Running two-tenths of a mile is not all that difficult. Most people don't even break a sweat when they jog that distance. But if a runner has to cover that distance vertically and practically scrapes the New York City skyline, it can be quite a challenge. On Feb. 8, Lisa Clark of New Canaan, ran up the 1,576 stairs of the Empire State Building in a charity event that had more than 600 people competing to see who could get to the top first.
"The energy and excitement of the race was great," said Clark, 43, and a mother of three. "It’s at the Empire State Building, it’s NYC, it’s athletes from all over the country. For my part, it was for an incredible cause that is personal to me. The MMRF- -is the official sponsor of the race." (The MMRF was founded by New Canaan resident
Training for the race proved to be a challenge for Clark. Stairmasters can simulate a rapid and lengthy climb, but it's nothing like the real thing.
"The very best way to train to run a stair race is to run stairs, so that’s what I did," said Clark, a California native. "I ran at Target in Stamford up and down six flights of stairs, 20-25 times a few days a week. But that wasn’t enough flights to train to run the 86 flights at the Empire State building, so I looked around for the tallest building I could find and ran there, too." Added Clark, "Trump Parc in Stamford was nice enough to let me jump in their stairwell and hammer out the 36 floors there."
Clark didn't have other runners challenging her in the Stamford building to get to the top. The start of the race in New York City was like trying to run sprints in a subway car at 5:30 p.m.
"There’s definitely a bit of a rush to get into the stair well and so for the first few flights you’ve got company." she said. "By the tenth floor or so, it thins out and you can really run your own race. I expected a crowd the entire way up but that’s not the case. It’s pretty much you and the 1,576 stairs."
1,576 stairs. Straight up. No turning back. With legs and lungs burning, it can becomes more of a battle of will than skill.
"This race tests your endurance like nothing I’ve done before," said Clark. "It’s pushing your heart rate to it’s maximum and keeping it there for 15-20 minutes, never mind the leg work," she said. "For strong legs, heart, lungs and mind--- run stairs. It’s the best."
Clark finished with a time of 19:06 which was good enough for 20th in her wave and fourth among woman in her age group. Thomas Dold of Germany made it to the top in 10:28, winning the event for the seventh consecutive year. More importantly, though, Clark raised $2,500 to support research for the MMRF.
"For me, it was about the physical challenge of the stair climb, but also to raise awareness for this incredible foundation that is doing so much to improve and extend the lives of those with Multiple Myeloma and other cancers, as well," she said. "I’m grateful to have been part of this race and cause."
residents Nick Tiller, Thomas Hickey, Laura and Patrick Edmonds, also competed in the race and made a strong showing. Along with Clark, the New Canaan group raised a total of $12,500 for the foundation.