Queenstown lawyer Erin Gray (32) and Wanaka builder Glen
Thurston (32) , both volunteer firefighters, completed the
ultimate firefighter stair-climb challenge at the 69-storey
Columbia Centre, in Seattle, yesterday. Photo supplied.
''A hard grind'', was Wanaka volunteer firefighter Glen
Thurston's summation of climbing the 1311 steps of the 240m
Columbia Tower in Seattle dressed in full firefighting gear
Mr Thurston, a builder, and Queenstown lawyer Erin Gray were
the only southerners in a 10-strong New Zealand team of
firefighters competing in the annual stair-climb challenge,
which involved running to the top of the 69-storey building
while carrying 25kg of breathing apparatus and wearing
firefighting clothing. The event raises money for leukaemia
research and took place yesterday morning New Zealand time,
Sunday in Seattle.
Mr Thurston was ''over the moon'' with his time of 13min
48sec, which was well beyond his expectations.
''I was hoping around 15, 16 minutes, that was my goal. So to
get 13.48, I'm really happy,'' he told the Otago Daily
Times yesterday in a phone call from Seattle.
The latest 10 floors were the toughest and it had been a
''huge bloody relief to get it done'', he said.
Based on unofficial results, he thought his time put him
roughly in 25th place overall out of about 1500 entrants,
Miss Gray, who was competing just 12 months after back
surgery, finished in a time of 19min 31sec.
''It was not as fast as I'd have liked, but never mind.''
She was unsure where she placed overall, but possibly around
The pair agreed the challenge was a considerable step up - 18
storeys to be precise - from Auckland's Sky Tower
firefighters' stair-climb event, in which Mr Thurston
finished sixth last year, and Miss Gray won (the women's
race) in a record time in 2010.
''It felt quicker than the Sky Tower but it felt a lot
harder. You've definitely got to pace yourself right or
you'll blow out in the end ... it's definitely a mind game
you've got to play with,'' Mr Thurston said.
Both he and Miss Gray hoped to return to Seattle to compete
again, but their priority was tackling this year's Sky Tower
stair-climb in May, and the Firefighter Combat Challenge for
Miss Gray in April. The latter was described as the
''toughest two minutes in sport'', she said.
After returning to New Zealand this Friday, the pair will
throw themselves straight back into busy training schedules.