Forget the Winter Olympics, the Six Nations and the Super Bowl – the biggest sporting event of the winter is here and it’s all about stairs. 1,576 of them, to be precise.
The annual Empire State Building Run-Up sees runners from around the world flock to New York to take on the challenge of ascending the 83 storeys of America’s most famous building. Hundreds of runners take part each year, with the vast majority raising money for charity in the process. This year’s event takes place on Wednesday February 6 and organisers will be hoping to beat last year’s total of 724 finishers across several races and categories.
The first Run-up took place in 1978 and has grown steadily since then, with a number of innovations to improve the experience for everyone involved. Now, separate races exist for elite and fun-runners, with the latter taking place on a time trial basis, with runners setting off at 10-second intervals to avoid over-crowding at the bottom of the stairwell. There are also separate races for members of the media and city brokers, with the winners of those categories posting some impressive times to challenge the elite runners.
2012 saw the race switch from the early morning to taking place at night, in order to allow runners who have been at work during the day to take part – something which has helped boost entry numbers and further increase the amount raised for charity. During the 21stcentury the race has been dominated by Germany’s Thomas Dold, who won the race seven years in a row between 2006 and 2012, but was unable to defend his title last year due to flu.
Both elite race titles are currently held by Australians, with Mark Bourne deposing the absent Dold in the men’s race in a time of 10 minutes 12 seconds, while Singapore-based Suzy Walsham, who competed at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, won the women’s race 43 seconds ahead of her nearest rival. But it wasn’t just about super-fit Aussies. Competitors came from as far away as Japan, Slovakia, Norway and the UK was also represented by runners from Scotland, Wales and Jersey. The Run-Up also sees a wide range of ages taking part, with the youngest finishers aged just 19, one of whom had come all the way from Turkey, while the oldest finisher was 77-year-old Wayne Hunkins from Beverly Hills, who completed the race in 28 and a half minutes.
The event has proved so popular that similar races have been organised in other parts of the world, including at the Taipei 101 building in Taiwan, briefly the tallest building in the world. Similar runs have taken place in Britain, with the BT Tower in London once hosting a race, and a new charity event recently began at the Gherkin. But the Empire State Building remains the most famous example of a stair-climbing race. It’s too late to enter this year’s event but you fancy a go in 2015, entries will open soon after this year’s event. But you’d better start training now!