Don Smith could be found climbing the steps to the Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse in Hannibal this week. However, the Milwaukee man was not training for the Shine a Light on Autism Lighthouse Challenge in April, but for November’s Willis (Sears) Tower Stair Climb in Chicago.
“While I’m visiting here I thought I would run the 244 steps from the bottom to the top several times,” said Smith of the lighthouse steps. “I take no breaks, except for the running down part which works the leg muscles a little differently. I thought I might as well take advantage of that.”
On Monday, Smith went up and down the stairs six times.
“Ultimately I want to do about 10 (stair reps). It may not be here, but back home. That will be over 2,000 steps,” he said, explaining his continued training will likely take place on the bluffs overlooking Lake Michigan.
Once winter sets in, Smith may be forced to abandon steps for his workout.
“If stairs don’t work as winter gets along I try to find the steepest hill I can climb,” he said. “It’s an excellent workout. It may be a little hard on the knees coming down, so I just try to walk down real fast. But going up isn’t bad.”
Smith, who strives to maintain a steady pace, estimates he can make the lighthouse climb in around three minutes.
“It’s not very fast,” he said. “I don’t run because there are so many stairs. There are two level areas. I just jog those, so it’s like a little break and then I continue up.”
Keeping an even pace is also Smith’s philosophy when participating in the upcoming Chicago event.
“There are people who just sprint up these things, but I don’t do that at the Sears Tower. It takes me about 25 or 26 minutes to run from the bottom to the top, and that’s 103 floors,” he said. “There are some people who do it in 12 minutes. They either run every step or every other step and use the handrails to pull themselves up. I don’t do that. It’s just legs; just fast walking. It’s tough, but I enjoy it.”
Rather than run all the time, Smith does race walking.
“It’s something I’ve been doing the last few years to complement my running. Running seems to cause more injuries,” he said. “My pace for race walking is 9:30 a mile. For a half marathon I do around 10 minutes per mile.”
Page 2 of 2 - Race walking is not just about walking fast, according to Smith.
“It’s hard to do because there’s a lot of technique involved like keeping your knees straight, making sure you always have one foot on the ground and are not running or floating,” he said. “It looks peculiar, but it’s a better exercise because you work your whole body. I’ve found it to be (better) and it helps my running, too. Since I’ve gotten older and heavier I kind of gravitate toward walking. Fewer injuries.”
Smith has been in the area for a while. He participated in the Hannibal Cannibal in early July, took part in a seven-mile event in the Quad Cities area on July 27 and will participate in Saturday’s Mississippi River Run in Hannibal.
“This (Saturday’s event) will complete a nice circuit of races,” said the school teacher.
Smith, who is staying at Garth Mansion, is no stranger to the Hannibal Cannibal.
“The conditions here with the humidity especially ... it’s pretty good,” he said. “Plus Lover’s Leap... That’s a hard one to get up and down on. Even harder yet is that Highway 79. It’s a long, long climb up, even though it’s a lot less steep.
“(Hannibal Cannibal) is a nice crowd (of runners). It’s a little congested at the start, but it spreads out real quick once you go over that first bridge, and it’s a very scenic route, too. The biggest challenge I think is the humidity in the morning.”
This will be the first time Smith has participated in the Mississippi River Run.
“It looks very scenic. You get great views of the Mississippi,” he said. “Since I’m staying I thought I might as well do another one (race).”