The Gherkin Challenge

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Gherkin PT

A few months back I was catching up on Twitter when I saw a tweet from @papa_tont asking if anyone fancied joining him in a charity event running up the Gherkin in London. I had no idea what he was talking about but as it involved sport and charity, I googled it.

The NSPCC Gherkin Challenge first took place five years ago and involves running up all 1,037 steps and 38 floors of the 180m-high building. You can find more info here.


As a very active man I loved the idea. As a very competitive man I loved it even more! I’d taken part in an Ironman 70.3 a couple of months previous and decided I was up for a new challenge.

So I signed up. And so did my step son, Louis.


I wondered how hard could it be? So training was non existent, other than a quick dash up the stairs in our local shopping centre.

On the day of the event, we went through registration, joined the comical warm up dance routine and joined the 50 or so others in our wave. A lesson to learn for next year is to start at the front of our wave; we did get held up a few times.

The race is averaged at about 11 minutes, so it’s a quick race but the intensity is high. The most intense event I’ve ever experienced in fact. The pressure on the lungs is something else. Whilst my legs seemed fine it was a real struggle to fill my lungs with enough oxygen for each step.

It was bloody hard! Louis was in front of me and cruising whilst I was puffing out my arse trying to stay with him. We reached the top in 8 minutes 25 seconds. Well under the average and very impressive for a 10 year old.
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Upon reaching the top of the Gherkin my throat felt like a piece of sand paper so I was relieved to be handed a bottle of water. Those 8 minutes were ridiculously hard; much harder than I’d imagined anyway.
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It was a great event, for a great cause and I’m proud of myself for completing the challenge in a good time but even more proud of Louis. He raised money (£400 in total) at his school, all on his own, and completed the challenge in, what must be, a record time for his age category.

You can see us in action in this video. Enjoy! And if you fancy having a go yourself, they’ll be running it again next year.

See you at the top!

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  1. Adrian

    Well done Al – I think I need to challenge myself to do this next year. I’m never going to be into running so this can be my London Marathon! Thanks for supporting NSPCC.

    • Al Ferguson

      Thanks mate. We are def doing it next year so come and join us :)

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