The New York Times Magazine ran an interesting article yesterday about “stair racing,” also called “tower running.” This sport, about which I had previously heard very little, involves racing up the interior stairwell of a skyscraper. Apparently, there is a small, but dedicated group of tower runners who travel the globe to compete in stair races around the world, often in very famous buildings. The article points out that it is not a lucrative sport, and it in fact costs most racers more than they could ever earn from competing. One of the big races, the “Empire State Building Run-Up,” or “ESBRU,” as it is called by the stair racing community, will take place on February 6.
Some may think the stair racers are crazy. I am in no position to judge, given the ridiculous number of steps I logged on the Stairmaster in the 90’s. I didn’t even get a nice view when I finished my numerous workouts on those beasts. Or a t-shirt. I also have a soft spot for any athlete who pursues a sport that will gain them nothing but personal satisfaction. So I am now adding the ESBRU to my list of events that I will follow.
Someone, who shall remain nameless but does co-author this blog with me, asked if I might want to race the ESBRU with her next year. I think she may have been joking, but am not sure. I’m especially not sure because she just signed herself up for a snowshoe half-marathon. Not kidding. I didn’t even know they existed. She was kind enough to ask I wanted to join and I politely declined, given the fact that the only snowshoes I have ever seen up close were at my local Pottery Barn and for decorative purposes only. I will let her write more about the details of her newest adventure.
As with the snowshoe half-marathon, I think I’m going to pass on the ESBRU. It’s not the stairs that daunt me; I think I’m part Sherpa anyway and have the memory of all those Stairmaster miles lodged somewhere in my calf muscles. No, it’s the description of the roller-derby flavored start. In order to get into the stairwell to begin their ascent, the 650 competitors first have to jockey for position in order to fit through a 36 inch doorway. The NYT magazine article mentions an Australian racer who was pushed into the wall next to the door at the start of the 2009 ESBRU. The competitor describes, “The impact was so great…that I initially thought I had broken my nose and lost teeth.” Apparently, after being pushed into the wall, this racer fell and was trampled before she was able to get up and finish first in the women’s division.
I applaud anyone who has the guts to brave that kind of start before running up 1576 steps, but have zero interest in getting a new nose or new teeth, so I’ll follow this one from the sidelines.