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Empire State Building

We Tried It: NYRR’s Empire State Building Run-Up

Written on February 13, 2014 at 6:29 pm , by

It’s mid-February, and I don’t know about you, but this girl is ready for a new challenge. The New Year’s resolution hype has all but died, winter is burying us East Coasters under piles of snow, and stir-crazy frenzies are settling in. So what’s a girl to do?

Enter New York Road Runners Empire State Building Run-Up. What’s that, you ask? Simple: run into the narrow stairwells of New York’s most iconic building, and get your butt up those 86 floors as fast as humanly possible. Easy enough, right? Heh.

After running 10 half-marathons, I decided to take on the challenge because there’s nothing like climbing stairs to get out of my distance-running comfort zone. After all, I live in New York City and, even though I can run 13.1 miles with relative ease (relative being the key word here), just getting to the top of the subway stairs can rob me of breath from time to time.

While I was fortunate enough to have words of advice from those who have run before me (our fitness editor, Jenna, climbed that stairwell in 2013!), I did my research. If this girl – you know, the one who avoids the stairmaster, lives on the first floor of a building and takes the elevator to the 25th floor of her office – was going to survive, I had to at least have my head in the game. And I’m proud to say that I made it to the top of New York’s most iconic building in just over 23 minutes. While I certainly wasn’t the fastest out there (seriously, some were finishing sub-10 – crazy!), I put my whole effort into it. Here’s what I learned along the way – hopefully it’ll inspire you to step (see what I did there?) outside your comfort zone. Maybe not 1,576 steps worth of discomfort, but if you skip the elevator just once, then I’ll consider my job done.

Chew gum and suck on cough drops. This tip from associate beauty editor, Molly, saved me. Chewing gum prevents your ears from popping as you quickly ascend to the top, thus increasing your elevation. The cough drops keep your mouth moist in an otherwise-dry environment. Remember, you’re in a small, dusty stairwell that doesn’t get a lot of use on the reg, so there isn’t a ton of air flow. Both helped me keep up a fast (for me) pace.

Mix up your movement. When sprinting so many stairs, your body quickly switches from an aerobic state over to an anaerobic state, and lactic acid starts to build in your muscles when you pass your anaerobic threshold. To keep pain at bay (and your legs moving), alternate how you get up those stairs. In the beginning, everyone’s in a mad dash, so a moderate sprint will keep you in the group without tuckering you out too quickly. After about eight flights of that, I switched between running up every single step and every other to ensure I was using different muscles.

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The Empire State Building Run-Up: Race to the Top of 86 Floors

Written on February 7, 2013 at 2:15 pm , by

The start of my 86 floor climb! (Photo courtesy of NYRR)

We’re all ashamed to say that when faced with the stairs versus elevator scenario, we probably take the easy way out (or up!) and slip into the elevator at the last second. My first apartment in NYC was a five-floor walk-up (aka an old building with no elevators) with a very narrow staircase. Of course, I didn’t think twice because I was just happy to be around the hustle and bustle of Manhattan. Even if a 10-floor walk-up was all I had to pick from, you can bet I wouldn’t have been scared away from the stair climbing that would become my everyday life. But it’s true, no matter how much we know about those sneaky ways to get moving more in our everyday lifestyle, when given the option, most of us won’t take the stairs.

So it’s crazy to think that I willingly decided to join the media heat of the famous Empire State Building Run-Up. While my decision to join the team meant I was helping an awesome charity, the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation (MMRF), and running alongside my favorite TV host, Kelly Ripa, it also meant I was signing myself up to run 86 floors to the top of the observation deck of the world’s most iconic building.

Before the race I was all smiles.

Leading up to the race I prepared by running up my 40+ floor apartment building a few nights a week. I understood that very, very quickly my body would go into an anaerobic state and tire me out, so I had to start off easy to not lose steam. I even came up with all kinds of stair-running strategies—sprint every five floors, rest for 30-seconds, do it again; or take large exaggerated steps, which might displace my body weight and make it less taxing—but as the gun shot off and my 30 or so companions hit the stairs running, everything I thought I’d do went out the window. As you can imagine, the stairway of the Empire State Building is narrow and the stairs just seem to go on forever. I listened to my head and started off slow, but I was surprised how hard it was to actually run all the way. Throughout 86 floors, I did a combo of run, walk, then hoist myself up, then run some more, then hoisting, then running. After a while, it felt like my legs literally could not go faster. Read more