Climbing the urban mountain



By Luke Fegenbush

The lobby of the Lexington Financial Center was crowded for 8 a.m. on a Saturday.

The crowd, which included firefighters, police officers and college students, all gathered for the first Urban Mountain Challenge.

Every 16 seconds, a runner was sent up the stairs to climb the 29 stories. Each participant paid between $30 and $45, which went to the UK College of Education, the College of Communication and Information Studies and the Downtown Lexington


, said Tamara Deckard, the event coordinator.

Out of the 340 contestants, the competition started with the public safety division at 8 a.m. Their time was recorded by a timing chip — a small, blue plastic box attached to a Velcro strap runners would wear around their wrists.

“We just appreciate them doing this,” said Chris Sweat, a member of the Lexington Fire Department. “They really put an emphasis on public safety.”

Healthy competition served to drive each member to do their best. Although it wasn’t required, some firefighters such as Joe Nugent chose to make the run in his full uniform.

“It’s mostly just showing off,” Nugent said about the 60 pounds of equipment.

After a short break, other contestants were let up the stairs.

Henry Smith, a UK law student, was among them.

“I trained by running up and down the stairs of the Patterson Office Tower,” Smith said.

He has participated in 5K races before, but has never competed in a tower run.

Smith said he would participate again next year because he now knows what it is like.

“I can pace myself and do better,” he said.

The idea of running up the steps for fun might be a new one for most, but for those like Nugent, a tower run is a familiar concept.

“I ran the Leukemia and Lymphoma run in Seattle twice, and I’ve also done one in Baltimore,” Nugent said.

After running, contestants could participate in warm-down stretches on the second floor, enjoy complimentary mini-massages and enjoy food and musical entertainment in the tent outside of the building.

After a raffle and a short contest where participants guessed the total number of stairs climbed by all the runners that day (the answer was 214,488 stairs), the winners were announced.

“I was pretty happy with my time,” Sweat said after he completed the race. “I paced myself and got under four minutes, which is what I was aiming for.”

Antonio Stuckey, a church pastor and maintenance electrician, was less happy with how he performed.

“If I could’ve paced myself, I would’ve done so much better,” he said.

However, most seemed satisfied with the event itself.

“There were plenty of people. They did a really good job,” Sweat said.

Deckard, the event coordinator, commented on the possibility of doing the event again next year.

“Prospects for next year look very good,” Deckard said. “We may add to it, with maybe a run or a bike ride to make it more challenging.”