I’ll never climb Mount Everest. I have come to accept that. So I did the next best thing — I joined the Swissotel Vertical Marathon at Swissotel The Stamford along with 2,163 others yesterday.
I’m not saying that completing the Swissotel Vertical Marathon, which started in 1987, is anything like scaling the world’s highest peak, but it’s probably the closest a 47-year-old slacker like me will ever get.
For one thing, Mount Everest is 8,848m high, while Swissotel The Stamford is only 226m tall. On the other hand, Mount Everest doesn’t have a Ya Kun Kaya Toast in the basement (I assume).
So if you really want to simulate climbing Mount Everest, you would need to climb Swissotel The Stamford’s 73 storeys 39.15 times and go without kaya toast.
I’m sure the three members of Team Singapura Everest 2015 who took part in the vertical marathon were aware of this.
Unlike me, two of them — Mr Muhd Hilwan, 27, and Ms Nur Yusrina Yaakob, 26 — are actually planning to climb Mount Everest in 2015 to celebrate Singapore’s 50th birthday.
They told me that as part of their Everest training, they climb the stairs of a 40-storey HDB block in Toa Payoh a few times a week.
While it was my first Swissotel Vertical Marathon, it was not my first vertical marathon. In June, I had survived the 40-storey National Vertical Marathon at Asia Square (near Lau Pa Sat), where I learnt a few things.
One is, just because other people are sprinting up the stairs at the start doesn’t mean you have to keep up with them.
You’re going to conk out before you reach the 10th storey.
You have to climb at your own pace, but the “peer pressure” can be hard to resist.
My biggest dilemma was whether I should climb two steps at a time or one.
If I climbed two steps at a time from the start, I would tire quickly.
But if I climbed one step at a time, I would still be in the Swissotel The Stamford’s stairway while you’re reading this.
Then yesterday, a miracle happened.
While waiting in the holding area outside the hotel before the race, I noticed a guy with one leg and crutches.
He was wearing the same colour race bib that I was, which meant he and I were running in the same category.
I decided I was going to run next to him.
No peer pressure there.
For the first few floors, I was right behind him.
Since he was on crutches, he could climb only one step at a time.
So I, too, climbed one step at a time. It was a breeze.
I eventually overtook the one-legged guy, occasionally climbing two steps at a time, and finished the vertical marathon way, way, way ahead of him.
I did it! I beat the man with one leg!
I later found out his name is Mr Ezzy Wang Peng Han.
The 47-year-old lost his right limb after his pelvis was attacked by a rare form of bone cancer in 1996. He is now a competence manager at insurance company AIA.
He took his defeat by me rather well.
At the finish line on the rooftop of Singapore’s tallest hotel, I asked Mr Wang how he kept going, knowing he could never catch up with me.
Pointing to the breathtaking view, he said: “Reaching the pinnacle was my motivation.”
Yeah, but I reached the pinnacle before he did. That felt almost as good as if I had climbed Everest. To celebrate, I’m going to order some kaya toast.
The article related to these pictures was first published in The New Paper on November 25, 2013