Meet the Elite: Male Stair Climber Jesse Berg

Jesse Berg, 39—Chicago
2012 Towerrunning World Cup Ranking: Third Place

Jesse Berg got into stair climbing when one of his co-workers urged him and others to do group activities for fitness. "He tried to get me to do Hustle Up the Hancock in 2002. I had never heard of anything like that before and thought it sounded a little crazy."

More: Intro to Stair Climbing

"I thought it might be something active I could do that would be low impact on my knees and safe for my bad ankles.  I had stopped playing basketball because of constant ankle injuries and stopped running because of knee pain," explains Berg.

He had the same reaction many stair climbers have after their first climb, whether it is a sprint or distance climb. "I felt very good and had a feeling of exhilaration, and when the results came in and I placed 12th out of 4,000, I was shocked, but my second thought was that I could have gone a lot faster if I really pushed it."

MoreMeet the Elite Women Stair Climbers, Pt.1

Those euphoric feelings waned some in the subsequent years. "The next year I did a little training before the Hancock to see how long it would take me if I went all out. Trying to climb fast was actually a very awful experience and I never wanted to do a stair climb again. I could not breathe enough even after I finished. I was also nauseous and my heart rate would not come down, and I was very scared," Berg recalls.

Following a trip to the doctor, Berg was diagnosed with exercise-induced asthma. He relates, "I had been active in sports all my life, but never felt the intensity that stair climbing creates. Even though I never wanted to experience another stair climb, I changed my mind the next year and I did two climbs. During each climb I again decided that this was miserable and I would not do any more."

That was until he learned of the climb in the tallest building in the nation at the Willis Tower in Chicago. "That year I did Willis tower, Aon and Hancock, and I was hooked, and intrigued by a guy named Terry Purcell who was winning every race every year. I loved the challenge of trying to get faster," Berg enthusiastically explains.

More: Meet the Elite Women Stair Climbers, Pt.2

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About the Author

Kathy Smith

Kathy Smith is a freelance writer, who has been published in many local Denver magazines and was nationally published in Her Sport. She has a keen interest in writing about athletics. She is a chef, mother of four and a fitness enthusiast. She recently picked up stair climb races as her new favorite sport, and while she isn't the fastest, she is passionate about competing in more races and getting better times.

Kathy Smith is a freelance writer, who has been published in many local Denver magazines and was nationally published in Her Sport. She has a keen interest in writing about athletics. She is a chef, mother of four and a fitness enthusiast. She recently picked up stair climb races as her new favorite sport, and while she isn't the fastest, she is passionate about competing in more races and getting better times.

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