Stoke volunteer firefighter Mark Janssen during Saturday's Sky Tower Stair Challenge in Auckland. Photo: Niki Walton.

Stoke fire fighter raises $13k for Sky Tower run

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Stoke volunteer firefighter Mark Janssen achieved his goal of improving his time in the Sky Tower Stair Challenge in Auckland on Saturday racing up 51 floors and 1103 stairs wearing 25 kilograms of fire fighting equipment in 13 minutes 19 seconds.

That was almost two minutes faster than the last time he completed the challenge, which is a fundraiser for Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand, in 2011. Mark was one of 700 firefighters from around New Zealand and Australia to compete in Saturday’s event which is aiming to raise $1 million for the charity.

Mark says he recorded a faster time because he trained a lot harder and, with the help of ASB Aquatic and Fitness centre trainer Andrew Kennedy, a lot smarter for this year’s event. But Mark concedes no amount of training could prepare him for the 13 minutes and 19 seconds of leg and lung-burning agony he endured on Saturday.

“I’ve been training with Andrew since February and he’s been pushing me really hard. I’ve been doing beach training, interval training and running up stairs but that was nothing compared to racing up the Sky Tower – I was absolutely ruined when I got to the top,” Mark says.

Although Mark finished over three minutes behind the winner of the masters’ section, Melbourne’s Scott McGraw, and more than four minutes behind overall winner Otara’s John Harrison, who clocked 8 minutes 36 seconds, he received plenty of accolades for being the top fundraiser.

Mark says he had amazing support from businesses and individuals around the Nelson-Tasman region and on the West Coast and that helped him raise $13,208 for Leukaemia and Blood Cancer New Zealand. Mark’s efforts were recognised at the awards function held in Sky City on Saturday night when he was presented with a trophy.

“I just want to say a huge thanks to everyone who was part of the Nelson fundraising campaign. To be awarded the trophy for raising the most funds was amazing but the trophy doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to the Nelson community.

“Everyone who I approached was so positive and generous. Total Oil, Hydraulink and Ewing Poultry were really generous but so many more gave $100 or $200 or whatever they could.”

Mark says he also received great support from his partner Nyanne Graf, a policewoman, and the Nelson and Mapua fire brigades. Nyanne, a former member of the Mapua Voluntary Fire Brigade, often trained with Mark while the Mapua brigade’s deputy chief, Alby Wyatt, helped arrange the donation from Total Oil.

Mark says another highlight of the weekend was meeting three young cancer sufferers for a photo shoot at the Auckland Fire Station. The photo will go on the back of the next Firefighters’ Calendar which is a fundraiser for Child Cancer.

“I was selected for this year’s Firefighters’ Calendar and they gave all of us some of the proceeds to travel to competitions like the Sky Tower Challenge. But I gave all the money to Child Cancer and when we finished the photo shoot the youngest boy came up to me and hugged my leg and said thanks – it was so emotional.”

Mark is keen to have a third attempt at the Sky Tower Stair Challenge and also wants to try and organise a Tasman team for the event.