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I conquer the tallest building in Beijing, panting

By Yu Yilei | China Daily | Updated: 2013-08-06 06:48

If elevators work, will you consider climbing to the top of a 330-meter-high skyscraper by leg power?

Such a crazy idea had never occurred to me, at least not before I decided to enter the inaugural China World Summit Wing Hotel Vertical Run held on Saturday in Beijing.

I have been so used to taking elevators anytime, anywhere - even in the six-floor building where I work. The last time I took the stairs instead of elevator in a building more than six floors (it is regulated in Beijing that buildings above six floors have to be equipped with elevators) was during the SARS period in 2003. In fear of catching the deadly virus in an enclosed space, I chose to climb 25 floors to visit a friend.

But this time, I needed to conquer 82 floors and 2,041 steps. They belong to China World Trade Center Tower III or "Guo Mao San Qi" as Beijingers call it, the tallest building in the capital city.

How hard would it be?

I was quite confident I could do it with ease although I had not been working out for more than a month because I have been ill. But, only a few minutes into the race, I knew I was wrong.

I was already out of breath following the leaders of our running pack at full speed. It was just the 15th floor, with 67 to go.

At about 10 minutes after the start point, I managed to reach the 40th floor. But I paid my price: I could hardly breathe and my head was spinning. I also lost track of the leading pack.

"I can't be that bad," I said to myself.

But what I was not aware of was, using the same amount of time, reigning Vertical World Circuit Champion Thomas Dold of Germany, already reached the top comfortably and pocketed a winning purse of $1,000.

After a short break at the medical stop at half mark, I continued my journey to the top.

Then the hardest part came - somewhere near the halfway mark to the 62th floor where another medial stop was located, I reached my physical limit: I had a slight headache and wanted to throw up. At the same time, the stairway felt like an endless time tunnel.

"Just a few more floors to go! Jia You!" a volunteer yelled at me as I leaned on the wall and caught my breath with much effort.

I picked myself up again, and slowly climbed up the remaining stairs. As I passed the finishing line on the rooftop of the tower, I almost collapsed. I could barely move my legs and grasped the banister to support myself.

The result was 28 minutes - almost triple of Dold's winning time. And I was 17 minutes slower than the winner for the general public who was rewarded with a trip to the UK featuring round-trip flights from Beijing to London and a three-night stay in a suite at the soon-to-open Shangri-La Hotel in London.

As I was enjoying a fantastic view of Beijing in a less-polluted sunny day from the pinnacle of the city, I suddenly had more respect for the residents of world's tallest apartments, Princess Towers in Dubai. Recently, they were told to climb more than 1,300 steps to their homes, for which they paid more than $3 million, after the building's elevators failed.

I climbed the stairs for good fun. They climbed the stairs for a good life.

And this is the challenge of living in big cities - no matter how advanced the technologies are, we still need to rely on human power in the most critical times.

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