‘Is-is that White Hart Lane?’ I asked the man in the helmet beside me, as my fingers fumbled to get a proper hold on the scaffolding at the top of the Leadenhall Building.
I don’t have any real interest in football. What I was really interested in was the 750-foot drop in front of me, which would soon be directly below me. The stadium in the distance was just giving me something less anxiety-inducing to focus on.
‘Nah, that’s the Olympic Stadium,’ the zip line operator told me. ‘Where West Ham play.’
‘Oh, cool,’ I said. There was plenty to be distracted by, to be fair. The view was absolutely unbelievable. But it kept being clouded by the sweat running sun cream into my eye.
We can step back from the edge for a moment.
I was on that roof because I’d just completed a tower run up 42 floors of the UK’s sixth-tallest skyscraper – better known as the Cheesegrater, despite not really looking much like one.
It was all in aid of baby loss and pregnancy charity Tommy’s, the official charity of the first ever Skyscraper Challenge. You can read more about how I got involved in my last article here.
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Everywhere I looked on Saturday, people were wearing eye-catching pink Tommy’s shirts or vests. For some of them, it would just be an opportunity to support a good cause. For others, it was an opportunity to express gratitude for the help they received on some very dark days.
The zip line extends for 130m – while also descending 70m to make up for the change in height between the Cheesegrater and the Gherkin (Credits: James Manning)
Earlier this week, I spoke to Viki Gadsby Peet, mum to four-year-old Evie and five-year-old Seb.
Seb was born premature after Viki unexpectedly went into labour five weeks early. Thankfully, he didn’t need any special medical intervention, but they had to stay in hospital for a prolonged period for observation.
She said: ‘I suppose that’s where I first became aware of Tommy’s, and the information of what they do to support a premature birth.’
Less than a year later, the charity provided her with comfort and support once again. Evie was one of a pair of twins originally, but Viki and her husband James found out they’d lost her sibling at the 12-week scan.
‘On the one hand, you’re absolutely thrilled that you’ve got one healthy baby, but you’re devastated of course that you’ve lost another one,’ she said.
‘There’s a lot of mixed emotions going on, and again, that’s a time where I found a lot of the information Tommy’s provided very useful to help support me through that emotional journey, throughout the rest of the pregnancy with Evie.
‘Knowing there are lots of other people going through similar things I found very beneficial.’
Viki was followed by cameras through the last half of her climb which ‘added some pressure’ (Picture: Marathon Photos Live)
Celebrating with prosecco and a magnificent view on level 42 of the Leadenhall Building (Picture: Val Hamby)
Viki, 37, saw a sponsored post for the Skyscraper Challenge on social media and put her name down. It was only later that she found out it would be in support of Tommy’s, which was ‘like a lightbulb moment’, she said. You can find her fundraising page here.
Like me, she turned up on Saturday for the tower climb and zip wire.
It was the hottest day of the year so far, reaching beyond 30°C in the City of London. Thankfully, the stairwells of the Leadenhall Building were relatively cool, and the floor numbers on the landings seemed to be increasing fairly quickly as I pulled myself up by the bannisters.
To my astonishment, when I got to the finish line at level 42, I found out I’d made it in under ten minutes – 9 minutes 50 seconds, in fact. I was overjoyed as I drank cup after cup of water, but only had time for a few quick breath exercises before I had to harness up and head to the roof.
Up there, with London stretching out all around me, I got speaking to a man whose bib said ‘Zak’s Dad’. Tim lost his son Zak on the day he was born, and in the years since, he has raised an extraordinary amount of money for various causes related to baby loss by selling replica nineties football shirts.
It turned out Tim’s day was just beginning. Having travelled over from Cornwall, he was climbing the 42 floors and zip-lining in the morning, then having a couple of hours’ rest, and climbing the 42 floors again in the afternoon before taking the alternative route down – an abseil. I was and remain in awe. His page is here.
Picture taken before I realised my big head wouldn’t fit in this helmet, and I’d need another one (Picture: Ali Cotton)
Back to the edge.
The man in the helmet told me I needed to shift my weight slowly off the side of the building. This was easier said than done, and after pushing away – with the 750ft sheer drop underneath me – I had to bounce a bit to get the thing moving.
But soon, I was moving at two metres per second towards the Gherkin. To my right, Tower Bridge and South London. To my left, Brick Lane and North London. Behind me, the Houses of Parliament. Below me, a Rock Choir singing Take That and some very hard concrete.
It was extraordinary, a view I’ll never forget. I have no idea how long I was out there – it could have been 20 seconds or two minutes. But I was smiling the whole time.
The Skyscraper Challenge was a truly spectacular event for a charity that does truly spectacular work. If you’re able to, please support Tommy’s. You can find the donation page on their website here.
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