24 May 2023

Running up Canberra's tallest tower is a tall task (but it was for a worthy cause)

| James Coleman
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man running up stairs

O’Neill & Brown Plumbing, Fire and Electrical won for the fastest team. Photo: Thomas Lucraft.

You start strong, beamed up the first few flights of stairs by a wave of anticipation that has been building up over several minutes of standing out in the cold, but then you get to the fifth floor and you realise it’s getting harder to lift your legs.

Then there’s the 10th floor. By then, your lungs are struggling to find oxygen.

By the 20th, it’s got to the put-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other stage. It joyfully tops out at 27 flights of stairs, by which time your legs are lead, your lungs are on fire and everything else is fighting the urge to collapse to the floor. Or vomit.

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A group of more than 80 people from businesses across Canberra (including Vantage Strata, BAL Lawyers, Ray White Canberra and yours truly, Region) all had the crazy idea to begin their Tuesday morning (23 May) by sprinting up the stairwell of the tallest building in Canberra.

But there’s a good reason for this madness – Menslink.

The Stair Chase Challenge is an annual fundraising event for the volunteer-run counselling and mentoring service Menslink. It is hosted by Canberra developer Geocon in the tallest of their two High Society towers in Belconnen. All 113 metres of it.

A record number of participants raised a record $17,000 in entry fees and other donations, all so Menslink can continue supporting young men in the Canberra region.

“We see 600 to 800 young men a year between the ages of 10 and 25,” acting operations manager Des Linehan said.

“We match up either old blokes like me or younger blokes with a young man between the ages of 10 and 16 for a two-year journey. And that two-year journey is to basically help the young fella see what it is to be a good man.

“We all know that shit happens, and our ability to cope with it and deal with it is so important, and our need to actually put our hand up and go, ‘You know what? It’s not weak to speak’.”

There was clearly a link to pushing through difficulty and making it up 27 flights of stairs.

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Runners were released at three-minute intervals to prevent the stairwell from becoming too crowded and – spurred on by the prospect of receiving the golden trophies – aimed for the best time to the top. There was also the promise of a sausage sizzle.

Strategies differed, from the marathon-style shuffle to the sprinter’s straddle-as-many-stairs-as-possible, but looking around at the top, it was hard to tell who had done what. There was puffing and coughing everywhere for a good half hour.

The fastest male was Hugh McKenzie from O’Neill & Brown Plumbing, Fire and Electrical, with a staggering 2 minutes and 47 seconds, while Ellen Bradley from BAL Lawyers topped the female category with a time of 3:13.

O’Neill & Brown also took home the award for fastest average for a team at 3:15.

Menslink CEO Ben Gathercole thanked everyone for their time and effort.

“The work we do is imperative to young blokes here in the Canberra community, but it doesn’t happen without people coming out on events like this,” he said.

“Yes, we will have this event again next year. Yes, I would like to lean on everybody to bring out more people to have more teams involved.”

Region also has confirmation there will be onion to go with the sausages next time.

“Sorry for forgetting the onion,” a spokesperson for Geocon said.

It’s never too late to get involved and help Menslink out (and you don’t have to run up 27 flights of stairs). Just click here.

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I thought the Telstra Tower on Black Mountain was Canberra’s highest building -that’s not counting the height of the mountain itself. But maybe that building is still closed and so not considered?

I did a run up a tower in Melbourne many years ago. One of the hardest physical activities I have ever participated in, even hard than the City to Surf

Well done to everyone involved – a very worthwhile cause.
And congratulations to my favourite lawyer, Ellen, for keeping a blitz’n pace.

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