By David Mitchell
Gazette Magazine, Chicago
Many of us prefer to take the elevator, but that's not the philosophy of Bernadette Duychak. Reared in Chicago, Duychak is an account supervisor at McCann-Erickson Advertising Agency where she works on General Motors' Buick account, a doctoral student at Argosy University, and an adjunct professor at Olivet Nazarene University.
But it is her ability to climb stairs that is her claim to fame. On July 29 and 30, 2005, Duychak set the Guinness stair climbing record for highest vertical height climbed in 24 hours.
"There was no record," she said. "I contacted Guinness World Records about creating a record for most stairs climbed, vertical height, within a 24 hour period. They thought it was a good idea and came back with a set of rules and guidelines for me to follow in order for my record to be recorded and printed in their book."
Duychak will be in the next edition of the famed Guinness Book of World Records. The first edition of the book was published in 1955, commissioned by the Guinness brewery after a debate between Guinness managing director Hugh Beaver and his hunting partners over the fastest species of game bird, which could not be settled with the reference books then available.
"I climbed 39,411 stairs or 27,095 feet in the 24-hour period," Bernadette said. "I started at 2 p.m. on Friday and continued until 2 p.m. on Saturday, taking a few breaks throughout the event." The building she climbed was the Harbor Point Condominium Building, located at 155 N. Harbor Drive in downtown Chicago.
Duychak needed witnesses to record time and trips up and down the stairs. She was required to have photographic and video documentation as well. "I had a witness on the first floor, one on the 37th floor, and one on the top floor?the 54th floor," Duychak said. "Each witness would record my time and take a photo of me holding a clock to let Guinness know what time, within the 24 hour period, it was. The video I took sporadically throughout the event with me holding the camera as I walked up the stairs."
Duychak first began stair climbing to lose weight and get into shape. She has been given the nickname "Stairs Girl" by the other people who live in her building. "By climbing stairs, I was able to turn a lot of people who never exercised on a regular basis on to copy me and become stair climbers as well," she said. "Stair climbing has helped me lose weight and has been a great way for me to build muscle and get in shape."
She climbs stairs every day and knew that not many people could climb as many stairs as she could. "I wanted to see how many I could actually climb if I gave myself 24 hours, so I thought a Guinness World Record would be just the motivation I needed to see how many stairs I could climb," Duychak said.
Duychak has been climbing stairs every day for 2 1/2 years. When she first started she could barely climb 20 flights of stairs; now she climbs a minimum of 2,000 flights a week. Her attitude is, everyone needs to exercise, and stair climbing strengthens muscle and bone. "Stair climbing is also much better on my joints than running," she explained. "In addition, the energy that comes from climbing stairs is amazing," Duychak said. "I'm actually going somewhere as opposed to climbing up and down a machine at the health club."
Stair climbing increases bone density, builds muscles, and reduces the risk of heart disease and stroke. In fact, research shows that seven minutes of stair climbing a day cuts the chances of dying from coronary heart disease by 62% percent and decreases the risk of a heart attack by 50%.