Brad Pazoureck almost never takes an elevator.
The 41-year-old systems administrator at OMRF has good reason to avoid mechanized lifts: “Every flight of stairs I climb is training.”
Pazoureck, of Yukon, is currently the 41st-ranked tower runner among all U.S. amateur men, according to Stairsport.com. The site ranks more than 34,000 Americans who, like Pazoureck, compete in competitive stair-climbing races.
A relative newcomer to the sport, Pazoureck completed his first race at Chicago’s Willis Tower (103 floors) in November. He ascended the building’s 2,109 stairs in just over 20 minutes, placing him in the top 100 of more than 3,000 participants.
“After that, I was hooked,” he said.
Since then, he’s competed in the Big D Climb at the Comerica Bank Tower in Dallas (1,276 steps) and the Stratosphere Climb in Las Vegas (1,455 steps). In December, he finished third in Oklahoma City’s Little Willie’s Triple Dog Dare (up and down three downtown office towers), and he won the local Fight for Air Climb (Leadership Square’s north and south towers) in February.
Before taking up stair-climbing, Pazoureck was a biker, skier and occasional participant in local runs. “But I was never a strong runner,” he said. “I was always middle-of-the-pack.”
To speed his recovery from a torn Achilles tendon three years ago, he began attending classes in OMRF’s onsite fitness center. Boot-camp exercises led him to realize that he had a talent for climbing stairs.
Pazoureck’s training typically involves twice-daily workouts that use a mix of running, gym work and classes to build fitness, starting at the crack of dawn with his trainers at Fitness Together in Yukon. In addition, he tries to climb—and descend—at least 30 to 40 floors a day, usually in OMRF’s research tower. Often, to make the stair-climbing workouts more challenging, he’ll don a 35-pound weight vest.
“From the time he first walked in the fitness center to now, Brad has increased his fitness level exponentially,” said Kelie Ashley, who manages OMRF’s fitness center and helps Pazoureck coordinate his training. “His dedication to training, his energy and his passion for this sport have been incredible to watch.”
According to Stairsport.com, stair-climbing competitions have grown more popular in recent years, with more than 100 events now taking place across the country. The events use staggered starts, with racers beginning every 5 to 10 seconds. Competitors employ their arms as well as their legs in the ascents, using handrails to help pull them up.
“It’s a total body workout,” said Pazoureck. “This may sound clichéd, but it’s the hardest sport you’ve never heard of.”
Despite the intense nature of stair-climbing, the sport’s community “is like one big family,” Pazoureck said. “Everyone is there to do the best they can but also push each other to do as well as they can. It’s an amazingly friendly competition.”
For Pazoureck, his next challenge will be one of his most daunting. On May 17, he’ll participate in the first ever race up One World Trade Center, the newly constructed skyscraper that’s the tallest in the U.S.
The race will ascend 90 of the building’s 104 stories. Regardless of whether he meets his goal of completing the event in less than 18 minutes—that’s an average of 5 floors every minute—Pazoureck knows he’s discovered his athletic niche.
“Now I’ve found a sport where I can excel and it’s pushing me to get better every day,” he said. “It’s changed my life for the better in a number of ways.”