At 5 AM on 14 November 2010, I wake up to a cold Melbourne morning. I was invited to run up the Eureka Tower to be the first double amputee to scale the 1662 stairs.
This is probably one of the earliest starts I’ve ever got in a run-up and this is one of the coldest mornings I have ever faced with the exception of New York. The entire weekend was rainy, windy and wonderful, being a beautiful Melbourne weekend.
The only time the sun came out to play was on the day of the race; the sky turned blue and stayed that way.
With the lessons I learned in Hong Kong and the additional training I performed, I felt confident. I loaded up on 3 bananas, a breakfast it was light and gave me heaps of power.
By seven o’clock I was at the base of the Eureka Tower. It is a gold plated upper floors were shining in the sun, the cold air filled my lungs as I walked around the outdoor registration area below. There were stands for shops, food, media centre, and celebrities endorsed products. That is where I ran into the organizer, Mr. Ben King. He was the one who invited me to participate in this event, and I assisted in raising awareness of this race in the local papers. We talked for a while and he did introduce me to Michael Klim, this Olympic athlete is a towering figure, who is kind-hearted and a good conversationalist. After a short conversation, he was pulled away to do a live interview with Weekend Sunrise presenter James Tobin. He then introduced me to James, who asked me to be on the show and do a live cross. I of course was quite happy to oblige. Every time anybody asked me about the time I intend to set I would tell them, I had calculated for 26-27 minutes. I expected this time because of the difficulty I faced in Hong Kong and the time I set there.
Around nine o’clock, we finally started to get set to run this tower. The weather was still nice and cold, had finished the interview and had stretched my body just before we took off to the top of the tower. There was one final live news cross. They had placed me with the elite athletes: Michael Klim, Grant Hackett and a variety of different swimmers and athletes all running at the same time as me. All the athletes were introduced by Michael Klim to the Channel 7 audience including me, they praised me for attempting this race, my ego swelled and the Horn was blown!
I of course stayed at the back of the pack be the elite athletes. I am not racing them, it is again myself and the tower my ascent up the 1,662 stairs. This building has a beautiful pattern. It is right-hand turns, and about 20 steps per floor. As always, Jamiroquai starts their song in my ear, I find my rhythm. I’ve learned from Hong Kong my railing technique is better, I am now using alternate hands pull up myself up the rails. In addition, the size of the passageway is smaller allowing me to place both hands on both walls and pull this race is feeling better than the last one. But the time I reached the tent floor I cannot hear the elite athletes anymore. Their footsteps echo, their playful banter cannot be heard. I am again alone in a tall building, and I love it. All that additional training allowed me to power through the smaller passageway and the railing technique has given me a better pace. By the time I reached the halfway mark, I was ahead in the songs list. The pace I had set was a good one however by the time I reached the halfway mark, I am sure the elite athletes were nearing the top. I kept climbing through the corners as my music kept changing, “seven days in sunny June”, “canned heat”, “Little L”, “Love foolosophy”. I had recently added, “(Don’t) Give hate a chance” this put me around the 20-minute mark, and as two minutes of that song past I found myself climbing the final set of stairs at the Eureka Tower. I use all my power and charge for the top of the flight stairs. The narrow corridor turns to the right and i can see the crowd and the finish line. I jog, I jump and land, past the finish marker. In 22:54 minutes I pass the finish line and dancing, I don’t know where this energy is coming from but it keeps me dancing.
I looked to my left, and I see that Channel 10 news crew. They catch me dancing and it ends up on news. Just beyond them, are all the elite athlete’s sitting there, completely exhausted, I had crossed the finish line, significantly slower than them, yet still dancing the reporter made a play on that for their evening coverage. I rehydrate and celebrate, Melbourne has been conquered by titanium, carbon fibre, muscles and determination.
We take a few more pictures with Grant Hackett, Michael Klim and the other athletes and head down to the bottom. On that short elevator ride down I realized another lesson that I learned that it’s important for tower climbing. Ego it is very important! Not having too much, but not having too little, enough to feel confident to take on a tower, and keep a good pace.
The good people at the Interplast Society were happy that I came to support the cause. I was happy to be to raise awareness for them. As I walked around the registration area, lots of people who’ve seen me on the live feed on Channel 7, came up to me and asked me what my time was? They all want to know if I’d beat my estimated time and they were all happy to hear that I broke it by 4 minutes.
Dwayne “Funky” Fernandes