The vertical marathon here in Bangkok is a race to the top of one of the hotels here in the city. The Banyan Tree Hotel is (supposedly) 61 floors high. This race was more of a fun activity as there was no prize money, outside of a flight to Singapore and a free hotel stay. It has been held annually to support a national AIDS charity. Ten dollars and you get a t-shirt, free lunch and a medal if you complete the 61 floors. The proceeds from the race are all donated to "The AIDS Formula Feeding Fund", a Thai Red Cross initiative started by Her Royal Highness Princess Soansawili. AIDS is a big problem here in Thailand, just as it is in many other countries in the world. Some of the saddest victims are children born to mother's with AIDS.
As for the race itself, after downing some yogurt and plenty of water, Pae and I made our way to the hotel pretty early in the morning. After registration I peed a couple times as well as...well...other things.
Having lightened my load, no pun intended, I was ready to "race". Racers were flagged off in groups of ten every two minutes to avoid ladderwell congestion. (I think they just didn't want too many bodies slumped over the handrails, dry mouthed, broken and begging for water. I waited for a good hour until the Mens 25-39 year category was ready to race. The race started near the lobby of the hotel with a 100 meter dash to a sharp left turn into the stairwell. There were closed circuit cameras at the entrance to the stairwell that fed live video to spectators in the hotel's coffee shop, lobby, and a hospitality tent outside. I figured Pae would be watching since she had to leave me while I was in cue to start the race. She would have raced herself if not for her sore back she has been dealing with for the past two months.
I'm on the right...the only one not wearing those hideous ball hugging runner's shorts
Closed circuit TV is the only way Pae could follow my progress up the evil staircase!5-4-3-2-1 Go! Ten guys in my group. Do I want to be in the stairwell first or last? I certainly didn't want to arrive there in a group of big dudes, jostling for position through the 3 foot wide doorway. I threw my body forward into the top three of my group, passing two larger, pudgy guys and thinking to myself, "See yall at the top fat boys." (They both passed me at around the 45th floor). As I arrived at the sharp left turn into the stairwell, video camera in my face, I decided to do something funny to give Pae a laugh watching on CCTV. I forgot to slow down though as I made the left turn, chakas flying at the camera, big grin on my face, forgetting to slow down! I nearly busted my teeth on the cement wall entering the stairs as a result. Now, I had recently run up 5 flights of stairs in my apartment, barely getting winded, so I thought I would easily power up 30 floors or so, start slowing down and then pace myself up the rest of the way...hahahahahaha...to be twenty anything again! Head down, chugging along, look up every three flights or so to look at the number on the wall. I felt like I had a good rythym going 3rd floor...6th floor...9th floor...12th floor...uh oh! 14th floor...can't feel my legs...15th floor...Can't breathe...15 and a half...Water!...2 steps to the 16th floor...Am I there yet?
So yeah, about 25% of the race, no problem, and then, out of nowhere a 10 ton gorilla jumped on my back and mocked me, every step, for the next 45+ floors. There were two guys from my group two and five steps ahead of me respectively for the next 30 floors or so. And as much as I wanted to pass them, as much as I didn't want to be in their fart stream, I couldn't manage the strength to increase my pace to even one more step per minute. My legs were screaming for me to stop. I thought I would feel excited and more motivated at the sight of every person I passed along the way, every person sitting on the side, tongue out, certainly only moments away from death, but I had no such feeling. All I kept thinking is, "Please body, just one more step." Did I feel too embarassed to rest for a few minutes like the stragglers I was passing? Not really, but I envied them. Each one I passed looked like their pain was almost gone, each of them, upon eye contact, could see my inner sadness, and I could see their relief. I wanted so bad to feel that relief.
Then a guy I didn't recognize tapped me on the butt, apparently to pass me. Maybe he just liked my butt, or maybe he was trying to interrupt MY fart stream. He passed me and I realized he had to be from the group that started two minutes after me. I guess I can't quit now. So I manned up and acted like I was running but was actually walking. I started to feel a little relief as I counted the floors. 50...51...52...I'm within ten floors. Five more floors and I'm uttering four-letter words to myself, to my legs, and to the two chubby guys who had just earlier passed me. Yes the same two whom I had earlier discounted as slow rolly polly men. Two more floors and I'm feeling sorry for two guys I just passed, as they look deflated, but we're all almost to the top...or so we thought.
We were soon to find out that, what was billed as a race up 61 floors didn't exactly meet those measurements. The sense of accomplishment and relief as I looked up to see the "Floor 61" sign in the stairwell grew as I passed a dude with a velcro-ey hairy back and shoulders through a corridor which was surely to open up into the top of the hotel, to the cheers of staff and volunteers. Only, it didn't. The corridor lead to a what amounted to about 2 1/2 more flights of stairs.
It's like the feeling you get when you are shopping at the mall and a bout of diarrhea hits you. You feel it in time and you squeeze your butt tightly, waddling like a penguin all the way to the bathroom. The prospect of a wet brown spot on your boxers a mere misstep or rectal contraction away. As you enter the bathroom, a guy is just leaving one of the stalls and you feel golden. Only, the closer you get to the porcelain throne, the more the poo is pushing on your bum hole. You calculated it just right though, to where right as you sit down your digestive system will release it's steamy cargo. You know this feeling right? or is it just me? Once you are in the stall, you lock the door and there is a great anxiety lifted and great relief until the voluntary flexing begins loosening, unvoluntarily, and then your zipper gets stuck or there is urine on the seat from the dude before you..."I remember your face you inconsiderate a-hole"....anyway...this is how I felt as I finished the 61st floor and thought I was all done...only to have to climb another 20-30 steps to the top. I used up every ounce of energy already, and now I have to climb more! Shoot me now!
So I made it. 10 minutes and 24 seconds. There was some Gatoraid type drink at the top, a bunch of doctors and nurses, an old foreigner woman giving out medals, and two chubby men who arrived 6 seconds before me smirking at me like they had read my mind 10 minutes earlier as I blew past them in the 100 meter sprint.
Super thanks to Pae for being there even though we had to get up super early on a day off and wait in long lines. I can honestly say her presence helped me not to quit the race! Can't have her thinking I'm a wuss!
The view was nice, but next time I'm taking the elevator.