Facing the challenge

Mosgiel veteran firefighter Richard Yardley (63) reflects on the recent Sky Tower Stair Challenge, in Auckland. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
Mosgiel veteran firefighter Richard Yardley (63) reflects on the recent Sky Tower Stair Challenge, in Auckland. Photo by Gregor Richardson.
What drives this 63-year-old firefighter to charge up 51 floorsMosgiel firefighter and this week's Top Type Richard Yardley has come back down to earth after competing in the recent Sky Tower Stair Challenge in Auckland. John Gibb finds out what motivates him.

Forget classic songs like Stairway to Heaven.

When you're sprinting up all 1103 steps at the Auckland Sky Tower building, heaven seems a little further away.

And veteran Mosgiel firefighter Richard Yardley also knows the hard truth is waiting on the 30th floor.

Mr Yardley, who has made the climb five times, is well aware

the 30th floor - nearly two thirds of the way to the top - is when the pain really kicks in.

It can be a bit like ''hitting the wall'' in a marathon, with real mental toughness needed to complete the climb.

Firefighters taking part in the annual Sky Tower Stair Challenge in Auckland earlier this month raised $864,090 for Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand.

Not only did they climb all 51 floors, they carried 25kg of kit, including breathing apparatus, and wore face masks, which fog up, limiting visibility.

Mr Yardley's first climb was in 2008, when he helped train and support Mosgiel special Olympian Brodie Carvalho, who has Down syndrome.

Both made it to the top.

This year, for the first time, Mr Yardley had some other Mosgiel firefighters with him, Andrew McAuley and Scott Lindsay, whose training he helped co-ordinate.

Mr Yardley made the climb in about 18min and praised the ''superb'' efforts of Messrs McAuley (about 14min) and Lindsay (about 17min).

''Amazing'' community support meant the trio raised $5864.

About 700 firefighters tackled the climb this year, including a record 50 participants from Otago.

During the past 18 months, he and his fellow Mosgiel climbers really put in the work, and this year he was still full of running when he reached the finish line, about 100m beyond the top of the stair well.

Some other participants were reduced to a crawl.

''Running, it's in my blood.''

Not only is Mr Yardley a keen runner, but is also strongly committed to the cause of raising funds for Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand.

And he never forgets that young people with leukaemia and blood cancer face much bigger challenges than simply a few minutes of discomfort for a firefighter like him.

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