I was in Chicago over this past weekend, and it was drizzly all Saturday night. The weather predicted rain all Sunday morning too, but, thankfully, the clouds dried up, and that was a good thing, because I had a stair race that morning, and this one was outdoors. At Comiskey Park!
I know, I know, the home of the Chicago White Sox hasn’t been named Comiskey Park in well over a decade. But Guaranteed Rate Field, while factually accurate, just doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as easily.
The race was the Chicago CF Climb, benefiting the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. This was my 10th stadium race, and my ninth benefiting this great organization. (The other were five races at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, two at the Rose Bowl, and one at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.)
I’m not a big baseball fan, but I still jump at the opportunity to compete in world-renowned venues, so coming to Comiskey was a no-brainer. It was hard not to imagine, the first time I stepped out of the concourse and saw the field, what it must be like to be a professional baseball player, competing in front of 44,000 screaming fans, filling these empty seats.
But my reason for coming had nothing to do with baseball. It had to do with all the aisles in the stands. There are many, many aisles, and each of them had somewhere between 40-60 steps, and I was there to run up and down all of them.
Well… not quite all of them. But certainly plenty of them. More than plenty.
The race started on the concourse behind the foul pole at the corner of right field. (It’s the yellow pole in the distance, to the left, in the panorama photo below.)(Click on the photo to enlarge it.)
After crossing the start line, I ran down the aisle towards the field, and then across the front row of seats to the next aisle, and back up to the concourse. Then I ran over to the next aisle, and back down towards the field, and then moved one aisle over, and ran back up to the concourse. The route continued like, this all way around the stadium, past home plate, up or down all the aisles, all the way to the other foul pole, at the corner of left field.
For most people, this was where they crossed the finish line. But not for me. I was one of eight people that signed up for the Elite Climber challenge, where you do all the stairs twice. That meant running all the way back, along the concourse, to the start line, and doing all the stairs again.
Race organizers say that the Elite Climber event includes 4,400 steps (2,200 going up, and 2,200 going down). That’s a lot of steps!
Stairs is always a challenge, but this one was easier than most stair events, because the stairs were very shallow. Each stair was only a few inches tall…
…so if an aisle had 50 or so steps, the total height was only the equivalent of 25 steps. Plus, the steps were very deep, so I could use my standard running gait and double-step the entire time I was running up an aisle.
Had this course included any upper-deck stairs, it would have been exponentially more difficult, because upper-deck stairs are steep. Steeper than in building stairwells.
Just because a course might be easier than others doesn’t mean I give myself permission to slack. I still gave it everything I had. I pushed myself on the ascends, didn’t waste any time running from aisle to aisle, and, on the descends, moved as fast as possible without feeling unsafe. I don’t like racing down stairs, so I’d pull myself back when I needed to, so I didn’t end up taking a tumble and knocking out all my teeth.
This race was very well organized. They had a volunteer at nearly every corner, pointing the way and cheering us on. I felt really good during the first lap. I was moving swiftly, had passed around two dozen people, and was ready for more.
I started slowing down during the second lap, but I enjoyed every minute of it, because I practically had the entire stadium to myself. Most of the single-lap racers were finished, and the eight of us that were doing the Elite Climber double lap were spaced far enough apart that I didn’t even really know where the others were.
The volunteers were passing along helpful information: “Only five more climbs!” “Only three more climbs!” I gave those final ascents everything I had left. And collapsed after I was done. But HEY! I was done!
I couldn’t resist a photo with the finish line volunteers.
I’ve already mentioned that there were only eight people signed up as Elite Climbers. I finished 4th among men, and 5th overall! It took me 29 minutes and 43 seconds to cover a course that was slightly less than 3 miles and included 4,400 steps.
That’s a pretty phenomenal way to spend a Sunday morning!
Keep it up, David!
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