Athletes Tackle 86 Flights at NY Empire Run-Up

Man ties record with 5th consecutive win

By DAVID B. CARUSO
|  Wednesday, Feb 3, 2010  |  Updated 7:02 AM EDT
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New York Road Runners take to the stairs of the Empire State Building

New York Road Runners take to the stairs of the Empire State Building

It took Thomas Dold 10 minutes and 16 seconds Tuesday to earn his record-tying fifth consecutive win in the Empire State Building Run-Up, a punishing 86-flight scamper to the top of New York's tallest building.

     Grimacing as he lunged across the finish line on the 86th floor observation deck, the 25-year-old from Stuttgart, Germany, beat fellow German Matthias Jahn up the 1,576 steps by 40 seconds.
    
"I'm so tired ... It was quite hard,'' Dold said. He is the third person to win the race five times. His only loss was a photo finish in his 2005 debut.
    
Melissa Moon, 40, of Wellington, New Zealand, placed first among the women in 13 minutes, 13 seconds. She finished panting, but smiling.
    
"Oh, look at that view!'' she said at the top.
    
It was her first win in the event. Moon, who works at a soup kitchen and counsels the homeless when she isn't scaling tall buildings, said the key to victory in stair climbing is "your ability to tolerate pain.''
    
The unorthodox race has been run 33 times since 1978. Competitors start in the lobby, where they take just a few strides before squeezing through a doorway and into a stairwell for the long climb.
    
Passing can be difficult. The stairs are only wide enough for two people. Contestants also have to deal with an ear-popping altitude change of 1,050 feet.
    
Kacie Fischer, 24, of Pismo Beach, Calif., reached the top, in 20th place among the women, collapsed in a heap and had to be carried inside.
    
"I blacked out,'' she said later. "I just got so dizzy, going around and around and around on the stairs. My legs gave out at floor 50, and then I ran another 36 floors.''
    
Some 162 men and 76 women entered this year. The event draws stair-climbing specialists from around the globe.
    
Gretchen Grindle Hurlbutt, 31, of New York, placed second among the women, then posed for photos with her 4-month-old baby.
    
She said getting back into shape so soon after pregnancy took a little time, by her standards anyway. She didn't hit her usual regimen of 30-40 training miles per week until Christmas.
    
"I figured I'm good at two things, running and motherhood, so why not?'' she said.

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