Syd Arak

Birthdate: 19 June 1945

What is your occupation? Attorney, Adjunct Law Professor

What/when was your first climb? Bop to the Top in Indianapolis where I live, more than 20 years ago.

How many climbs have you completed? More than 75

Why/how did you start? I was a runner and started doing the Bop to the Top about 1993 as something different, without any special training.  I enjoyed the challenge, realized I was good at this and kept at it every year, but didn't compete in any other climbs until 2004. My girlfriend  climbed stairs at work for exercise and we did some stair workouts together. Stair races were still pretty rare at that time. I told her that I wanted to do the Empire State Building climb, but that it was hard to get into.  She suggested entering the Sears (now Willis) climb since it was the tallest building in the country.  Knowing how hard the 36 floor Bop to the Top is, I thought she was crazy, but we did Sears in 2004, and I've climbed it all 11 years since.

Do you have a favorite climb? Why? ESBRU. As it used to be.  Hard to get into. Relatively small field (about 200 men and less than 100 women). International field. Two mass starts for men and one for women into a narrow doorway and narrow stairs.   Finish outside with sprint around observation deck. Landings every floor that you have to run.  NOT a charity event, but run by NY Road Runners. Different and special.  Not that way anymore. I was fortunate enough to be selected to compete for six years in a row, from 2006-2011.  Piero Dettin from Venice, Italy won my age group every year and was a legend. I could never beat him, but we became good friends and met for lunch every year before ESBRU and Sears in spite of the language barrier.  I finally did beat him and it was a great feeling of accomplishment.

Least favorite climb? Why? They are all painful.  Some climbs are run better than others, and fortunately, the charity climbs have become much more professional over the years.

Why do you climb? The same reason I still run and bike. I'm still competitive and it’s a way to force me to stay in shape and see where I'm at. Although, for a long time, I could track my improvement, and now that my times have started to slip I'm starting to re-evaluate this question, regardless of age group success.  Also, stair climbing does not lead to injury and is a great winter activity. Lastly, and not to be discounted, I've met so many terrific, supportive and interesting people through this sport.

Are there other sports you’re passionate about? Biking

Did you have injuries or issues you needed to overcome to climb? I had significant chronic achilles tendon injuries when running, but nothing from climbing.

How do you train? I believe in high intensity intervals.  I have established a relationship with the security guys in a 36 story building which I try to get to every week or two. Some running, biking and the gym.

Do you have a special relationship with any of your step-siblings?  Lots of wonderful friends among fellow climbers in the US. By forming the West Coast Labels "Team," Mark Trahanovsky created an atmosphere where there's always someone you know at every stair climb, which makes the events about the people as well as the climbs.

Who inspires you? Piero Dettin   

What would you like to tell others about yourself and your experience with stair climbing that might inspire them in their lives?  I've been fortunate enough to have some age group success on a competitive level over the years, which I suppose kept me hooked.  I even was an overall winner in a local American Lung Association triple climb a few years ago. But there's always somebody faster out there to keep me humble. I like to kid that my success is due to the difficulty my age group competitors have getting up the stairs with their walkers and wheelchairs, but that isn't true at all. I'm heartened to see that there are still plenty of competitive "older" people who keep themselves in excellent shape out there.  And, of course, still lots of younger folks to outclimb.

Stair climbing is a great exercise for people of all ages.  Non-impact and easy on your joints (at least on the way up). And it doesn't have to be competitive.