I have vivid memories of those days of running Beaver Stadium as part of our preseason conditioning for the Penn State Wrestling Team. Some thought of it as a privilege to enter the home of Paterno and all those legendary football players — Franco Harris, Jack Ham,
John Capelletti, Curt Warner. At the time, it was anything but a privilege. From what I recollect, 110 steps east and west and 90 steps, north and south, by 50 plus rows in each direction. It is today the fourth largest stadium in the world. So 25 years and two knee surgeries later, I felt compelled to mix up the training routine with a little stair climb up one of Atlanta’s tallest buildings, the 191 Peachtree Tower which stands some 50 stories before you reach its twin towers. Climb Atlanta, the race event, was to benefit the American Lung Association. I had little expectations regarding how fast I could do it and whether or not I would be curled up in the corner stairwell of the 20th floor. Concerned about a jam on the stairwell with a few hundred runners, I took advantage of my late entry to request from race officials that I start 20 minutes after the last entrant. Race officials unfortunately accommodated my request (leaving no excuse for stopping), and I started off at approximately 9:30 a.m. My pace, like most races, was too fast, jumping two steps at a time. Choosing not to look up at the floors, I simply ran hard at the two-step pace, feeling like I was breezing through the building. Sensing I had climbed about 20 floors, I looked up only to see I had just eclipsed 10 floors. The two step pace was gone. My legs were wobbly at best. Luckily, there were railings, but I wasn’t ready to crawl. I kept my pace, but touched every step. Volunteers at every other stairwell, all in support of the American Lung Association fundraiser, gave me hope that I wouldn’t end up in the stairwell until Monday when the building would fill again with workflow.
By the 30th floor, I glanced at my watch. I was five minutes into it. Just five minutes and I was winded, sweating everso profusely. At around 32, I began to run into others, but the crowd was thin and avoidable. Contemplating a walk from 32 to 33, I climbed on and on until 40 came. A volunteer yelled, five more floors and suddenly I was relieved. Apparently, the race concludes on the 45th floor because it’s an open space that’s easier to have runners peel off. While I liked the sound of 50 and last year’s run was 64 floors, I was perfectly content closing out at 45. Afterall, I had all the privilege I needed for the morning.