Fight for Air Stair Climb Philly Recap

By Janelle @ Run With No Regrets | race recap

Mar 23

Happy Monday!  I hope you had a great weekend, the first weekend of spring!  My Saturday was very busy since it started out with the American Lung Association’s Fight for Air Stair Climb, an annual event that I love to support and participate.  Stair climbing is an amazing workout that really works your lower body…so I wanted to give a recap of my experience climbing 100 flights of steps!

Recap of the 2015 @PhillyALAClimb! #phillyclimb #fightforair #racerecap Share on X

Stair Climb Recap

The Night Before

If you’ve been following me for awhile, you know that I’ve been pretty busy training for the Cherry Blossom Run, coming up in just a few short weeks!  I have been keeping a strict schedule of running 4 days a week, so I had to make a small tweak to accommodate the Stair Climb:  My 6-mile run was moved from Saturday to Sunday.

I didn’t do any workouts on Friday so I was able to have a full day of rest.  But mentally, I was a complete wreck.  I always get stressed out before the stair climb because it’s so difficult to control your pace, and if you tire yourself out with 20 floors to go, you’re done.  Obviously, I’m not trying to win the event but I want to perform at my best.  Plus, I don’t want to let down all the people who donated to the American Lung Association on my behalf.

I had some Asian food for dinner, which was really good, but my second helping gave me an awful stomach ache.  I was worried about how this would affect me during the race…

Morning of the Event

I guess I forgot to set my alarm for 6:30 am,  but thankfully I woke up sometime around 6.  My start time was slated for 8:45 am, but since I had some cash donations to drop off, I wanted to get to 3 Logan Square around 7:45.  It’s so convenient to live within walking distance of a race venue – no worries about parking!

I had some toast and strawberry preserves for breakfast.  I was pretty nervous and a little cranky because I was still feeling stomach pains from the night before.  I broke one of the age-old rules:  no new foods the day before a race!  But thankfully I started to feel better!

The energy around the 3 Logan Square building  was that familiar buzz of excitement:  families, community groups, first responders, fitness buffs and newbies of all ages, shapes, and sizes.  I was really happy to see my teammates, a few first-timers, so excited to get started.  They split up the start times based on Elite Climbers (sub-12 minutes) Century Climbers, Open Climbers, then First Responders, so half of our team didn’t start climbing until 10 am.  It made things a little disjointed but we worked it out!

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First Round Up the Steps

It was getting close to 8:45 so I decided to finally get in line for the Century Climb to begin.  Somehow I ended up toward the end of the line, just like last year!  I had Missy Elliott ready to go in my headphones that I borrowed from Bret to help get myself “in the zone”.  It was closer to 9 am when I actually got to the door to head up the steps.  Thanks to Friday’s random snow, it was probably mid 30’s outside, but I’m used to standing outside in the cold while I wait for my turn to go up the steps!

Finally, they give the 3, 2, 1 countdown and I’m off!  I didn’t know how to feel; I’ve done this climb so many times and yet it always finds ways to surprise me.  I start going up stairs, skipping every other step and lunging my way towards the top.  But I’m welcomed by an INTENSE breeze with nearly every floor…and remember, there are 50 of them!  Breathing in the stairwells is always a challenge.  In past years, the air was so dry that you’d be hacking your way up to the top…but this year the frigid cold air blasting on me was not a fun time.  Then there were other floors where the air was still dry, and on top of that, different floors were painted different colors.  Even though I keep my head down as much as I can, it was just a bit trippy!

Last year I joked about Gavin DeGraw not being the best music for climbing, but surprisingly Missy didn’t give me the life that I needed, even though the beats helped cover up my heavy breathing!  Every step was HARD.  My quads were feeling the burn almost instantly, which did bum me out because I was hoping I’d be fit enough to not have any struggles.  Since I was carrying my phone, I only had one hand to pull myself up the stairs (which started after floor 20)…I wonder if I had both hands available if that would have pulled me up quicker.

But finally, I found myself coming up the bend to the 50th floor, and I tried to pick up the pace at the end.  I felt pretty dead!  Bret was there to take my picture but I wasn’t in the mood…I just kept walking, making sure not to sit down, and drank some water as I tried to calm myself.  I was actually surprised that the bottoms of my feet were hurting.  And I have to go through this again??

Feeling dead after round 1 up...

Feeling dead after round 1 up…

Second Round Up the Steps

This year things were done a little bit differently for the Century Climb participants.  Instead of having one bib and tracking device, we were given a new set for our second round up the steps.  I gave myself a few moments to catch my breath and drink some water before I got outfitted and brought back down the elevator with other Century Climbers to the bottom of the steps.  The folks on the elevator were in a good mood, which helped…we clearly are a crazy bunch to torture ourselves this way!

With my body all warmed up from the first climb, standing outside for round 2 was a breeze (no pun intended).  As I went up, I wanted to change my climbing technique…just like last year.  So for 10 floors I tried to hop up all of the steps individually instead of skipping steps, trying to rely on my calves instead of my quads.  It didn’t seem to make things easier or faster.  The stairs were a bit more crowded with people and I tried to say some positive things as I passed but most folks weren’t having that.

But the second climb really did feel like a drag and I desperately wanted it to be over.  Did I mention that stair climbing is hard??  I had a few women pass me and they made it look so easy!  I really admired that.  Maybe I seemed the same way to other people, but I certainly didn’t feel like it!

This stair climb really kicked my butt, and I felt SO beat when I made it to the top that I barely was able to walk through the door and clock out.  Phew.  I felt pretty slow during the whole thing but it was a relief to be done.  Now I could just relax and wait until the rest of my teammates made it to the top!

Waiting to go up the second time!

Waiting to go up the second time!


I really didn’t want to know my results.  I tried to delay finding out as long as I could.  Last year, I thought I worked so hard to find out I didn’t do nearly as well as I thought, even though I beat my goal of 25 minutes (by maybe 30 seconds or so).  This year, I didn’t have any specific goals but I still didn’t want to let myself down, especially after it felt like such a struggle this year!  But eventually, I found out:  Round 1 was finished in 11:36 and Round 2 was done in 11:49.  So technically, I PR’d for the Century Climb..go figure!

Final Thoughts

My first thought of being done with the Century Climb was pure relief!  I was so glad that I was done.  I have to admit that I was disappointed that I didn’t improve significantly from last year because I’m in much better shape now compared to then…but stair climbing is its own animal.  The only way to practice for a stair climb is to climb stairs, period!  And I didn’t specifically train for this race, so to still have an improvement is definitely an accomplishment!

But you know what?  I am not doing the Century Climb again next year.  It’s not that I don’t think it’s a great challenge because it certainly is!  But this year it just felt like a bit of a drag.  If the building itself had 100 flights, then maybe I’d feel different, but going through 50 flights, and then having to take an elevator down and do it again, to me, is mentally exhausting.  Not to mention, I really want to see if I can improve my speed.  It’s difficult to go for speed on the Century Climb because it’s not a continuous climb.  My best time going up 50 flights is 10:12, and now that I’m a few years older, I wonder if I can finally crack 10 minutes!  So we’ll have to see how things look next year…

Thank you so much to everyone who was supportive during the whole process!  I was able to raise nearly $340 for the American Lung Association, and I had such a great time with everyone.  The organizers of the event once again did a great job!  And of course, I have to give a shoutout to Bret for continuing to be so awesome and being there every step of the way (I couldn’t resist)!

Team Microturbines, all smiles!

Team Microturbines, all smiles!

Have you ever done a stair climb event?  Are stair workouts part of your exercise routine?  

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