When my fellow gym rat, John, asked me to participate in the 2012 American Lung Association Fight for Air Climb, I was a bit leery. After all, stairs are supposed to be the nemesis of people of my advanced age, and this event involved running up the 23 floors of a downtown skyscraper. So I decided that I would run up 598 steps, and that if I could still walk afterwards, I was in.
That Saturday I ran up the stairs in my house – 46 times. Of course, this meant going back down 46 times – which is actually much harder on the knees. I felt a slight twinge the first two times up, but after that, I was warmed up and there was no pain at all. I signed up for the Climb.
Time to train! I had been doing my treadmill time working on speed. (You can’t win races with a nine-minute mile – even if you are over 50.) I slowed down a bit and upped the elevation on the treadmill to get that uphill practice. I took advantage places where I could run more than 13 steps at a shot – a hotel with three floors gave me 54; the path to the upper condos gave me 42.
When John asked me how many times I intended to run the steps, I once again shamelessly pulled the over-50 card and told him I’d start with once and see how I felt. But – when he asked me if I wanted to be identified as a “multiple climber” – I said yes. And when I picked up my race packet, I saw that he had put a “Strive for Five” sticker on my envelope. The encouragement worked. I actually ran the stairs 5 times.
The event itself was amazing! Hundreds of climbers, some in costume, ranging in age from 5 to over 70, climbed the 23 flights of stairs. The climbers encouraged one another all along the way. Most inspiring were the firefighters, who made the climb in full gear – that’s an extra 50 pounds! On the top floor, once a climber was finished, there were food and drinks and – get this – massages! It felt wonderful to have a massage therapy student rub down my quads. I felt like a real athlete.
I was pleasantly surprised to see that I had the second-fastest time in my age group – and was only 30 seconds behind first place. Next year – 10 climbs and first place!
And by the way, when I told John and Rob my real age, both told me they had me pegged for mid-40s. And that, my friends, is what I love about running!