Streams

1,576 Steps in a Race to the Top

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

It was a short race – just under a quarter of a mile – but it was all uphill.

About 600 runners made their way to the lobby of the Empire State Building Wednesday night to sprint, shuffle or walk up 86 flights of stairs to the famed Observation Deck as part of the New York Road Runner's 36th annual Empire State Run-Up race.

Bounding up the stairs, two at a time, Australian Mark Bourne finished the 86 flights with a time of 10:12.  It was the first win for the 29 year old, who placed third last year. Seven-time defending champion Thomas Dold withdrew from the race. At the top of the Empire State Building, where he watched people cross the finish line, he said it was due to a cold.

Singapore-based Suzy Walsham, 39, placed first in the women's field with a time of 12:05. It was her fourth first place victory at the event.

Speed wasn't on everyone's mind. Stephanie Krikorian, a first-time participant, followed a slow and steady strategy for the race. "I think this is the stupidest thing I've probably ever done," the 43-year-old marathon runner joked, "but I've always thought about doing it."

It was also the first time 24-year-old Tyler Miller took part in the race. He said it was "a little intimidating and it got worse as you were going up," but it was also an "awesome opportunity to run up the Empire State Building."

Being able to brag about the feat is part of the reason Sharon Chapman, 51, did the race for a second time.

"It's such a different thing," she said. "Time doesn't make a difference in this race. The fact that you've completed it is all you need to do to impress people."

But sitting on the ground, legs spread out in front of him, Matthias Li looked less impressive and more flat out exhausted. He said the race was "pretty tough." The 35-year-old Li signed up about a month and a half ago, in part due to some peer pressure at work, but he was proud that he ran, or at least shuffled up, all 86 floors. "I probably would do it again," he said.

But one thing he, and many of the others, won't be doing in the next few days: taking the stairs.

Caitlyn Kim
The elite women's field, 9 runners, gets on their mark.
Caitlyn Kim
Cushions are placed on the door entrance to protect runners in the crush to get into the stairwell.
Caitlyn Kim
Suzy Walsham stops and catches her breathe after crossing the finish line.
Caitlyn Kim
Mark Bourne, who finished first, is on hand to greet Darren Wilson, who came in second.
Caitlyn Kim
On the 80th floor, participants have only 6 more flights left.

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