Bop to the Top
Running up 36 flights of stairs shouldn’t be too hard. Heck – I take the stairs whenever possible and usually I’m lugging shopping bags, luggage, or my purse while I’m doing it. Plus, I think I’m in pretty good shape. This should be cake…. Wrong. Dead wrong.
Bop to the Top is a stair race in the America One building in downtown Indianapolis. I’ve run my fair share of 5Ks, 8Ks, 10Ks, and even a half marathon, but never have I raced up a bunch of stairs. I didn’t even know what to expect or how to train for something like this. So naturally, I didn’t. Maybe that was poor planning on my part. I wanted to start my race season off in January this year rather than wait until March like I did last year. I had already taken November and December off so I was ready to get back into the swing of racing. Bop to the Top sounded perfect because it was indoors and I’m not a huge fan of running outdoors in the bitter cold.
The way the race is set up, you can seed yourself based on your previous year’s time or your latest 5K time. Since I had never ran up 36 flights of stairs before, I wasn’t sure where to seed myself so I went with my last 5K time: 24:10. I’m glad I did that because if you opted out of seeding, the earliest time to race would have been 11:00 AM (the race started at 8:30 AM). So I was scheduled to race at 8:40 AM. After stretching in the lobby and warming up, I nervously said goodbye to my husband who was patiently waiting for me in the lobby. I rounded the corner, approached the line for Stairwell A, waited, and watched. It’s a very calculated system. The event volunteers have you stand on the mat and wait exactly 30 seconds from when the person in front of you started to give them enough time to get a start. This prevents congestion in the already small stairwell. It’s also a fairly quick process and keeps the lines moving.
Soon it was my turn. My heart was racing. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I just prayed I didn’t trip up the stairs and bust my shin open. I took off skipping a stair at a time. Not sure if that was a good move or not because I got tired pretty fast. My thought was that I wanted to put enough distance between me and the person behind me before I needed to slow down. Soon I was just running step-by-step. As I was running past floor 6, 7, and 8, I noticed my pulse starting to quicken. By floor 10 my lungs started to sting and my heart was beating even faster. I thought to myself, I’m not even half way there – this can’t be happening…
Then came the slowing down to a quick walk up the stairs. There was no way I could run. What the hell was I thinking not training for this?! My lungs are burning, it’s hard to breathe, and I’m utilizing the stair rails next to me to make sure I don’t trip up the stairs as my legs are starting to slow down. The hardest part of this race was that you are by yourself. There are no cheering sidelines to tell you to keep going. This is all about you and you alone. You are the only thing that will keep you from stopping and taking a break. Finally, I saw another human being. It was the first aid person making sure no one was going to pass out around floor 18. He offered a quick, “your halfway there.” And that was it. Floor 20,21,22 … Thank GOD I’m almost there.
By now my lungs are ON FIRE. I’ve never felt this kind of pain in my lungs in all my life. I cannot for the life of me figure out what is going on, but I persevere and keep going. I hear the person behind me gaining on me. There is something about hearing the person behind you that gives you a little more pep to your step. Floor 33, 34, 35… OH MY GOSH when will this end?! And there it was, the open door with the blue mat and volunteers to guide you to water.
My lungs along with my heart are in my throat. I cannot breathe let alone say thank you to the man who cut my timing chip off my shoe. I walk into the room where the shirts are (because you didn’t get your race shirt until you made it to the top), got my shirt, and found my way to the water room. I can hear the poor guy even before I see him. A college-aged boy is losing his breakfast (or drinks from the night before) all in the trash can. He really must have given it all he got because he was best friends with that trash can for a good 6 minutes. Me, on the other hand, I am now coughing up a lung, my eyes are watering, and I can’t even stand on the elevator ride down. Every time I coughed it felt like I had smoked a pack of cigarettes the night before. It hurt SO BAD. As soon as the doors open, I find myself a nice seat against the wall where I proceed to cover my head, cough some more, and continue to catch my breath. My poor husband (who is still on the other side of the building because no one without a race bib was allowed back there) was wondering where I was and if I was okay. After about another 5 minutes, I was able to come find him.
It was really an interesting site – I’m trying to find the results board and EVERYONE around me is coughing. I’ve never seen anything like it! My husband was getting the heebie jeebies convinced he is going to catch something. Finally, I make it over the board, checked my score, took some pictures, and headed home to take a much-needed nap.
36 flights of stairs, 780 steps, 500 ft straight up, monies benefit Riley’s Children’s Hospital of Indianapolis… Next year I think I’ll do the Triple! Who’s with me?