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A man climbing up stairs with a leukemia awareness ribbon giving him a boost

The Big Climb

If you’ve read my past posts you’ve seen me mention The Big Climb where we trudge up the stairs of the tallest building in Washington State to raise money for leukemia and lymphoma research.

Well, it’s done. I did it. One thousand three hundred and eleven steps straight up. My teammates had to cancel at the last minute so I did it alone. Well, alone except for the 6,000 other people climbing.

We were sent up in groups of 25 or so, each of us spaced 10 seconds apart. We climbed the emergency stairs. There were no windows, just concrete walls. All the way up, on every wall, posters were hung in dedication to loved ones who’d died from or were still struggling with blood cancer.

You can do it!

Each landing was wide enough to rest and let others pass (thank God). I could only handle about five floors at a time so I was grateful for the chance to regain whatever breath and strength I could. Every twenty floors we were kept hydrated by someone holding a tray of small water cups.

I passed a sign with bold red letters urging me on: You can do it! You can do it! You can do it!

Several floors more I saw a large speaker on the landing blaring out music so loud I had no idea what the song was.

I climbed higher, panting like an old dog, and heard the faint celebratory shouts for people who’d finished the climb ahead of me.

My legs felt like lead as one thought kept running through my mind. It was the same thought that haunts me every year. Damn it you idiot, next time you’re going to exercise better for this!

The shouting voices got louder. I was just one flight down from the finish line so, of course, I took a deep breath and sprinted up the last few steps in a valiant effort to fake everyone out.

Reaching the summit

Finally, I’d reached the top floor and the finish line. A gauntlet of shouting volunteers waving pompons and balloons greeted me. I was grateful for their support but also sorry they had to scream and shout for all 6,000 of us. I hoped none of them were planning a singing career because they were probably going to blow out their vocal cords by the end of the day.

Catching my breath, I grabbed a bottle of water and gazed out the large windows looking over Seattle. The waters of Puget Sound were beautiful. I saw a few tiny white dots and realized they were sailboats. The city’s iconic Space Needle was in the distance and much lower than us. In fact, no matter where I looked, everything was below us.

Advocating for blood cancer research

Everyone up there had braved the grueling vertical marathon for one reason. They were all affected in some way by blood cancer. Some, like myself, had the disease, but many more made the climb for someone they love–or loved.

We would wake up the next day with well-earned sore legs and the hope a cure for blood cancer will be found in our lifetimes.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.


  • Ann Harper moderator
    6 months ago

    What an amazing event. Bravo for not just braving the climb, but also finishing it. You helped research come one step closer to finding the cure!

  • VinnieCent moderator
    6 months ago

    Congrats @jim-smith!! I’m so proud of you! A bunch of my friends participated in the Big Climb here in Philly and I just shared your post with a bunch of them on Facebook.

    Thanks for everything you do,

    -Vincent 🙂

  • Racheli Alkobey moderator
    6 months ago

    Jim! That’s absolutely wonderful! I’m currently fundraising for LLS as well!! What you did was truly inspiring… any plans to do Everest with Team in Training next year?! 🙂

  • Jim Smith moderator author
    6 months ago

    @radiant-racheli Yep, doing it again next year and hopefully my team members will show up this time! It’s a great experience and I’d suggest anyone who is able to take it on should go ahead and do it. I understand there are other big climbs in other states. I hope I didn’t scare people off. As long as you take it easy it’s really not that difficult to make the climb – plus some cities might have a shorter building : )

  • Racheli Alkobey moderator
    6 months ago

    haha very true! You are amazing! Have you heard of Climb to Cure?

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