Onward and Upward
As I rounded the corner to the stair well, the
radio-controlled timer reacted to the tag on my shoe, reminding me with a loud “BEEEEEP”
that there was no turning back. I was participating in the American Lung Association's Fight For Air stair climb at the Hilton Hotel in Springfield, and all I could think about was flight after flight of endless stairs, challenging me, taunting me, daring me to reach the top.
The first few flights flew by, two steps at a time, with
surprising ease. It was only my third ascent up the steps – twice before as
practice – but it felt as if I’d been there a thousand times before. Pulling
myself up with the hand rail as my legs pushed like pistons, I conquered ten
flights before I realized my breathing had become fast and heavy.
Suddenly, my legs became leaden and my chest heaved,
searching for the perfect gulp of air. I slowed my pace – one tread at a time,
trotting up the cold concrete steps, their yellow-painted edges inviting me to
plant my sole on their faces. I passed a group of young women chatting casually
at a water stop. They had stopped to rest, yet they looked to be in better
shape than me. My smug self-satisfaction gave me fuel as I continued on, ever
upward into the skull of the Hilton.
I began to catch up with older women in pink shirts made
specially for the event. “Passing on your right,” I called between gasping
breaths. I couldn’t hear their reply, if they even made one, because the blood
pumping through my head created a dull roar that elbowed out any other sound.
It added to my hyper focus, almost a tunnel vision; all I could see were
floating pink figures slowly falling away behind me. I trudged on, passing a
familiar-looking man in a cream-colored mock turtleneck and khakis. It was U.S. Sen.
Dick Durbin, slowly climbing the 32 stories from the hotel concourse to the top
floor. He seemed to have a sense of quiet determination, standing upright even as
the stairs continued to rise before him.
I reached the platform at the 29th floor, greeted by a
cheering crowd urging me up the final two flights. With the finish line in sight
and the sounds of encouragement filling my ringing ears, the weight of my tired
legs and my quickly-pulsing heart fell away, and a burst of energy – like a
hurricane wind – propelled me onward and upward. My legs became pneumatic
pumps, powerfully driving me forward without thought or protest. I reached the
final platform, and a sense of relief and serenity washed over me. All was
quiet, from the congratulatory shouts to the blood rushing through my ears. For
just a moment, I was alone in the Hilton, king of the mountain.
Snapping back to reality, I felt my legs lose their vigor and
my focus degrade into a fog of anonymous high-fives, water bottles and gym
towels. The pewter medal awarded to finishers hung heavily around my neck
like an anvil, but I didn’t mind the weight. It was proof I had reached the
I finished in 4 minutes and 31 seconds. The winner,
stair-climbing virtuoso Terry Purcell of
Check out the race results here: http://www.theracershub.com/results_view.php?id=801&result_type=db and check out the American Lung Association's local website here: http://www.lungil.org/
Now is a good time to start training for next year! Get out there and GET FIT!