by George (G.M.) Grena

This year marked the American Lung Association's 6th annual Fight for Air climb in Columbus, Ohio, & the 11th in Cincinnati.  In the past they were held on different weekends from January to March, but this year the stars aligned for a back-to-back event on February 20-21. 

Saturday's race was held at the 40-story James A. Rhodes State Office Tower, & Sunday's was at the 45-story Carew Tower (recently renamed Hilton Netherland Plaza Hotel).  Each stairwell reaches roughly 500 feet up, almost a tenth of a mile, so participants have the option of ascending/descending 10 laps (plus one partial lap beginning on an upper floor) to compete for the fastest vertical mile (VM) early in the morning.  Shortly thereafter, the single-lap race was held for 245 participants in Columbus, 453 in Cincinnati. 

Only 7 racers attempted the Columbus VM, with 4 going all the way officially.  18 tried it in Cincinnati, but only 16 made it.  48-year-old Brian Heber won it in Columbus with an official time of 2:20:20, while 59-year-old Alan Zaffiro took 1st place in Cincinnati in an amazing 1:59:59!  Traci Mehalic captured the fastest VM for Columbus females with2:46:06, & Beth Brubacher did likewise in Cincinnati with 2:16:32

29-year-old Daniel Kelly won the Columbus single-lap race with5:22, while Theresa Mazzitti-Stell captured the women's title with 6:29.  For perspective, the overall average time this year was 12:22, & the bldg. record set by Chris Hayes in 2013 at 4:39 still stands firm.  In his first skyscraper stair-climb ever (no training aside from horizontal running), 34-year-old Taylor Clark won the Cincinnati single-lap race with 5:32, & Erica Fye was the fastest woman with 6:38.  The overall average time this year in Cincinnati was 14:17 (unofficial bldg. record is 5:17). 

Although both stairwells span the same approximate height, the reason for the faster times at the Rhodes is due to its simple 10+10 layout for most of its floors, whereas the Carew not only has more floors, but twice as many turns with a 2+6+3+6 pattern. 

Honorable mention goes to 49-year-old Charles Bower for being the ONLY competitor to participate in all 4 races!  42-year-old Minnesota resident, Brian Zamboni was the only other climber to do both VMs.  California climber, G.M. Grena was the only other climber to do both single-lap races, capturing 1st-place for the Men's 50+ division at both venues.  Official results & photos from both races are available at

George (G.M.) Grena