Is this the toughest challenge ever?

30 October 2015 by
First published: 30 October 2015

WHL’s very own Lisa Nguyen signed up to Stand Up To Cancer’s The London 3 Peaks. Three towers, one hundred and seven floor, almost two thousand stairs and an abseil – is this the toughest challenge ever?

‘I’m not entirely sure what was running through my head when I said yes to participating in Stand Up To Cancer’s London 3 Peaks challenge, but I definitely didn’t mull over the fact that it would be a challenge. I’m always keen to try new things and the thought of running up three of London’s tallest towers – and abseiling down the last – seemed like an amazing opportunity that shouldn’t be missed! And more importantly, it was all for a good cause. Stand Up To Cancer has so far raised a massive £23.8m for cancer research which has gone straight into developing tests and treatments. It’s a great charity to get behind and what better way to raise money than to push your limits by doing something a little different?’

 I managed to run up about five flights before I was out of breath – and I still had 35 floors to go plus two more towers

‘As the big day loomed, I started wondering whether I should have taken my training more seriously. I was comfortable with the 5K run as I’d been doing these weekly at WHL’s #RUNYOURCITY run club over the summer. But the thought of having to run up the Gherkin, the Salesforce Tower and 200 Aldersgate on top of this made me really nervous. After all, I’d never experienced such a steep climb and the highest I’d ever been in the Salesforce Tower (the tallest of all three), was Sushi Samba on the 38th floor – which isn’t even on the top floor! It was the ultimate stair climb and I’d started to doubt whether my sporadic squat and lunge workouts were enough to get my legs and glutes in gear on time.’

‘I never did get round to a session on the stepper before the day arrived, but I still felt pumped and determined to finish the race in good time. The Angel Building – the starting point – was buzzing with excitement. Inside, participants were getting into their black and orange Stand Up To Cancer tees and taking pictures with their friends and family while a warm-up was taking place outside before each wave. Before getting warm myself, I was asked to sign a waiver in order to finish my race with an abseil (this was weirdly more unsettling than the actual abseil!). Then we were ready to go.’

‘The 5k alone was pretty cool – compared to the crowds during the week, Clerkenwell and the City seemed deserted so it felt just like a relaxing Sunday morning jog. Also, most of the distance (3.5k) was out of the way before we reached the first tower, the Gherkin. Before climbing the tower though, the SUTC team pause your time so that you can catch your breath, drink some water and refuel. Your time is resumed at the bottom of the staircase, paused again when you reach the top and starts up again once you continue the route. It’s a great way of tracking your performance for each segment but it’s also absolutely fine if you’re not bothered about timing yourself – the stats are just there in case you do.’

‘Climbing the stairs was definitely the most difficult part for me. I managed to run up about five flights before I was out of breath – and I still had 35 floors to go plus two more towers. I was constantly torn between keeping up a good pace and giving in to my sore muscles but what made a huge difference was being motivated by the SUTC team along the way. They were everywhere – street corners, zebra crossings, cargo lifts (on the way down from the Salesforce) and about every three flights of stairs of each tower – to spur you on. It’s strange to think how welcoming a voice is when you’re battling a really long flight of stairs, but it most certainly gives you that second wind when you need it.’

‘And once you reach the top? The view from each tower really does make the struggle worth it – not to mention the satisfaction of having climbed from the ground to sky-level… on foot. There’s also more refuel at the top and even a stretch area in case your muscles are starting to feel tight. It felt absolutely incredible to reach the last rooftop at 200 Aldersgate. Among all the congratulations is one from a blackboard that acknowledges the total of steps climbed… almost 2000! It’s definitely something worth shouting from the top of a roof building and you can – before or while abseiling. We got strapped into our harnesses and donned helmets before whizzing down to the cheers that met us down below. Abseiling was the cherry on top of an amazing challenge that I’d definitely take on again. Conquering the London 3 Peaks isn’t a walk in the park but it’s a whole lot more fun.’