One thousand and thirty-four. That’s the number of steps intrepid racers will climb during the Bisbee 1000 this weekend.
"It’s brutal," says Don Rowe of Park Hills, Mo. "You will see people throwing up. You’ll see people quitting."
Often described as a 5K that feels like a 10K, the event takes participants through nine sets of stairs and several back roads at a mile-high altitude. Last year’s winning time was 31:05, but most people take up to an hour to finish.
"The ultimate challenge is the addiction," says Rowe, who at 70 is an amateur triathlete. Rowe and his family have made the Bisbee 1000 part of their yearly reunion.
The stair climb is both the ultimate challenge and an ultimate tour of Bisbee. While most tourists tend to hang out on the main streets, runners will have a chance to see the intertwining staircases, secret gardens and other interesting places that make Bisbee unique.
Classical pianists, bongo players, flutists and a slew of other musicians will serenade the climbers as they huff and puff up the stairs.
"It’s really something anyone who owns tennis shoes can do," says Cynthia Conroy, vice president and founder of the Bisbee 1000.
The event attracts an eclectic bunch; grandmothers and their young grandchildren compete along with triathletes and long-distance runners. Participants, who compete in age divisions, range in age from 6 to 8. Last year Rowe’s wife, Helen, who is also 70, won her division in a little over an hour.
To fill the time between the first wave of finishers and the last, event organizers introduced the Barco Ice Man Competition in 1994. Competitors will climb a set of 153 stairs while carrying an 8-pound block of ice in a set of antique metal tongs. The event is named after Franc Barco, a local resident who delivered ice in a red wagon as a child. The record is 19 seconds, but the average is between 24 and 45 seconds.
"It’s an amazingly hard thing," Conroy says of the ice competition. "You start out feeling so good. Then you hit the wall and all of a sudden you’re oxygen-depleted. But it’s still fun."
Bisbee 1000 What: Run or walk up more than 1,000 steps When: 8 a.m. Saturday Where: Downtown Bisbee Cost: $10 for the stair climb, $5 for the Barco Ice Man Competition Information: (520) 266-0401, (520) 432-3554 or www.bisbee1000.org