If you thought taking the stairs in your office building was a pain, imagine doing it for fun.
This is the passion of soon to be 55-year-old Newport Beach resident Jane Trahanovsky who, in the last few years, found tower running – or stair climbing – as her workout regimen. Stair climbing is exactly what it sounds like. Racers start at the bottom of a skyscraper’s stairwell and work their way to the top.
Tower runners compete in some of the tallest buildings in the country – the signature annual event is at the Empire State Building – and the competition is intense, with some runs drawing upwards of 1,000 participants.
Jane started stair climbing about three years ago when her brother Mark, one of the top climbers in the country, suggested it in the fall of 2007. Her first run was in April of 2008 when she climbed the AON building in Los Angeles, which tops out at 63 floors. Her time that year was 34 minutes, but she cut that in half to 17 minutes last year.
Admittedly, Jane has never been too athletic, but somehow she has excelled in stair climbing.
“If they wrote a book about me, it would be called, ‘An Unlikely Athlete,’” Jane said.
Probably the most important thing stair climbing has done for Jane is that she’s lost 80 pounds in the three years she’s been stair climbing, 55 pounds last year alone.
Jane has participated in three different climbs: the AON and US Bank buildings in Los Angeles, as well as the Gulf Tower in Pittsburgh. The US Bank building is the tallest structure west of the Mississippi River at 73 floors, and is the 47th tallest building in the world.
The AON and US Bank stair climbs are similar endurance events, but the Gulf Tower event in Pittsburgh is different. It’s only 37 floors, so it’s more of a sprint – you have to be fast. Jane said running the Gulf Tower was the most nervous she’s ever been.
This odd sport has become a year-round training process for Jane.
“Every time I finish a race I think, I could’ve done that faster,” Jane said.
This is what keeps making her come back to the sport even though it’s so tough. The one race Jane won’t participate in is the Empire State Building event, since it’s an “open” start, meaning everybody starts at the same time instead of at 10-15 second intervals, and people can get seriously hurt.
Jane takes two stairs at a time but notes if she were taller she’d skip more. She said some racers are nearly 7 feet tall and can easily take several stairs at a time. The races are all for charity and usually benefit the American Lung Association, as stair climbing is incredibly hard on your breathing.
Jane said, “In the middle of the race I feel like I can’t get enough air. Halfway through every climb I think this is the stupidest thing ever and I hate my brother for suggesting this,” but once she hits the top, she can’t wait for the next race – and I’m pretty sure loves her brother again.
At the end of the race, at the top of the building, organizers take a photograph of each racer finishing. Jane recounted a few girls that stopped just below the finish line to do their hair for the picture as she blew by them trying to best her previous time.
She trains on stairs all over Newport Beach, walks and runs a few miles almost every day and has truly found her sporting passion.
“I feel better than I’ve ever felt in my life,” Jane said. “It keeps me going and makes me feel good.”
Although she has a love/hate relationship with running, she continues to be invested in the sport.
“I’d recommend it to anybody because if I can do it, anybody can do it,” Jane said.
Jane’s favorite moment was during the Pittsburgh race when her brother ran with her and won first place overall and Jane was the first overall woman. A brother and sister team who beat everybody else.
Jane’s next race will be the AON building again, on April 30.
For more information or to participate in these stair-climbing events, visit www.towerrunning.com.