I had started my days In PPB, insolvency accounting firm in January 2008 working in Sydney second tallest building, MLC center.
I chose to be a private person and not let anyone know about my legs and as I can hide them quite well. I worked with the Company for 8 months being social yet not letting anyone know about me. Until August when one of my work mates, Diego Malafaia said to me, “there is Stair race up Sydney tower, we are putting a team together are you interested in joining?”
I thought about it for a day, then decided to make a phone call to the organisers.
“Hi I am Dwayne Fernandes a Double amputee in Sydney , I heard about the Sydney tower Run-up and I was wondering if anyone has ever performed that race with false legs?” ,
A long pause followed by “I don’t know” came the answer from the other side, “let me get back to you.”
1 hour later comes a reply of an every excited person “No-one has done it before, if you do it you will be the first, and we will have some media there to meet you. Would you please attempt the climb” Who am I to say no to a world first?
2 weeks till the Race, I realise exactly how unfit I am.
I am 85kgs with my legs. My legs muscles are strong enough to carry me, but I don’t think they are ready for a race. I find stairs everywhere and climb them. 2 weeks I train hard, then comes the big day.
It is a Wednesday I am standing at Pitt Street Mall which is the base of the Sydney Tower and I look up at the tower which seems to pierce the sky. I recall the tower being 1,504 step to the top, that is when I call myself mad.
After meeting some of the media I got in line for the race, I started at the back of the pack and let people go ahead, they are not my competition, the only person that I am competing with is myself.
If I set a time, I have a world first.
The starter gun goes off and everyone rushed to the door and get jammed it clears and I start to make my way into the building, there are 7 floors before you even get into the tower.
Running up stairwell are not a very pleasant thing to do. All you can hear is the stomping of feet and the heavy breathing of people, until all the people passed then there is just you and the echoes of my breathing, there is nothing to look at just concrete and metal, you have no sense of how high you are or how long you have been in there.
There is guy standing at the halfway point, who tells you, you are at the half way point. That is when I realized there is only 1 exit in my mind and it is at the top. I find all the strength I have for my measly 2-week training and I finish the race in a gallant 23minutes and 12 seconds .
The fastest guy up there did it is 9 minutes something, but I don’t care I have a world first! and the view is spectacular!
I have gone back in subsequent years to improve my time to a significantly better 20 minutes and 14 seconds in 2010.
For months afterwards when I saw the Sydney tower I would smile, the Friday after the race I am have having drink with the partners of the firm, and I jokily mentioned they should send me to New York to run up the Empire state building wearing a T-shirt with their logo on it, They told me “Draft a up a memo for the partner meeting and we will speak on Monday” …
Dwayne “Funky” Fernandes