On 3 February 2009 at 9:30am the weather hit – 5 and it was snowing, this was race day. Dressed in my PPB/ VISY shirt, School shorts, left leg covered in PPB and VISY stickers, right leg covered with saying from family and friends and a few Americans, I stepped out of the Subway system, and look up at the 86 stories of the Empire State Building. I then realised exactly how mad I was to attempt this challenge.
I walked into the building to find the ground floor was covered with media that had heard about my story. After speak with them for nearly an hour, I stretched, took my asthma medication and at 10:35am approached the starting line.
I stood at the back of the pack, I know how aggressive the runners can get, but this race is not against them, this race is just me and stairs. I remind myself, Keep a Rhythm, everything can be done if you have a rhythm, breath and if I make it to the top it is a world first.
10:40am, BANG, the race begins. I jog to the fire stairs, which snakes its way to the top of the building.
The first 20 Floors: Breath good, legs fine, Rhythm of a dancer.
I see little green arrows on every step, they are facing against me, pointing down to the ground floor.
The next 45 Floors: Asthma kicking it, Legs surprisingly fine, Rhythm of sloth. Quick runners pass me from the next pack below, they pat my back and urge me on. The 65th Floor had a drink stand; I drank a cup of water and hobbled on.
The next 15 Floors: Asthma has hit over drive, Legs are burning, Rhythm? What Rhythm? I feel like a drunken sailor stumbling up a hill. Those little green arrows are really irritating me. Every step I take, they are telling me “You will fail!”, “Quit”, “You can’t do this!” I keep stepping against them. My will is stronger! I am on the 80th Floor.
The next 5 Floors: The second wind hits, Asthma has reduced I can feel the cold air coming, Legs are on fire but I will push through, I have my Rhythm back. The green arrows bother me no more, I turn the corner on the 85th floor and see the light up ahead.
The 86th Floor: I climb, I take the last of the 1576 steps, I am 86 floors up, and I see the snow outside, I begin to run, I see the finish line, I bolt, I turn the 2 corners and I cross the line, and I stop.
The race is over, 26 minutes and 12 seconds, it is over. I realise I am on top of New York’s Highest building, and I now hold a world first, that I am a double amputee that has climbed the Empire state building.
Standing alone drench in sweat from head to stump feeling fulfilled, I remember the people that got me here, I remember my family, my friends, my work mates and PPB and VISY.
I am forever grateful for all the support people have given me and hope that people find some kind of inspiration out of the event, I hope I get people see the strength they have in themselves and I hope they find the courage to use it. This is what this experience meant to me, and I hope it means the same to you.
Dwayne “Funky” Fernandes