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Stuff happens. That is the nature of stuff. I ran the Barcelona Marathon, which was awwwe-some! BTW (other than the start and the finish). But that was 3 days after I was scheduled in for a second running of Vertical Rush.

This is a charity event for Shelter, a very worthwhile cause and involves the kind of challenge corporate types love, and I find intriguing, as it is different to the normal running about kind of challenge I do. This is a running upward kind of challenge. A challenge that some people do all the time. There is even a leader board on the Vertical World Circuit and I saw the pros last time wearing a single glove (very Michael Jackson or Arnold Palmer) to slingshot themselves using the inside handrail (the outside lane is the slow lane on tower running).

It is a sprint straight up the stairwell of the Natwest Tower, or Tower 42 and I ran this back in 2015 (see here), raised the required £160, got a t-shirt and a mug that I loved.

Not my actual mug (this was from the t’internet)

I loved it because it really is a challenge, and so every time I would make a cuppa, and dunk a bourbon, I would think, “Yeah! I did that.” I also did it in 9 minutes and 17 seconds last time, and was 444th. The winner did it in 4:12.

Actual mug this time. Fake me from the t’internet

And so to this year. I had, as always, not planned to  do it again. I had found it very tough and my minimal training had left me atop the tallest building in the City out of breath and burning from the thighs after 42 floors, from the lungs and from the eyes after several Russian doormen covered their quads and calves in 2 cans of Deep Heat as a warm up and near choked us all to death. But, as I said, things happen. It is the nature of things.

A little while ago I met up with Running Legend Susie Chan and her news reading comadre Sophie Raworth running the Cheese Grater for charity and that put the wheels in motion.

Maybe I would run Vertical Rush again.

But it was 3 days before Barcelona marathon.

That would be crazy.

Yes, it would. But so is having a debate with yourself in a blog post.

Then a tipping point, the worst thing possible happened – the 2015 mug got broken. The cleaner broke it at work. I was devastated. Inconsolable and so there was only one thing for it. I signed up for Vertical Rush 2017. 932 steps straight up. Although now, I knew what to expect. This year it would be different…

And so it was. I started by training a lot, including running the 5 Peaks, the 5 deepest tube stations in London, down and then up, then run to the next one. (As long as you do it within 5 minutes it is classed as a platform ticket)

This was, already part of my training for Comrades but now I had a real purpose and a closer target, to get ready for the burn that is VERTICAL RUSH!

And so at 9am on a Thursday (Yay! I got out of work for this!) I took the tube into the city wearing running kit and headed to the old Natwest Building Tower 42. It was exactly the same experience as before. Get a number, get a red Shelter tee, attach number, walk into the hall where a MC is jabbering over the PA, people are getting a rub down from city physios, St Johns Ambulance men and women wait, and people check their times on a huge video wall. Exactly the same.

You wait for your wave or start time and, as mine approached, the previous wave came down, all looking very accomplished, if a little flushed. No headphones, no music but they wanted you to take your phones and tweet, Insta and Snapchat yourself silly, just not en route to the top. They did give us phone holders for our arms. Um. That won’t get much use. And then we were off, jogging around to the start, a quick warm up with a PT, and then standing for FOREVER in a hallway as we wait to be sent up one by one and cooling down in the process.

I saw 53Marathons being ushered into a VIP area. Guess celebs don’t change with the mortals, and I got talking to a boxer from Kent called Jon who’s son signed him up, and then bailed out and was already concerned about a) dying and b) not finishing under 15 minutes. I told him I did it in 9:20(ish) the last time without any training and just to keep going.

He and I were the last ones to enter the stairwell from our tranche of about 80. There would be one with hundreds later in the day. And then I was off…

First flight two steps at a time.

Ditto the next 3 flights.

And then jogging pace.

After about 10 floors I passed the first person.

Then a few later, my lungs burning and legs leaden I passed a few more.

Shelter peeps cheered encouragement from time to time and I recall being hassled for the rest of the pledge the last time, the same email tactic MS Society did at Royal Parks in 2012 and vowed not to do it again.

I passed some more people and was now walking, but in the fast paced walk of a man who lived on the northern line and took the stairs a lot.

I caught up with a group of 3 girls.

One dropped out.

Then another.

And the third kept going and I used her to pace myself, after all, I was going to work from here. Some were going home.

And then I reached the top, it felt easy and controlled.

My time? 9:04. A little disappointing given how good I felt and how easy it was. But with Barcelona Marathon 3 days later, I didn’t want to arse it up totally did I?

I went back down, chatting with Jon, who was happy to both a) survive and b) do it in 12 mins. We got massaged and then I went to work, content with my performance, wishing I had done a little better (sub 9), and very disappointed that for £160 plus entry fee Shelter didn’t spring for a cheap mug.

WOULD I DO SHELTER RUSH AGAIN? No! Not unless we get a mug.

WOULD I RECOMMEND SHELTER RUSH? Yes, as a challenge, everyone should have a go.

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