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It’s back to the Swallow Cliff stairs

LaurWodarski left LaurCortez center who work together as therapists RehabilitatiInstitute Chicago Homewood walk stairs Swallow Cliff Palos Park IL Tuesday

Laura Wodarski, left, and Laura Cortez, center, who work together as therapists at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago in Homewood, walk the stairs at Swallow Cliff in Palos Park, IL on Tuesday September 13, 2011. They are training for the upcoming Willis Tower run | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

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Updated: November 24, 2011 12:28AM



It’s been more than a month since I tackled the Swallow Cliff stairs and lived to write about it.

Since then I’ve heard from many readers about their experiences climbing the steep stone workout mecca near Palos Park.

Among them were Laura Wodarski, of Posen, Chicago police Sgt. Chuck Long and Moraine Valley Community College assistant basketball coach Michael Reed.

Wodarski is one of several therapists at the Homewood location of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago who are using the stairs as a training ground for an upcoming run at the Willis Tower.

SkyRise Chicago takes place from 7 a.m. to noon Nov. 6. The event is a fundraiser for the RIC.

Wodarski and her stair-stepping mates hope to raise at least $1,000 for the center, which helps patients restore ability following a stroke, brain injury or other trauma or illness.

The tower has 2,109 steps. Swallow Cliff has 125.

You can do the math, or I can do it for you: The single charity run, which the climbers hope to do in 20 to 30 minutes, is the equivalent of climbing the Swallow Cliff stairs 17 times, give or take a step or two.

The therapists have been training once or twice a week at Swallow Cliff, all summer.

Laura Cortez, 25, remembers shaking after her attempt at the stairs.

“Now I have endurance — it makes a huge difference,” the Lisle resident said.

Jean VanderSanden, 40, said she’s participating in the communal run because she really believes in the mission of the RIC.

“This is a tangible way of showing that,” she said. “Plus, this group from Homewood is doing it together. That makes it a lot of fun.”

“This is the ultimate workout place,” said Heather Usher, of Frankfort.

She has to listen to her iPod when she climbs.

“Otherwise all I hear is myself saying, ‘I can’t do this. I can’t do this,’ ” she said.

On a recent run, she shot for 12 laps and made it.

“I was so happy when I got to the bottom. And then I realized I left my car keys at the top,” she said. “I did 13 laps that day.”

As one of Chicago’s finest, Long says being in shape is imperative.

“I owe it to my men and women as well as the citizens I serve to be in the best condition I can be,” said Long, 54. He recently went 17 laps on the stairs, all while wearing 30 pounds of ankle, vest and hand weights. Yikes!

Long, of the West Beverly neighborhood, is training for Running Up the Hancock in February. That climb consists of 1,632 steps. So each time he makes 13 laps at Swallow Cliff, he’s running the equivalent of the Hancock Building.

Reed, along with MVCC strength and conditioning coach Quincy Walker, uses the stairs as a workout station for the school’s basketball program. Each week, the coaches encourage the students to top their previous week’s performance. On this day, they were shooting for 20 laps in an hour.

“It’s a great workout,” Reed said. “What’s better than being outside? And it’s free.”



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