Who would voluntarily run 1000 flights of stairs at their house and live stream it to Facebook during a global pandemic?!?!? I would, of course. I have my reasons, none of which are all that good, but here they are anyway.
First, I believed that the most flights of stairs in one day that would earn you a Fitbit badge was 1,000. That number had proved elusive to me up to that point, as I think the most I had achieved in one day was something in the neighborhood of 450+ in one of my Grand Canyon efforts earlier in 2020.
Second, James Zygadlo had challenged me on Twitter to attempt this feat and Zach Conine even offered to buy pizza for me and 5 lucky friends if I actually did it. Game on! I will do almost anything for pizza.
Why did I Facebook live the effort? I don't know. It seemed like a lot of people were bored at home because we were pretty much on lockdown in Las Vegas so I figured it would give a handful of really bored people something to do. I picked a day when my wife would be at work so she didn't have to put up with my shenanigans. I dubbed this effort "The Quarantine Climb."
I set up a giant fan at the top of the staircase to help me keep cool and I made some signs to document my progress so that those tuning in would be able to easily tell how many flights I had completed thus far and would know if I was on a break. There would be no live commentary for this effort because, honestly, nobody was that bored. I provided some commentary along the way and played some motivational music out loud until Facebook warned me it was going to shut down my feed for playing copyrighted music.
I decided to start at 7am, mostly because that was about the time my wife left for work and it would hopefully give me enough time to finish before she returned home, as well as a little bit of extra time to clean the carpet and spray some air freshener in the house. This effort was not going to earn me any precious Husband of the Year points. I believed it would take me about 10 hours based on some number crunching I had done the day before.
At any rate, it was time to get started and I was excited (and terrified) for what lied ahead of me.
The boredom was real. Up and down. Up and down. Repeat. Repeat. According to my Fitbit, I made it to 400 flights in approximately the first three hours. But I still had a very long way to go!
500 flights came less than an hour later and Fitbit recognized my effort by awarding me a Volcano badge!
At 4.5 hours in, I hit 600 floors, earning me the Fitbit Mountain badge!
5 hours and 13 minutes in to my effort, I reached 700 floors. Fitbit awarded me the Rainbow badge! I was well on my way to getting this done.
I reached 800 flights after about 6 hours on the stairs. But, as I would later learn, there were no more Fitbit badges. [Cue up my sadness.] Turns out that I was mistaken and that the top Fitbit badge was for 700 flights of stairs. This is why you must do your research first, people! Would I have stopped at 700 had I known that? Probably. But I didn't know that - and I committed to doing 1,000. So onward I went.
Would it surprise you to learn that the Fitbit app started having issues during my effort? My Fitbit would no longer sync to the app, meaning I couldn't take any more nifty screen shots of my efforts. Instead, I had to go old-fashioned and just take a photo of the actual Fitbit display on my sweaty wrist. Here is when I reached 900 flights, about 6 hours and 45 minutes after I started.
As I approached the end, I decided to wear a 20 pound weighted vest for the final 50 flights. Why? I don't know - I can be an idiot that way sometimes. Perhaps it was the adrenaline of being so close to the finish line or perhaps I just wanted to feel as much pain as possible at the end. Or perhaps I just wanted to remind myself what it was like to be 20 pounds heavier, as I had been less than a year prior. In any case, I crested the 1000 flight mark at 2:36pm, about 7.5 hours after I began. I was delighted that it didn't take as long as I thought, but I knew I would be hurting in the days to come.
Below is a seriously sped up version of the effort that I took on my phone, which is why the numbers on the progress signs are transposed. But this will give you a snapshot of what doing 1000 flights at your house looks like.
Below is the live stream, part I (4 hours). I did not know before this effort that you couldn't really live stream something for more than 4 hours, which is why there are multiple videos of this effort.
Below is the live stream, part II (3 hours). I am not sure why this live stream stopped prior to 4 hours but, in any case, that is why there is a part III below.
Below is the live stream, part III (34 minutes).
As I finished the 1,000 flights, I felt a sense of relief for sure. The monotony made it difficult. 40,200 steps. 17.5 miles. 3,000 calories (according to Garmin), 4,500 calories (according to Fitbit). All on my home staircase with not much to distract me. My sincere hope was that it inspired someone to do something they thought was impossible. And my stairs weren't really all the worse for wear, thankfully. That was honestly one of my biggest concerns.
As predicted, however, going up and down any stairs was really painful for more than a few days following this effort.
And I am still waiting for my pizza payout - but I know Zach is good for it. I will just be sure to collect interest in the form of cheesy breadsticks.
I learned about this challenge from my friend, Adam Czajkowski, because he posted about it on Facebook as he was doing it in early April 2020. I asked him about it and he told me it was also something that David Goggins came up with and that it was the second time he had done it. Here is the premise: You run 4 miles every 4 hours for 48 hours. Hence, the 4x4x48. So you end up running a total of 48 miles in 48 hours.
When I heard about this, I of course said to myself that I would never do something so crazy. But the COVID-19 pandemic had cleared my schedule in a big way, so for some unknown reason, I decided I would give it a shot that coming weekend, April 17-19. I really didn't know what I was getting in to, but I knew I wanted to raise money to provide meals to frontline health care workers, so I went about seeking sponsors for each leg. I set the goal at $1,200 but my friends, family, as well as some complete strangers came through in a big way and we ended up raising substantially more than that.
Leg 1: Friday, April 17th, 10am (4.2 miles; 40:56; 9:44 pace)
I decided to have Leg 1 coincide with a virtual race series that I had set up called the: "Quarantine Quartet." For the first weekend of that challenge, you had to run a mile as fast as you could. I decided I would run my fast mile as the 4th mile of this very first leg of the 4x4x48. I chose the 215 beltway path and James Zygadlo ran the first 3 miles with me. Then I opened it up the last mile, clocking a 6:25, which was probably the fastest mile I had run in nearly 20 years. Leg 1 was in the books and I was feeling good.
Shoutout to our donors for Leg 1: Erik Jimenez & Susie Lee. Thank you!
Leg 2: Friday, April 17th, 2pm (4.01 miles; 41:03; 10:14 pace)
Leg 2 had me back out on the 215 beltway path and James ran this one with me too. We started a little further north of leg 1 so that we would avoid some of the uphill. It wasn't bad.
Shoutout to our donors for Leg 2: Mike Morton, Devon Reese & Andrew Patterson. Thank you!
Leg 3: Friday, April 17th, 6pm (4.58 miles; 41:59; 9:10 pace)
Leg 3 was a solo leg and I just ran it out of my front door to save time. It was overcast and it actually rained a bit, which made the run very enjoyable. Because of that, I decided to add a bit of mileage, ending up at 4.58.
Shoutout to our donors for Leg 3: Matthew Kneeland, Nadia Krall & Eddie Ableser. Thank you!
After leg 3, I recorded a "fireside chat" about the challenge for social media. You can watch it here:
Leg 4: Friday, April 17th, 10pm (4.23 miles; 42:41; 10:05 pace)
My first night segment brought darkness and cooler temperatures. I again decided to run a route that started and ended at my front door so I could get home as quickly as possible and try to get some sleep. I also took a screenshot of my Fitbit since it was a decent day for steps and miles.
Shoutout to our donors for Leg 4: Sandra Jauregui, Damien Sheets & Doug Brooks. Thank you!
Leg 5: Saturday, April 18th, 2am (5.61 miles; 54:10; 9:39 pace)
I wasn't able to sleep much after the last leg, really just tossing and turning for a couple hours until it was time to get up and go again, which I did at 2am. I again chose a course that started and ended at my front door. I added some mileage on this leg just because. The highlight of the run was hurdling a duck that was sleeping on the sidewalk!
Shoutout to our donors for Leg 5: Maier Guitierrez & Associates, Eva Segerblom & Lisa Rasmussen. Thank you!
Leg 6: Saturday, April 18th, 6am (6.0 miles; 1:03:49; 10:38 pace)
Again, I got very little sleep after getting home from leg 5. Maybe an hour or so. So I was tired when the time for leg 6 arrived. Crystal volunteered to run leg 6 with me, so we headed back to the 215 beltway path. When I arrived, I told her I thought we should run 6 miles rather than 4. I thought she might say no, but she said okay, and off we went. At the request of one of my donors for this segment, Lucy Flores, I brought a donut to eat at the end of the leg. You have to give the crowd what they want! This meant, of course, that I had to wear my donut shoes as well. This segment marked the halfway point and that felt like a real accomplishment.
Shoutout to our donors for Leg 6: Adam Ganz, Lucy Flores & Tick Segerblom. Thank you! (I sample a pretty great donut in this video.)
Leg 7: Saturday, April 18th, 10am (5.0 miles; 50:35; 10:06 pace)
Back to the beltway path for leg 6. James ran this one with me. It was cloudy out and the humidity told me that perhaps some rain was on the way. We decided to go 5 miles instead of 4. I don't know why. Sometimes you just do things because you can.
Shoutout to our donors for Leg 7: Maggie McLetchie, Alex Espinoza, Lisa Levine & Andrew Woods. Thank you!
Leg 8: Saturday, April 18th, 2pm (4.56 miles; 42:27; 9:19 pace)
It didn't rain, but the humidity persisted. This leg was really tough. I ran a route starting and ending at my front door. I was exposed to the sun and felt like I was overheating most of the run. My pace was solid but more because I just wanted to be done with this leg and get inside to some air conditioning.
Shoutout to our donors for Leg 8: Marco Henry, Alex Goff, Brittany Shipp Walker, Jeff/Marissa Temple & Marty Urbanowicz. Thank you!
Leg 9: Saturday, April 18th, 6pm (5.28 miles; 50:12; 9:31 pace)
I stuck with running a route right outside my front door for leg 9. It wasn't as humid as before and the sun had gone down, which provided some additional relief. I added some more mileage because why not at this point. I wanted to see how many miles I might be able to end up with when all was said and done.
Shoutout to our donors for Leg 9: Alfredo Alonso, Jason Frierson, Rochelle Nguyen, Nancy Saitta, Lisa Kirkeby & Alex Ortiz. Thank you!
Leg 10: Saturday, April 18th, 10pm (4.45 miles; 44:04; 9:55 pace)
Leg 10 was another night time segment and I again ran a route from my house. The fatigue was really starting to set in, but the end was tantalizingly near. Huge day for the Fitbit, so I had to get a screenshot of that as well.
Shoutout to our donors for Leg 10: Maggie O'Flaherty, Cynthia Cruz, Justin Jones, Joe Hardy, Jr. & Shannon Bilbray-Alexrod. Thank you!
Leg 11: Sunday, April 19th, 2am (4.14 miles; 40:49; 9:52 pace)
Little sleep, if any, before leg 11, but there was no stopping now. This was the second to last leg. I would be lying if I said this one was easy. It was not. I was exhausted and everything hurt. I just wanted to sleep, but there was still work to be done to finish strong.
Shoutout to our donors for Leg 11: Steve DiMasi, Mari Nakashima, Garrett Gordon, Dale Lay, Gabby McGregor & John Chinnock. Thank you!
Leg 12: Sunday, April 18th, 6am (4.01 miles; 39:25; 9:50 pace)
And the final leg was upon us! Crystal met me at the 215 beltway path to run it with me. She sensed that I wanted to open things up when we had one mile to go, so she gave me permission to take off. I finished strong with a 7:28 mile. Man did it hurt.
Adam Ganz was waiting to cheer me on at the finish and James had also showed up with celebratory donuts. That was really cool, especially because it was pretty darn early on a Sunday morning and they could have just slept it rather than come out to cheer me on.
The photos from the finish:
Adam captured the end of my final leg. Here it is:
Shoutout to our donors for Leg 12: Sally Yeager, Richard Metzler, Cherie Clark, Bita Yeager, Mike Guss, Christy Craig, Lone Malkiewich, Mark Stuffelbeam, Sunny Bailey & Henry/Enrique Sotelo. Thank you!
The final tally for me was 56.07 miles at an average pace of 9:51 per mile. Why did I run more than the required 48? I’m not sure, other than I wanted to do more than the minimum. I figured the last few legs would hurt no matter what, so better to get some extra miles in early. I intended to run between 11 and 12 minute miles, but once it became apparent I had a shot to be under 10 minute mile pace for the whole thing, that motivated me. But it came at a price because the last 4 legs were a real struggle, both physically and mentally. Here is a breakdown of all of the legs:
My fastest mile was mile 4 of the first leg, which came in at 6:25. That was the mile I used for my virtual Qurantine Quartet entry. My second fastest mile was my very last mile, mile 56, which came it at 7:27. It really hurt, but I wanted to empty the tank. Nice bookends for the event.
I was most proud that I didn’t walk during any of the legs. In fact, I never even stopped once because I luckily never had to stop for a traffic light or traffic when crossing a street. I didn’t listen to music during any of the runs. Just me and my thoughts. Not sure that was the best plan. Distraction would have been nice for sure.
I ran 5 of the legs with other people, 7 by myself. Leg 8 was the worst one by far. It was over 70 degrees with 50% humidity, which is a lot for Las Vegas. That leg almost broke me. It made me want to give up. I think the 10pm/2am legs were my favorites. No sun. No people. Quiet. Calm. Cool. But probably the most dangerous due to the darkness.
I lost 8 pounds from the time that I started the challenge, despite drinking as much water as I could and eating as much as I could stomach. I did not have any caffeine for the duration of the challenge because I was worried that it would affect my stomach negatively or make sleeping more difficult. That is probably the longest I have gone in my adult life without caffeine.
Sleeping was very difficult. The first night, I feel asleep once for 1 hour and 5 minutes. The second night, I slept a total of 2 hours and 20 minutes over two naps. It is really hard to sleep when you get back from running due to your elevated heart rate. For me, after doing social media updates, stretching, icing, showering, eating and drinking, the window for sleeping was only about 90 minutes to 2 hours. Even the times that I did fall asleep, I always woke up before my alarm. My body just knew it was time to go.
Exhaustion really set in towards the end. The exhaustion, emotion, and anxiety nearly overwhelmed me at some point. The last two legs, I just started crying when I woke up right before I headed out. Not sure why other than the exhaustion just overwhelming me.
As a kid who grew up with severe asthma, I never fathomed that something like this would be possible for me in life. I am grateful that Adam Czajkowski turned me on to this crazy idea. And I am thankful for all the encouragement along the way, especially from my wife, Bita, who not only tolerated this shenanigan, but encouraged and supported me in a huge way, especially by making sure I was well fed. Here are a few things she made along the way:
I am also incredibly grateful to James Zygaldo and Crystal Martinez. They ran some of the legs with me and provided a ton of encouragement along the way.
I am most proud that we raised nearly $5,000 from 51 donors, blowing the original goal of $1,200 out of the water. Those funds bought 500 meals for our frontline workers during a very difficult time, making this effort well worth it in the end, despite the pain and discomfort.
Here were the various shoes and hats I wore throughout this effort because you have to look good out there:
And here were the tricks of the trade I used to keep me going:
This accomplishment taught me that sometimes our limits are self-imposed and not real in any meaningful way. So I will continue trying to achieve the impossible. Thanks to each of you for being part of this journey. And thanks for reading.
Steve Yeager is an ultra runner who rarely turns down a challenge. When he is not out putting miles on his shoes, he practices law and serves as the Speaker in the Nevada State Legislature. Steve lives in Las Vegas, Nevada with his very understanding and patient wife, Bita.