Wednesday, February 3, 2010

If it were me, I probably would've just taken the elevator

Just call it "The Stairmaster from Hell."

At least that was my initial reaction while watching the KEYC newscast last night, when the Empire State Stair Race was reported on and nearly 300 runners partook in climbing the building's 1,576 stairs, 86 floors and 1,050 feet of elevation change. In it's 33rd year of existence, the race is considered the cream of the crop among professional stair runners (yes, they do exist) and typically draws in the world's elite for stair racing, similar to Boston Marathon for long-distance runners.

Mountain runner Melissa Moon took the female title with a time of 13:17 and Thomas Dold won the overall race with a time of 10:16. Dold actually fell well short of the record in the race, which was set by Paul Crake with a time of 9:23. If you average out Crake's time, it equates to climbing roughly nine floors and 167 steps every minute. Even for the most seasoned of mountain hikers with a taste for hard workouts, there's only one word for this kind of stair-climbing prowess: damn.

After watching a YouTube video of it, two things stood out for me about the race: the bottleneck of runners jokeying for position on a narrow staircase (think the start of an average road race for crowdedness multiplied by 10) and the struggle many of the elite runners had to reach the top of the climb. Many could be seen clutching the stair railings and walking gingerly as the race progressed, some even to the point of collapsing.

Bear in mind, these are people who, for the most part, train year-round for this. They are probably the gym rats you see breezing through workouts on the stairmaster at the Y on a regular basis.

In any event, this looks like one of the races that I'd rather admire from afar. Climbing the stairs at the Free Press is enough work as it is.

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