Fundraising climb 'hits home' with local firefighters

Gwinnett County firefighter Brian Martin’s nickname is "Treefrog" — and his ability to quickly scale heights came in especially handy back in 2011, when a fellow firefighter asked him to take part in an event called the Fight For Air Climb.

"That year was one of the longer ones," Martin remembers, "and I took third place overall.  And he was like, 'Where'd you come from?'"

A decade later, Martin is a fixture at the annual event, which challenges people across the country to race up stairs while raising money for the American Lung Association.

"Instead of doing the traditional hit-the-pavement running, we climb stairs," says Georgia development manager Calle Wallace. "The idea is that we give our participants a little bit of a glimpse into what it feels like not to be able to breathe efficiently."

In Atlanta, the event is typically held in the stairwell of a downtown skyscraper; this year, due to the pandemic, the Fight For Air Climb will be held outdoors at Truist Park in Cobb County. 

Registration is currently open for the May 15 event, and while anybody can register and participate, the event boasts a strong firefighter following nationwide. Firefighters — whom the American Lung Association says face a significant health risk of respiratory diseases — take on the extra challenge of climbing in full gear. 

"It hits home. We can relate to it, and it motivates us to climb a little bit harder," Martin says.

The firefighter says he’ll be thinking about that while climbing the grueling 1,629 stars at Truist Park — and when he’s finished, "Treefrog" will hop right back into action.

"You get the really high-pitched wheeze for about two minutes, and then after I get my breath slowed down, I'll take another two minutes, and then I'll go to the finish line to start cheering on my guys."

For more information on this year’s Fight For Air Climb in Atlanta, click here.

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