Ohio State police officers scale 40 flights for charity, honor and the memory of lives lost
By Christina Drain
It’s a grueling trip — 40 flights of stairs in less than five minutes. About halfway up the 600-foot ascent, the body resists and the brain begins to propel it, a lack of oxygen in the lungs starts to fog the brain, vision turns gray and closes in a bit. The end of the climb can’t come soon enough.
Two Ohio State police officers made that climb to raise money for a cure for a debilitating childhood disease, as well as for the honor of the Ohio State police department and in memory of responders who died in the 9-11 attacks.
Officers Brian Botkin and Steve Laman competed in the recent Battle of the Badges for Cystic Fibrosis. They logged the quickest time in the police division two-person relay weighted category for the third time, scaling 845 steps of the Rhodes State Office Tower, the highest building in central Ohio, in 4 minutes, 32.9 seconds. They placed sixth overall against 18 other four-person teams wearing 15-pound vests.
To put the feat in perspective, the officers scaled about 10 flights a minute, or one flight in 6.8 seconds.
“We kind of got involved in it for the challenge of it, but it’s a great charity to give to and to help in awareness of the disease,” Laman said.
Cystic fibrosis is a chronic disease that affects the lungs and digestive system of about 30,000 people in the US, mainly children. The average life expectancy is late 30s.
Botkin is 35 and a career officer; Laman is 27 and came directly from the Ohio Highway Patrol Academy.
“There’s a bit of an age difference,” Botkin concedes. “It’s motivation for me to stay on point and committed, just trying to keep up with him. I don’t want to make him look bad so I better keep my act together and keep training.”
Each man trained separately for the event, as Botkin works day shift while Laman works nights. Both men work out on a regular basis throughout the year, adding stair climbing when they can. Laman works out on a stair climber at a local gym and runs several miles a week.
Botkin, who is married with two children, finds it harder to find time to train. He bicycles 18 miles into work when the weather is conducive. He also climbs the stairs at Lincoln Tower, 25 stories. Laman bought a 40-pound weight vest for this year’s training and the two took turns using it.
“It’s a crazy thing that people don’t really like to do,” Botkin said. “There’s nothing fun about running stairs. There’s nothing pleasurable about it. There’s no scenery, there’s no easy pace. It’s hard, every step of it is hard.”
They believe diet plays a part in their success. They eat like high-endurance athletes; lean proteins, whey protein and lots of vegetables.
“I don’t eat a lot of fast food, which is hard to do on the night shift,” Laman said.
They split the stair climb in two sections. Laman takes the lower 20 flights, Botkin takes the higher altitude segment. It’s a pace that only the fittest would ever attempt.
“Once you get up to that 10th floor and you got 10 more to run, it starts to become a full-body workout,” Laman said. “You are pulling on the rails and using your arms as much as you are using your legs.
“Usually when I get to about the 14th floor, I’m like ‘why did I decide to do this again?’ I’ve got at least six more flights to climb. I’ll hear Brian up there screaming at me and I’m like ‘please be quiet.’”
Botkin says it’s a seminal moment when he leaves Laman to board the elevator to take his position on the 21st floor.
“It’s a big moment for me when we part ways and I head up there,” he said. There’s nothing else in my mind at that point; it’s all about what we are there to do.
“When you get in that stairwell, you are just pushing with every single thing you’ve got in your body, and your brain is just focused on getting up those flights. There’s a point, for me at least, things start turning gray, things start closing in a bit, but it’s a mindset of just keep pushing through and give it everything you’ve got. The next thing you know, there’s the 40th floor and you throw yourself through the threshold.”
The exertion combined with a 600-foot altitude change can take a toll on the lungs. Laman remembers waiting to meet Botkin back in the lobby after their first climb. Twenty minutes passed, then 30. Finally Botkin emerged. He had to take oxygen treatment from paramedics stationed on the 40th floor.
“He pushed himself that hard,” Laman said. “He scared me half to death.”
Botkin was just beginning his law enforcement career when the twin towers in New York City were hit Sept. 11, 2001. The images and stories of firefighters and police officers rushing in the building, going up flights of stairs to evacuate people are still burned in his memory.
“When I’m in that stairwell, I kind of think about what that was like for those guys going up in those towers and thinking about what kind of heart it took for them knowing what was going on directly above them, but they kept going through the smoke and the heat to get those people out. That’s what we who wear the uniform are called to do.
“When we take that OSU PD name to that competition and put it on those results sheets, it’s not just Steve and I, it’s everybody in public safety from the top down, from the bottom up, we are representing everybody. That’s a huge deal for me.”