Sally Kalksma

Birthdate: 19 June 1962

What is your occupation?  I work for the Board of Elections

What/when was your first climb? Empire StateBuilding Run Up (ESBRU) 2012

How many climbs have you completed? Over 50

Why/how did you start?  My love for running brought me to the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF).  After my husband passed I went back to work full time, i felt like a caged animal working at a desk in an office for 8 hours a day. Every day at lunch I would run up the stairs in my office building to relieve stress and get exercise. (Something I learned when my late husband had a short lived office job. He later became a commercial diver, salvaging all over the world). The MMRF heard about this and invited me to participate in the prestigious Empire State Building Run Up (ESBRU) to raise awareness for the MMRF. Not only did I immerse myself in my training, but i dedicated my time to raising funds for the MMRF. In the past 5 years over 1.7 million dollars was raised for the MMRF by participants in the ESBRU.

Do you have a favorite climb? Why? ESBRU with Top of theRock a close 2nd. However, I love them all because they are all so unique.

Least favorite climb? Why? None

Are there other sports you're passionate about? Running.  My illustrious racing career started when I was 7 years old and continued well pass my college running days. After college I became the race director of one of the largest and most elite races in NJ, all while attracting new runners to the sport with different running programs.

Do you have injuries or issues you need to overcome to climb?  Eight years ago I was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, an incurable blood cancer. Like anyone diagnosed with cancer, it changes your life. But this was intensified when 6 months later my husband was diagnosed with melanoma, and 8 months later passed way from the cancer. I was faced with being a widow at the age of 47 with three children, and going back to work full time, all while dealing with having cancer. 

Do you have a special relationship with any of your step-siblings? One of my best friends, Linda Schlachter, is my climbing partner. She didn't start climbing till my 3rd year of competing when I coaxed her into it. Prior to her climbing, she would sneak me into buildings all over NYC to train and hold my coat while I worked out. I felt so bad about her doing this for me that I begged her to join me, now she's hooked, too!

Who inspires you?  I find inspiration in obstacles.  I don't enjoy them, but I love to overcome them!

Do you have a good luck charm or any superstitions or pre-race rituals? The 2012 ESBRU was my first stair climb. I was climbing for the MMRF. A coworker I didn't know that well gave me a beautiful angel pin to wear for good luck. Her grandmother, who passed from multiple myeloma, gave it to her daughter. Her daughter died before the age of one. I told her I could not except that pin. She insisted. Since then she has become one of my biggest fans. And I love her dearly. I have pinned it on my shirt in every stair climb since then. I won't climb without her.  Another coworker, a fellow Italian, who is always been one of my favorites, gave me his evil eye for my first climb.  It's an Italian stone that wards off evil spirits. I did so well in my first climb that he kept letting me borrow it for each race after. One time I lost it and went crazy looking for it. After that he got me my own. I keep it in my workout bag and take it to every race.

What's on your iPod during workouts/competitions? I don't listen to music while I climb, only when I warm up.  I must listen to the Stones: Live With Me and Stray Cat Blues, before I race.  

Do you have a website or blog for those interested in learning more about you? Not yet

If we had numbers on our jerseys, what would your number be? 1, although my favorite number is 2!

What would you like to tell others about yourself and your experience with stair climbing that might inspire them in their lives?  I appeared on numerous talk shows and radio interviews all while training, working full time, and supporting my 3 children, who are now a college professor, another going off to law school and another at Columbia University Medical School. Within 5 years I became ranked 20th overall in the world and 5th overall in the nation by the World Tower Running Association. 

I now compete in stair climbs all over the world, as well as other races for the MMRF, including a 200 mile relay and a 5K chaired by my oncologist, Dr Edward Staptmauer of the University of Penn Hospital. I continue to help the MMRF as I face my latest challenge: a stem cell transplant. My stair climbing is on hold, as what brought me to climbing is now taking it away: cancer. But I will return, stronger!