Andy Hanson

Birthdate: 28 October 1971

What is your occupation?: Enterprise Risk Manager at Aon.

What/when was your first climb?: My first climb was the Step up for Kids event at the Aon Center in Chicago back in January 2012. I was hooked, even though my lungs burned for days after that climb. When I participated in that event, I had no idea that stair climbing was a sport and all the events going on across the country and world. It's crazy!! I'm glad the Chicago area hosts so many great events.

How many climbs have you completed? 23 in total with 9 so far in 2016. All nicely tracked in a spreadsheet.

Why/how did you start? The company I worked for was bought by Aon and the following year, there was a flyer on my desk about the Aon Step up for Kids event. I had no idea what I was getting into, but very glad I took that first step.

Do you have a favorite climb? Why? My favorite climb is probably the One World Trade Center climb in New York. Just so much meaning behind the climb. I remember getting to the top the first year and being exhausted and overcome with emotion. It's really been an honor to attend the first two events. I hope to be able to go back again next year. Despite all the "stuff" that impacted the event this year, it was still great to climb up to the 102nd floor even at 5:00 am.

Least favorite climb? Why? I've really enjoyed all the climbs I've done as they each pose a unique challenge. Having said that, the Hustle up the Hancock is probably my least favorite because the building is just so crowded in general and the stairwell gets pretty full, which makes it a little harder if you are trying to improve you time.

Why do you climb? This June will mark my 22nd year as a leukemia survivor. I went through 2 years of treatment starting in June 1994 and am very fortunate to be here today. Unfortunately, one of the side effects from my treatment was that I developed avascular necrosis in both my hips and I had to have them both replaced in 1999. Because of this, I was unable to find a true outlet for my competitive nature until about 5 years ago when I participated in my first stair climb event and I've been hooked ever since. 

While I won't be taking home first place in any of the events, I love the competition and trying to get better each and every climb.

Are there other sports you're passionate about?: I love sports in general. I played the standard baseball and soccer through high school. I played rugby in college. Rugby is a great sport and was a lot of fun both on and off the pitch. I could tell you some stories, but I won't!! Rugby and the other sports I played really helped my mental toughness and made a difference in my battle against leukemia. Stair climbing also requires a lot of mental focus to keep you pushing as hard as you can to reach the top. It's mentally and physically exhausting no matter how fast you climb.

Do you have injuries or issues you need to overcome to climb?: Unfortunately, I developed avascular necrosis in both my hips from the high levels of the steroid prednisone I received during my treatment for leukemia and had to have the both hips replaced back in 1999. I don't think it really limits me in the stairwell, but I have to watch how I train as my hips are in great shape and I want to avoid having to get them replaced any sooner than I have to. Hopefully, that's a long time away. The great thing about finding stair climbing is that it gave me something that I could compete in given I need to avoid sports and activities that have a lot of impact on my hip replacements.

How do you train? Mainly an elliptical at home (no impact on my hips). I go into to work occasionally on the weekends to climb the stairs. Unfortunately, there are only 144 steps, so I try and go up around 35 times. I usually have to go in very early as I've got 3 kids at home so helps if I'm done before they are up and about.

Do you have a special relationship with any of your step-siblings? I don't want to leave anyone out as I've made a lot of friends along the way, but Harish Nambiar and Tom McGee really got me involved with the sport as I saw them at several of the Chicago based events. They taught me the ropes and introduced me to anyone and everyone they know. Everyone else I've met along the way has been great. I'm grateful that I found this stair climbing community of new friends. So many great personal stories and such a supportive and generous group. I also have to give props to the really fast climbers as they are so supportive. It's very encouraging when one of top climbers passes you and they take a moment to pat you on the back and say great job.

Stair Climbers are just flat out Great People!!

Who inspires you? Cancer survivors for sure along with anyone that keeps fighting even when the chips are down. I would just add that a cancer survivor isn't defined by living or dying, but rather bringing the fight against it each and every day. You are a survivor on day 1 and that never changes.

I've unfortunately met too many families that have lost loved ones to blood cancer. Despite experiencing a tragic loss, these families work tirelessly to ensure others don't have to go through what they had to endure. Their stories and their efforts serve as an inspiration to me every day. Just incredible people who do amazing things.

A good friend of mine that I played rugby with in college sent me a card when I was going through my treatment that said, "CHAMPIONS" on the the front of the card and had a picture of a rugby player trying to get up from a pile of players on the ground. On the inside it read, "A champion is someone who gets up event when they can’t." I kept that card on my wall during my treatment almost 22 years ago and still have it today. That message still resonates with me today. 

If you keep your eyes open, you can find inspiration all around you.

Do you have a good luck charm or any superstitions or pre-race rituals?: Not really, but I do try and get to races early as I hate rushing into the stairwell right when I get there.

What's on your iPod during workouts/competitions?: I kind of prefer not listing to music when I climb as I find it a little distracting. However, when I have music on, it's generally old school rock like AC/DC, Van Halen, Zeppelin, Metallica, etc. I do like softer stuff as well, but generally not during workouts.

Do you have a website or blog for those interested in learning more about you? :

What would you like to tell others about yourself and your experience with stair climbing that might inspire them in their lives? If you are looking to do something different, this is the sport for you. I've lost over 20 pounds since my first climb and knowing there is a next event helps keeps me on track. The great thing is that you are competing against yourself. Most of us aren't going to get to the top the fastest, but you just have to keep taking that next step. It really applies to anything in life.

Additional Comments? Climb On!!