Sunday, Feb. 22, 2009 | 9:47 p.m.
Beyond the Sun
A Washington man climbed 1,455 stairs to victory Saturday during the final round of the “Scale the Strat” skyscraper race and fundraiser. Zach Schade from Tumwater, Wash., was tops out of the group of 50 climbers who had qualified the day earlier at the event hosted by American Lung Association of Southern Nevada.
Before the final leg of the two-day race began, there was buzz about Javier Santiago, from Mexico City, who had taken first place in Friday’s qualifier. Santiago, the three-time winner of the city’s Torre Mayor race, had taken fourth place in the Sears Tower race and eighth in the Empire State building.
“I’m going to run the hardest and fastest that I can,” Santiago said before starting the ascent.
Thunderous claps greeted Santiago as he climbed the last flight of stairs. When he finally reached the top, he threw himself on the ground. Like many racers, he was offered some oxygen at the finish line and huffed and puffed as he regained his composure.
As the results came in a look of disappointment befell his face. Santiago took third place, just four seconds behind the champion.
The man who beat him was the one who had followed him up the steps.
Donning black socks with pirate skulls, few had paid attention to Schade as he caught his breath after reaching the top. Schade’s hard work –- and lucky socks -- won him first place with a time of 7:32.
“It feels great,” Schade said. “I think I came in without too many people knowing what I’ve done in the past. I knew I had the experience and I could run a little faster than yesterday.
“Today I had a little bit better pace than I did yesterday and I was able to maintain that. I felt good when I was done -- I saw my time and I was happy. The fact that I won is just a blessing and a surprise I think for everyone, myself included.”
Courtney Swenson of Las Vegas was the fastest female racer. Her climb to the top was 9:53.
“It’s the first time that I’ve done a stair climb so I’m really excited about that,” she said. “The goal was every other step through the whole way up (to use) my arms to help me along.”
Swenson, who works for the American Lung Association, said her motivation came from having race organizers and her peers supporting her.
“At all of the checkpoints along the way, they were cheering me on and telling me to keep going. It really helped that they were there. I swear, I didn’t think I was going to get under 10 minutes today but I’m happy that I did,” she said.
Fifty-two-year-old George Ruiz from Carson City took second place in his age group with a time of 11:17.
“It feels good. It’s something new to be the fastest oldest,” Ruiz said.
But the race, of course, wasn’t just about who would be the fastest climber. It was also a fundraising event for the lung association. James Barrett, of Las Vegas, who raised $2,000, said the loss of his father to lung cancer spurred his commitment to raising money for the lung association.
“I have had a lot of great people in my company and a lot of friends that have had family members who have been struck by similar diseases,” Barrett said.
Organizers said that overall, the event was a success.
“We think it turned out incredibly well for our first year -- lots of excitement for the community,” said organizer Phyllis Gilland. “There are other opportunities other than just gaming and golf (in Las Vegas) and there is a very large sports and fitness community looking for fun and exciting challenging things to do.”
To donate to the American Lung Association of Southern Nevada, go to www.lungnevada.org.