Volunteers celebrate the Fight for Air Climb and spread awareness about the importance of clean air. Credit: Courtesy of the American Lung Association

To walk a mile in someone else’s shoes is to gain perspective, but what about climbing 40 flights of stairs instead?

More than 500 people have committed to climb the Rhodes State Office Tower’s 40 flights of stairs Saturday on the 10th anniversary of the Fight for Air Climb in Columbus, an American Lung Association signature event that aims to promote an appreciation for lung health and clean air, Brittany Sinzinger, senior development manager for the Ohio chapter of the American Lung Association, said. It has been a nationwide effort for the past 15 years and is held at 42 skyscrapers across the country annually.

Leigha Senter, an associate clinical professor of human genetics at Ohio State, will be completing her third Rhodes Tower climb Saturday. As a licensed genetic counselor, she provides cancer-risk assessment and counseling to people with a family history of the disease at the James Cancer Hospital. Senter said her own family history influenced her career path.

“I have lots of family members who have unfortunately had cancer, so for me, working in cancer genetics was always personally motivated,” Senter said. “I’ve been in this role for many, many years, and so over the course of my career working at the James, I’ve encountered countless people diagnosed with cancer, so it’s always been something close to me.”

Senter said her family history and work at the hospital led her to climb.

“The first time I did it was shortly after one of my uncles had passed away, and I was just sort of looking for a way to honor his memory,” she said. “There’s something about climbing that many stairs at one time that makes you realize how difficult that can be.”

Sinzinger said recognizing the difficulty of living with lung disease is what the event is all about.

“When they get to the top of the stairs and they’re out of breath, they have a new appreciation for somebody who has lung disease,” Sinzinger said. “They’re feeling after climbing 40 floors what a person feels when they’re walking from their bedroom to their kitchen.”

To celebrate the 10th anniversary, 25 climbers will arrive early to participate in Columbus’ first-ever power hour. The participants will continuously climb up the stairs for one hour, pausing only to take the elevator back down whenever they reach the top, Sinzinger said.

There will be an afterparty at the end of the event at barbecue restaurant Pecan Penny’s, with a dessert bar and free mimosas for the climbers.

“It really is a fun event. It’s like a marathon inside of a small building, so all of that energy that you see when you go to a 5K or a marathon, just picture that wrapped up into a smaller space, and you can really feel that energy,” Sinzinger said. “You walk out of there just feeling elated.”

Online registration for the event is closed, but walk-on climbers are permitted. A $100 fundraising minimum and $14 fee are due at the time of registration. Registration for the event opens at 8 a.m. Saturday and the climb will kick off at 9 a.m.