I was about ten floors up the first stairwell of the Presidential Towers climb when I came up on the climber ahead of me. This stairway is pretty tight, and there is no room for passing. Just as I was about to resign myself to 35 more stories following a slower climber, we got to a turn and she stepped aside for me to pass. With a smile on her face.
I thanked her, wished her luck, then continued on up. That might be the aspect of the American Lung Association’s Climb up the Presidential towers that made it most different from the myriad of other stair climbs in Chicago. With some of the others, like the Hancock, AON, and Willis Towers, the stairwell is wide enough to pass, and people rarely move aside to make passing easier.
This is the third year the Lung Association has hosted this stair climb as a fundraiser. They do a great job organizing it and keeping it running smoothly through the maze of buildings. It’s doubled in size in just three years, to almost 2000 climbers this year. The most obvious difference is the Towers themselves. Rather than climbing 95 floors at once in the Hancock building, the Presidential Towers climb involves climbing up 180 stories. But they come 45 stories at a time. After you climb one tower, you take the elevator down, and run to the next one and keep climbing.
I wasn’t sure how I would feel, the day after doing a 14 mile run on the Prairie Path, but once we started up the stairs, I felt fine. Psychologically, I think it helps knowing you only have to get up 45 floors before you get a break. That’s really only about seven or eight minutes of climbing before getting a chance to catch your breath.
The secret to stair climbs, as best I’ve been able to determine over the last decade or so of doing them, is that they are 90% cardio. Sure, it’s good a workout for your legs but you can climb a lot faster if you can breathe. And that makes it all the more appropriate that everyone was climbing to benefit the American Lung Association. Many of the climbers have been personally affected by lung disease.
ABC-7 was a co-sponsor of the climb, and my colleague Ravi Baichwal did public service announcements inviting people to climb. I'm sure that helped spread the word. Ravi had a conflict and was unable to climb, but I'm sure we'll get him out next year. He is a good athlete, and we've done stair climbs before.
And while there is a competitive aspect to these climbs, I found this one to be more focused on finishing, and less on the competition. You get to chat with the other climbers in the elevator on the way down to the start of the next tower. I finished the third tower, and was feeling great, but realized I had to run over to do the live shot for TV, so I had to skip the fourth. I got some well-deserved grief from the others in my elevator car!
I was able to interview one of the top climbers, Jesse Berg, and one of the top fundraisers who helped bring in a total more than $250,000 this year.
This is the third stair climb event I've done so far this year, but I believe my climbing 'season' is over. It's time to concentrate on the running season, and I'm looking forward to the Shamrock Shuffle in a couple weeks. Hopefully the cardio workouts from these stair climbs will simulate the benefits of getting on the track for speed workouts. That would come in handy about mile three of the 8k shuffle.
See you on the roads......