Hundreds ‘fight for air’ climbing Colorado’s tallest building

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DENVER -- On an average morning inside Denver’s Republic Plaza, hundreds of workers hop on the high-speed elevator.

The 56-story building is the tallest building in Colorado.

But Sunday morning, the elevators sat empty as hundreds took to the stairs to raise money for the American Lung Association.

The annual “Fight for Air Climb” starts at the ground floor and goes 1,098 steps to the top.

“Fighting for air, I can really relate to that,” David Roeske said. “It’s a way to celebrate your lungs, by putting them through a lot of pain.”

Roeske finished faster than anyone else, climbing the staircase in less than 7 minutes.

Others took a more leisurely pace, completing the trip multiple times.

“I was able to do it three times,” 50-year-old Anton Dworak said. “When you’re getting near the top, your lungs really start to burn.”

Dworak’s wife lost both of her parents to lung disease.

“Every time I fight for air, especially near that top, I think of their last days and what they had to do," Dworak said.

The event raises roughly $300,000 for the American Lung Association’s Colorado chapter, as teams raise money before the climb.

“It’s our biggest fundraiser of the year,” executive director Ellen Penrod said. “Knowing they’re doing this for people that can’t possibly do this event means a lot to people.”

Even personal trainers such as Jess Kidd worked up an early morning sweat.

“You just go, literally one step in front of another, out of breath the whole time,” she said. “My grandfather died of lung cancer, so that’s a personal piece.”

When they reach the top, climbers get a medal and a remarkable view of the Front Range. Most important, they know they’re helping keep Colorado healthy.

“I’ll keep doing it until I drop dead,” Dworak said. “Hopefully, not in the stairwell.”

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