt. Stair climbing is a different kind of workout, and one that taxes your cardiopulmonary system like none I’d ever encountered. It’s no wonder the Fight for Air Climb is sponsored by the American Lung Association.
Stair climbing has many other benefits as well. It is excellent for strengthening leg muscles, and like cycling, strengthening leg muscles reduces the stress on leg and knee joints. It also burns roughly twice as many calories as most other workouts.
My buddy Billy is responsible for getting me involved with the Fight for Air Climb. Billy lost his battle with lung cancer last spring and his daughter Kristin organized a team Holubec’s Hunnies that climbs in her Dad’s memory. On March 21st I’ll be a Hunnie.