SAN DIEGO - More than 200 people hiked to the top of what is said to be San Diego’s tallest building on Sunday. It was all part of the Fight for Air Climb, and it was considered a vertical road race to fight lung cancer.
Tommy Coleman was the first in line, and he is as fast as they come. He won the last World Cup in tower running at U.S. Bank in Los Angeles, which is exactly what it sounds like.
Thirty-two flights and 657 steps later, it was not pretty at the top of One America Plaza. Climbers were sweating, barely able to catch their breath. They were sweating and limping if they could stand.
Yet, they seemed to love it. They did the Fight for Air Climb because they could. The American Lung Association says lung disease is the third leading cause of death in the United States. It is what killed Meeshie Nguyen’s mom.
“I miss her a lot,” Nguyen said. “I do.”
She talks about her in the present tense because she just lost her last month.
“It was just shocking because she doesn’t smoke,” said Nguyen. “She’s not around smokers, and I felt very ignorant to the disease.”
None of the people 10News spoke with were smokers. It is just a danger of the job for Capt. Jeremy Day, a firefighter with the National City Fire Department. It is a job his buddy can no longer do.
“He ended up retiring out, and he actually had to have a portion of his lung removed, so that makes it even closer to home,” Day said.
He did it twice in full gear, which was impressive, until you met Tisa Alderete.
“Stairs were my biggest fear,” Alderete said. “I would avoid them if at all possible.”
Cystic fibrosis made it feel like Alderete was breathing through a straw with her nose clamped. Thanks to a double transplant, she climbed using someone else’s lungs.
Coleman’s time blew everyone away. He hit the top in less than three minutes but did not seem to think much of his accomplishment.
“I definitely applaud them,” Coleman said. “They’re the real winners here.”
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10News anchor Steve Atkinson served as emcee of Saturday's event, which raised about $70,000 for the American Lung Association.