Sunday, 8 March 2015

Step Up 3,2,1

 The blurb said:
Step Up 3,2,1: 71 stories, 6.1km run from Westminster to the City, through the centre of London:

  •  Portland House, Victoria – the first vertical dash to the 27th floor, followed by a 2.4km run to Trafalgar Square and tower number two
  •  5 Strand, Charing Cross – only eight floors to climb this time, with West End views at the top to help you get ready for the final push
  •  20 Fenchurch Street, the City – this is the big one. After a 3.7km run, you’ll be climbing up 36 floors.

I don't think I've run that far since the 90's.

I arrived at Portland House around 10 am, working my way around the ongoing planned chaos of regeneration at Victoria.  I worked next door to Portland house for a while, passing the building frequently, and just the word 'Portland' links back to my last fundraising charity adventure.  So for these reasons and others this seemed like a good starting point for my next mini-adventure.

"Portland House is no masterpiece, but it has got a spark, it is a real live idea of a building, where the dead fish all around it are just so many square feet of lettable office space to exist in loveless apathy until the time comes for their demolition." Ian Nairn, Nairn's London (1966)
And that reference to the ongoing change in the area still stands.  Milling about outside, watching people stretching and warming up, waiting for my younger sister, Lara who suggested getting me into this event, I couldn't help feel I was in a little over my head.  Regretting that last beer last night and wondering how I could sufficiently stretch to avoid any sort of mischief.

Participants were being set off in groups of 10 or so.  As we step up to the first flight the timers were set.  The first four or five stories I flew up, but pretty quickly that tired, and taking two steps at a time, in a slightly slower manner was enough to keep me ascending steadily.  I neglected to time myself on the various sections, but that first building wasn't so bad, enough to break a sweat and get properly warmed up.  Once we got back down we headed off down Victoria Street, around Parliament Square to Whitehall and on to The Strand. I tread these streets often now, but I still love the iconography and significance of the buildings and streets.  My overriding thought though was that I was super stunned that I managed to run the whole way.

Then the eight flights of No 5 The Strand.  Again, I attempted to sprint up, but with some pretty foul language just trudged up the last half.  A quick pic of the view, then off down to Embankment.

Not many pictures of this part.  Sweating heavily and stomping like an elephant.  Just past Waterloo Bridge I had to slow to a walk for a bit, my shins were killing me and needed to ease off a bit.  I was stunned I'd run that far, and don't think I'd have been able without the motivation of not being out run by my little sister.  Anyway we walked on for a bit until Blackfriars bridge and then a bit more jogging on to our final peak.

The famed walkie talkie was gradually looming, and as we turned the corner up Botolph Lane there was quite a lot of swearing about the last part of the challenge.

Can't say it wasn't a slog going up, and a bit monotonous, and the hand rails were much needed, but we did it, with a little more foul language.  Met at the top with water and towels and sweets and stretching.  And a text to say I'd made it in under an hour.  Though I had set no target, that it was pleasing to me not to just stagger over the 1 hour mark.

Then there was some celebratory bubbly and taking in the views.

According to the chip timer I came in 69th with a time of 57.07. I'd like to say I could have been much quicker if I'd not been hanging around for Lara, but I can't imagine my timing would have been any quicker without her, especially as I'd have likley walked the vast majority of the route rather than run.

Thanks to the generosity of many lovely friends, family and colleagues we have managed to raise over £1,400 so far between us, and there is still time to donate here or here

And get to know more about Mencap, as the work they do really is terribly important, visit their website and then you can always donate direct to the charity itself

I did have a big diatribe to write about the necessity for these kind of charity events and the rise of charity fatigue.  But quite frankly I'm a little too fatigued for that right now, so lets talk about it over a beer some time.  or maybe on a gentle jog around the park.

Another of the themes for this is that stair wells should be much more intrinsic to the set up of a building.  I appreciate it's very rarely that people will choose to climb 30 odd floors to their desk. But while training at work I notice the preference of most people to take the lift, even a floor or two.  Designing more movement into peoples lives in simple ways could start with making stairs the first choice.  Again, I understand a bit of the functionality of stairwells being at the core of the building and fire regulations, blah, blah.  But on a building like 20 Fenchurch St surely they could be a little bit more inspiring steps than all bland concrete?

And on the Walkie Talkie, I've not been a fan of it going up, and interestingly it was given permission by the Secretary of State and I really should dig out the decision letter to see the reasons for that.  Since signing up for this I was looking forward to be able to assess the slightly controversial 'Sky Garden' for myself.  It reminds me of the movie silent running a little.  And nice as the views are, it is a little stark, and the restaurant up top just seems boxy and incongruous.  As a 'punter' I'm glad to have visited but think there are many other spots around the city, many of which you can of course see from the top of the 'talkie, that stand above this space as pleasurable London experiences.
Overall though I have grown slightly fonder of the building on the skyline.  And why not, it's there to stay, like it or lump it!  But eating lunch in Victoria Tower Gardens, or glimpses cycling round Vauxhall gyratory have pushed me closer to appreciating it, if not exactly liking.  And of course now I can point to that and say "I climbed all the way up there, I did, and helped raise some money for a jolly good cause in the process."  Which is nice.