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

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.

Finishing in 20 minutes 25 seconds, I arrived at the top of the Empire State Building!

Around floor 60 I started counting down to how many more I had to go, but couldn't remember if it was 80, 82 or 86 floors (of course it was the latter)—and I used what I had left in me to sprint through to the end. When I hit the top, I was welcomed with cheers and a cold burst of wind from the outdoors—and what seemed like a long straightaway to the finish line. I think I must have looked like those Ironman finishers who wobbly move their bodies until they're allowed to stop. I clocked in at 20 minutes and 25 seconds—25 seconds over my goal. In this case, though, time doesn't matter - I'm so glad I did it!

I'm not sure if I'd call this a check off my bucket list because who would have put this crazy race on their dream list? Certainly before this, I would have never thought I'd want to enter a stair running competition (and to think people travel here from all across the world to be one of the lucky 724 participants in this race!). However, coming out of the stairway of the 86th floor and onto the top of the Empire State Building made me realize how much I appreciate the city I live in. It was a truly breathtaking view and I felt on top of the world.

Now you tell us: Have you done a stair-climbing competition? Would you ever race to the top of the Empire State Building?