Saturday, February 27, 2010

— Mark Trahanovsky likes the way the world looks from the top floor of some very tall buildings.

He's been to the top of the Sears Tower in Chicago a few times, and is a big fan of the 63-floor Aon Center in Los Angeles.

The thing is, when Trahanovsky visits skyscrapers across the country, the 51-year-old Yorba Linda resident only believes in taking the elevator down.
Trahanovsky competes in the growing sport of stair climbing. In fact, he is ranked no. 27, among male stair climbers in the world and climbed the Willis (Sears) Tower in 16:46 minutes in 2008. He's made 17 climbs across the country since September 2007.

"The best thing about the sport is it fits a busy lifestyle," said the fulltime salesman and father of two. "This sport (takes) 30 minutes a day for incredible fitness. I am the same weight that I was in high school."

There are over 100 competitive stair climbs, also known as tower running, in North America every year. Participation in the events, which are usually to raise money for charity organizations, can vary.

In 2009, the Fight for Air Climb in Los Angeles attracted about 400 climbers, while the Big Climb in Seattle drew about 6,000.

Athletes typically start their climb at intervals of about eight seconds, with the fastest tower runners heading up first. The climbers wear time chips to calculate how fast they make it to the top, and the difference between first and fourth place can often be a matter of seconds, Trahanovsky said.

"It can become a little bit of a contact sport if someone is there and won't let you go around, but usually we know each other and are polite," Trahanovsky said.

Things get a bit more chaotic at the Empire State Run Up, which is an invitation-only race at the Empire State Building in New York where runners all make a mad dash for the stairs at the same time.

Trahanovsky got turned on to the competitive sport after he injured his knee and had to stop running.

"There is no impact (in stair climbing) on your knees," Trahanovsky said. "The body is meant to climb."

Athletes' knees are strained on the way down, which is why Trahanovsky climbs up and then takes the elevator back to the ground floor.

The hardest part of competitive stair climbing is that unlike other marathons, there is never a period of running flat or downhill.

"Your whole body is crying out to stop," Trahanovsky said. "You are continually going up and up."
The key, he said, is learning how to pace yourself.

Trahanovsky is working out five nights a week in preparation for an April 24 Fight for Air climb at the Aon Center in Los Angeles to benefit the American Lung Society.

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