Chicago Stair Climbs

When I first moved to Chicago, I heard about stair climbs up the Hancock and Sears Tower. Ive always thought it would be fun to try, but registration fills up in minutes for each event. I’ve now managed to battle my instincts to hit the snooze button on registration day for both of these events.

Hancock Tower2009 Hustle Up The Hancock
Floors: 94
Stairs: 1632 stairs
Height: 344 meters
Time: 12:59

When i signed up I anticipated doing a bit of running over the winter as usual to prepare. Instead, nearly all my workouts that winter had been cycling specific. Also, I raced a 24 hour race the weekend before the stair climb. So, I was somewhat nervous going into the climb, thinking I may not be up to it.

Climbers are sent off every 8 seconds starting at 7am. I had hoped to grab a late start time, but ended up with 7:30 AM. It seemed to be well organized. It didn’t take too long to get from the start of lining up to the stairwell.

I started off pretty conservatively, 2 steps at a time. Eventually as I got about halfway up I had switch to 1 step at a time. There were occasional traffic jams, but nothing too bad. The climb seemed to go by quickly, but I figured I had done an average time and had a better idea of how these events go. As it turns out I ended up with 31st place overall.

Note for the future, never check anything at the baggage check for this event. I spent more time in line for baggage check than I did for any other part of the morning. It took 2 hours to get my coat back after the climb. I thought there might be a riot. Some very angry people at a charity event.

2009 Hustle Up The Hancock Results

2010 Skyrise Chicago – Willis(Sears) Tower
Floors: 103
Stairs: 2109
Height: 442 meters
Time: 18:21

This one was a very different experience, perhaps because I started in the first group. It seemed really relaxed. There was plenty of space to warmup. No standing in line until about 2 minutes before I started the climb.

I didn’t seem to learn much from my first stair climb last year. I went out too fast and pretty much gasped for air for the remaining 80 stories. It was interesting to watch some of the experienced climbers They didn’t seem to be running so much as pulling themselves up 2 steps at a time.

This one seemed quite a bit more difficult than the Hancock. Which really should have been obvious, but I was thinking “what’s ten more floors?”. It turns out it’s 5 minutes more. A long time when your lungs are burning. I had hoped for a finish time in the 15 minute range based on my flawed logic comparing the two buildings, so I was a bit disappointed with 18:21 at the finish. I was happily surprised when I found I’d placed 33rd overall.

I hate to admit it, but I had never been to the top of the Sears Tower before this day. The Ledge is pretty cool, especially with an oxygen starved brain from climbing up there.

2010 Skyrise Chicago Results

So, Im now signed up for another stair climb in the winter. The Fight For Air Climb – All 4 Presidential Towers 2,340 steps and sprints between the towers. Might have to work on my upper body strength to pull myself up a bit.

There’s a world cup for tower running: towerrunning.com. This graphic of the Ten Highest Buildings with running events is interesting.