More than 400 athletes from around the world charged to the top of New York’s most iconic building at the 37th Empire State Building Run-Up. The event gave these runners a gut-busting, lung-searing workout on a day when yet another snowfall blanketed NYC and thwarted the routines of many a runner.
Though the weather also put the kibosh on the traditional outdoor finish on the observation deck, spirits remained sky-high on the 86th floor, 1,576 steps above the start in the building’s stunning Art Deco lobby. Finishers celebrated with cheers, hugs, and high-fives as they basked in their accomplishments nearly a quarter-mile above the Midtown Manhattan streets.
The MMRF team, which included six people who have multiple myeloma, raised more than $800,000 for research and treatment to extend the lives of multiple myeloma patients and lead to a cure. “Running up tall buildings is hard work,” Alicia O’Neill, MMRF’s director of endurance events, told their runners. “Just like it’s hard work living with this disease. The money you raise, and the attention you bring to this cause, mean so much.”
The cause mattered so much to MMRF finisher Nancy Flournoy, 46, that she traveled to the Run-Up from her home in Lindale, TX. “I’m a physical therapist assistant and I work with patients who suffer from this disease,” she said. “It’s a good cause. And the race—surprisingly, I really enjoyed it!”
Flournoy’s brother, Christopher Witt, 44, of Dallas, TX, also finished. “Stair-climbing is my newfound love,” he said. “It was actually much easier than I thought it was going to be. I’m a convert!”
Family and friends of staff sergeant TJ Lobraico, the first active New York Air National Guard member killed in Afghanistan, were sponsored by Tata Consultancy Services, who paid for their race entry and matching uniforms to help honor the fallen hero. All 10, including Lobraico’s mother, who is an active servicewoman, met the challenge.
Other finishers continued a stair-climbing love affair that began decades ago. “This was my 19th,” said Stephen Marsalese, 48, of Port Chester, NY. A longtime member of NYRR, he ran for TFK this year and finished in a speedy 13:28. “I’ve had a lot of running injuries,” he said. “I can’t race hard on the roads anymore, but in stair-climbs I can still push myself to the limit.”
What’s his strategy? “I go out hard, and just hang on,” he said with a laugh. “I use the hand-rails to pull myself up—that really saves my legs. I motivate myself by trying to pass people. And I try to enjoy it—that’s really the key.”
TFK fundraising will help provide free health and fitness programs to kids who would otherwise have little or no access to regular physical activity. “It’s a great cause,” said James Shibley of Sunnyvale, CA, who does stair-climbs all over the country. “It gave me some extra motivation. I was thinking that I’d just take it easy and enjoy the climb, but as soon as I hit the first stair, I was off and running.
“I’ll be back,” he added. “This is too much fun to miss.”