Behind The Scenes

1,576 steps to glory: espnW editor conquers Empire State Building

New Zealand’s Melissa Moon and Germany’s Thomas Dold beat more than 650 participants from around the world to win the female and male divisions of the 35th annual Empire State Building Run-Up.

Climbing one flight of stairs to get to my office here in the Communications Department sometimes can prove a daunting task.

To attempt to climb 86 flights of stairs — 1,576 steps — sounds impossible.

On Feb. 8, 2012, Abigail Lorge, senior editor for espnW, completed the feat as she competed in the Empire State Building Run-Up powered by the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.

She finished ahead of all other female entrants in the media division, crossing the finish line in 16 minutes, 27 seconds.

espnW's Abigail Lorge finished first among females in the media division.

The race, which raises research money for the MMRF, starts in the lobby of the most famous building in New York City. When the gun goes off, a wave of athletes dash through the staircase door to the Observation Deck that looms nearly a quarter mile above 5th Avenue.

Lorge, who was a distance runner at Columbia University and a marathoner after college, had to give up running after a back injury.

Her driving force now: “I’m still looking to stay fit and athletic, not for the sake of aesthetics but to remain competitive the same way I was during high school or college.”

Lorge embodies the motto of espnW‘s audience “Once an athlete, always an athlete.”

About three-quarters of the way through the race, Lorge began questioning her decision as her quads started burning.

“I didn’t do any stair-specific training,” she said. “I do the stair mill at the gym, which is an intense cardio workout, and I hoped it would translate to this.”

The stair mill didn’t exactly translate, but served its purpose.

The media division was filled by participants who were invited by New York Road Runners, the organizers of the event.

When they called, Lorge was up for the challenge.

“It was wacky,” she said. “I didn’t know what to expect going in, because it’s not a typical 5K or 10K.

“It’s bizarre, but it was an intriguing challenge. The Empire State Building is an iconic building in a famous city, and it was a great challenge to try to run up.”

She is humble about her accomplishment.

“A pro athlete would have a much easier time than me, I’m sure,” she said.

Lorge has no plans for any other stair climbs, but would welcome an invite to participate for next year.

“It really is a challenge that requires you to be in good cardiovascular shape and have strong legs,” she said.

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