Bob Toews, the assistant director of institutional research and academic database manager for Goshen College, prefers to take the stairs, even when the elevator is available. And when he takes the stairs, he likes to run.
In September, he plans to run up 75 stories (that’s 1,664 steps) at the US Bank Tower in Los Angeles, the tallest stairwell west of the Mississippi. He is signed up to compete in the “Stair Climb for Los Angeles.” About 4,000 people are expected to race up the stairs, one at a time, and then take the elevator back down for a block party.
Toews is ranked No. 47 in the country in stairclimbing, as the amateur sport is known.
On Monday, Anthony Anderson, sports editor of The Elkhart Truth, conducted a mock interview with Toews at the Goshen Write on Sports camp. Anderson started off by asking how old Toews is. When he heard 54, Anderson said, “You look 20 years younger!”
Toews, who grew up in Kansas, said that he started climbing stairs as an eighth grader as a way to stay in shape. At the time, he fantasized about racing up tall buildings.
Many years later a professor at Goshen College in casual conversation happened to mention just such a race, in Chicago, that he was planning to run in,”Hustle Up the Hancock.” Toews signed up as well. That became his first race, 94 floors of vertical challenge, in 2006.
Toews said his highest climb was the Willis Tower, at 103 stories (2,115 steps). He finished in about 20.5 minutes, 7 minutes or so off the winning time.
Competitors usually race against the clock, with a timing mat on the ground floor and again on the top floor activating a computer chip they wear on their shoes. TowerRunning USA, which tracks times and maintains rankings, described stairclimbing as “an increasingly popular sport with over 100 races held annually across the United States.”
Many of the races are also fund-raisers. The race in Los Angeles, for example, will benefit the YMCA.
After the interview, in which students also had a chance to ask questions in both news conference and locker-room settings, Toews led the group on a quick “ascent,” as training intervals are called, up the four flights of the Science Building, where he sometimes trains.