Those gassed during last year’s Buffalo Fight for Air Climb will get a slight reprieve this year. The seventh annual stair-climbing event moves from the 38-story Seneca One Tower to the 26-floor Main Place Tower.
Hundreds will still tire as they make the ascent – and get a small taste of what millions with lung diseases face regularly – from 8:30 to 11:30 a.m. March 11 as they raise money for the American Lung Association of the Northeast. The climb is presented by Buffalo Medical Group.
“It’s very physically taxing, especially if you’re running it,” said Kelli Hanson, coordinator of development for the Northeast chapter who coordinates the climbs in Buffalo and Rochester. “I just walk the stairs.”
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Q. Why the move?
The new One Seneca owner is very excited to hit the ground running with renovations and construction, so they couldn’t properly accommodate us. We were very thankful to Main Place for letting us come crash their building. We’d be open to moving back in the future. The taller building is seen as more of a challenge but we’ll go with the flow. It’s always interesting going into a new building.
Q. Climbers will head up 24 stories, and about 470 stairs. With roughly a dozen fewer floors, how will the move impact the climb?
It will be shorter but it will offer its own challenges. When I first was in the stairwell, I was surprised by the layout. It’s double landings for each floor up to 17 and then it switches to single scissor-style stairs, so the last few floors are going to be straight up for climbers. That will offer unique challenges.
Q. How hard is a climb like this?
Even if you’re walking, climbing stairs is different. You use different muscles. If you run for 30 minutes, that same workout intensity could be achieved with 15 minutes of stair climbing. Once you get to the top you’re going to be very fatigued.
You also need to watch your breathing. Your heart rate increases very quickly when you're climbing stairs. On top of that, you end up breathing through your mouth very quickly, which irritates the lining of your throat. Once you get to the top, that’s what causes a cough. We encourage people to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, whether you’re walking or running. It’s going to help you recover faster. It’s a very high-intensity event. You can take it as slow as you like. That’s the best part for novice climbers. The adrenaline of the day and the unique atmosphere, it gives people a push to keep going.
Some of our elite climbers can get up in under three minutes. We had our Rochester climb in October and that was 20 floors. We had a gentleman come up from Jacksonville, Fla., and he got up to the top in a minute, 41 seconds.
Q. Is this how competitive it can be?
It can be. Stair-climbing is an international sport. They have a schedule event. The gentleman from Jacksonville is nationally ranked. Because the building is shorter, we still want avid climbers to get the challenge, so we’re going to let them go up more than once and take their best time.
Q. There are ways to practice, including next Saturday, Feb. 18, at the Main Place Tower. How will that work?
We’ll be there from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and anyone can drop by to try it out. They don’t have to be registered. A lot of people like to try it first before they commit, so this gives them the opportunity to do that. That can drop in to the lobby at Main Place Tower and we’ll have a table. They’ll check in with us, sign a waiver and then they can head up as many times as they want.
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Q. There’s a reason this fundraiser is designed the way it is, correct?
Someone with lung disease could not do this. We’re doing this on their behalf, in their honor. If you don’t know what lung disease feels like, once you get to the top you have this moment where you can’t catch your breath. To show people what that’s like, even for a second, gives them insight into what millions of people who are suffering with lung disease feel like all the time. That’s the thought behind this climb.
Q. Is there somebody up top for people who have a real hard time catching their breath?
Yes. We always have EMS on site, just in case, and they have oxygen.
Those are for registered climbers. FIT Method is offering special training sessions on Mondays and Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. at their studio. It’s a high-intensity workout tailored to getting somebody ready to climb. The registration fee is $35 for the climb and that includes all of these classes. IMPACT used to do Saturday classes for our climbers and they wanted to give them more flexibility. Now, registered climbers can choose any adult training class once a week and go when it fits their schedule.
Q. How can folks register and what is required of those who do?
At fightforairclimb.org. Look up the Buffalo climb. The registration cost it includes training opportunities, as well as a T-shirt, bib and timing chip, and access to our after-party, where you can eat a bunch of good food at Pettibone’s and recover.
In addition to the registration fee, they commit to raising $100.
Q. How will the Lung Association use the proceeds?
They will go toward research, patient education and advocacy. It goes into the Northeast pot and is reinvested in each community. The Buffalo climb raised almost $160,000 last year. It was very exciting.
Twitter: @BNrefresh, @ScottBScanlon