stats
globeinteractive.com: Making the Business of Life Easier

   Finance globeinvestor   Careers globecareers.workopolis Subscribe to The Globe
The Globe and Mail /globeandmail.com
Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space


Search

space
  This site         Tips

  
space
  The Web Google
space
   space



space

  Where to Find It


Breaking News
  Home Page

  Report on Business

  Sports

  Technology

space
Subscribe to The Globe

Shop at our Globe Store


Print Edition
  Front Page

  Report on Business

  National

  International

  Sports

  Arts & Entertainment

  Editorials

  Columnists

   Headline Index

 Other Sections
  Appointments

  Births & Deaths

  Books

  Classifieds

  Comment

  Education

  Environment

  Facts & Arguments

  Focus

  Health

  Obituaries

  Real Estate

  Review

  Science

  Style

  Technology

  Travel

  Wheels

 Leisure
  Cartoon

  Crosswords

  Food & Dining

  Golf

  Horoscopes

  Movies

  Online Personals

  TV Listings/News

 Specials & Series
  All Reports...

space

Services
   Where to Find It
 A quick guide to what's available on the site

 Newspaper
  Advertise

  Corrections

  Customer Service

  Help & Contact Us

  Reprints

  Subscriptions

 Web Site
  Advertise

  E-Mail Newsletters

  Free Headlines

  Globe Store New

  Help & Contact Us

  Make Us Home

  Mobile New

  Press Room

  Privacy Policy

  Terms & Conditions


GiveLife.ca

    

PRINT EDITION
TOWER OF STRENGTH
space
Halfway up Canada's tallest structure, I had to push myself through that eternal miserable moment when you wonder why you started climbing in the first place, David Smookler writes
space
By DAVID SMOOKLER
  
  

Email this article Print this article
Wednesday, July 18, 2018 – Page A14

Without thinking, I tell people I ran up the CN Tower, which is how I remember the climb each time I've done it. The actual experience, however, is always a surprise, kind of like how I've heard childbirth described: as something painful you only repeat because of a faulty memory.

Every spring, to raise funds for the World Wildlife Foundation, the CN Tower opens its doors to wouldbe champions of the tallest metal staircase in the world. This year, I was eager to sign up and try to beat my previous time.

I had every expectation of improving on my old record: I had been running, literally running, for months up the nine flights of stairs to my office at work. On the day of the climb, I went downtown early so there would be fewer competitors in my way. The April morning was unusually cold - below freezing, in fact - so I knew I'd feel better in the stairwell as colder air has more oxygen. In other years, when the weather was warmer, I'd gone up feeling there wasn't enough air to breathe.

This year, I climbed with a partner from work who was half my age. After dropping off our coats, phones, backpacks and water bottles, we signed in and received identity wrist bracelets.

We waited in groups of about 10 for our turn to head up the stairwell. Near the first step, our wristbands were scanned and we started up the narrow 144 flights. I let my companion go first, but soon, I was ahead, calling back that he would no doubt pass me later on.

And then it was just me and the stairs. I had pictured climbing up two at a time, like I do at work. That did not happen.

Instead, I was dismayed to realize that, almost from the beginning, I'd settled into a one-step trudge. How could I be worse than at work?

I wondered. I've only just begun! Looking up, I saw that I was already on the 25th flight. I hadn't realized I had climbed so much. There are only 12 steps to a flight, so they do go quickly. I had unconsciously raced up what would have been 16 floors in my office building and now was feeling the "ugh" of travelling beyond my initial burst of energy, beyond a distance I was used to.

More than a hundred flights stretched before me: an eternal miserable moment that promised to never end. I was in limbo where the urge to stop, the urge to rest, battled it out with my earlier ambition and future pride.

Long before the eternity on the stairs, sitting on my couch, perhaps eating bonbons, back when I first considered running up the CN Tower, I had told myself I'd push as hard as possible. Just like when one thinks, "I'll go to that party but be really careful about how much I drink," or, perhaps, after a breakup, "I'm going to visit my ex, but we won't sleep together," but then you are in the moment and reality overtakes you - past resolutions fade.

I thought of stories of mountain climbers on Everest, lying down from exhaustion, the pleasure of resting, of giving up and stopping, superseding the thought of seeing loved ones again. I could imagine how it might not seem so important. Somehow, the thought that it can matter again, that it will matter again if you ever get out of this space, doesn't make it matter in this moment.

I can't really explain my own reluctance in the CN Tower stairwell. Nothing felt especially tired - I just felt a draining of will. I was not in pain; it wasn't like walking on a blister, or with a cramp. I wasn't even at the limit of my physical ability. I passed a hundred people on the way up who were content to take it slow and easy, but occasionally, I passed someone going a little faster and when I came upon those climbers, I sped up so that I would never see them again. The energy was there, but will alone couldn't tap into it. Without someone to compete with, it was just me battling myself, through the middle of the climb, where there was no hope for an end, only more of the same.

When I did reach the end, my time was marked and then I was directed to more stairs! The six or more flights felt like some joke from Dante's Inferno. Finally, the eternal stairs opened up to a floor where a dozen volunteer well-wishers and a person in a panda suit stood, cheering every climber as they arrived. I walked over to the panda to give it a hug. It didn't seem to mind.

At the top, I waited for my co-worker and admired the view. It was a long wait. My co-worker wasn't having the same CN Tower experience: Not obsessed with making good time, he was making friends on the way up. The longer I waited, the more excited I got about my time, and when we returned to the ground floor, I lined up full of anticipation.

"16:52," said the woman checking my name.

"Oh. Oh well," I replied, a little dejected.

"What are you complaining about? That's a good time!"

"I was hoping for better," I said. This year, I was a minute and a half longer than my shortest time.

"But that's a good time," she insisted.

As I biked home through the April sunshine I reviewed my disappointing experience and a strange thing began to happen. The farther I got from the event, the more extraordinary it seemed.

It had been beautiful at the top, seeing the Toronto Islands, picking out the green dome of Convocation Hall, finding landmarks near my home. And I had achieved this heady bird's-eye view under my own power. Our climb had raised hundreds of dollars from friends and colleagues for the WWF. Involuntarily, I felt elation seep into me as if coming from outside my body.

Arriving home, I took the dog out for a walk. It was cold and a chill wind blew in my face. I felt terrific. I realized I was just happy to be alive, to be in the sun and to not be climbing an endless flight of stairs.

Climbing the CN Tower makes everything feel better.

David Smookler lives in Toronto.

First Person is a daily personal piece submitted by readers Have a story to tell? Please see the guidelines on our website tgam.ca/essayguide, and e-mail it to firstperson@globeandmail.com

Associated Graphic

ILLUSTRATION BY DREW SHANNON


Huh? How did I get here?
Return to Main Eric_Duhatschek Page
Subscribe to
The Globe and Mail
 

Email this article Print this article

space  Advertisement
space

Need CPR for your RSP? Check your portfolio’s pulse and lower yours by improving the overall health of your investments. Click here.

Advertisement

7-Day Site Search
    

Breaking News



Today's Weather


Inside

Rick Salutin
Merrily marching
off to war
Roy MacGregor
Duct tape might hold
when panic strikes


Editorial
Where Manley is going with his first budget




space

Columnists



For a columnist's most recent stories, click on their name below.

 National


Roy MacGregor arrow
This Country
space
Jeffrey Simpson arrow
The Nation
space
Margaret Wente arrow
Counterpoint
space
Hugh Winsor  arrow
The Power Game
space
 Business


Rob Carrick arrow
Personal Finance
space
Drew Fagan arrow
The Big Picture
space
Mathew Ingram arrow
space
Brent Jang arrow
Business West
space
Brian Milner arrow
Taking Stock
space
Eric Reguly arrow
To The Point
space
Andrew Willis arrow
Streetwise
space
 Sports


Stephen Brunt arrow
The Game
space
Eric Duhatschek arrow
space
Allan Maki arrow
space
William Houston arrow
Truth & Rumours
space
Lorne Rubenstein arrow
Golf
space
 The Arts


John Doyle arrow
Television
space
John MacLachlan Gray arrow
Gray's Anatomy
space
David Macfarlane arrow
Cheap Seats
space
Johanna Schneller arrow
Moviegoer
space
 Comment


Murray Campbell arrow
Ontario Politics
space
Lysiane Gagnon arrow
Inside Quebec
space
Marcus Gee arrow
The World
space
William Johnson arrow
Pit Bill
space
Paul Knox arrow
Worldbeat
space
Heather Mallick arrow
As If
space
Leah McLaren arrow
Generation Why
space
Rex Murphy arrow
Japes of Wrath
space
Rick Salutin arrow
On The Other Hand
space
Paul Sullivan arrow
The West
space
William Thorsell arrow
space





Home | Business | National | Int'l | Sports | Columnists | The Arts | Tech | Travel | TV | Wheels
space

© 2003 Bell Globemedia Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Help & Contact Us | Back to the top of this page