By Ovunc Kutlu
NEW YORK (AA) - Runners said Tuesday that they are set and excited to climb 1,050 vertical feet (320 meters) in the world-famous Empire State Building Run-Up race, sponsored by Turkish Airlines.
A day before the world's oldest and most famous tower race will take place on Wednesday in the fifth tallest building in the U.S., some runners gathered in the Empire State Building Fitness Center for a training session for the 41st annual event this year.
"A lot of training and preparation go into coming here and doing a race like this," Suzy Walsham, eight-time Empire State Building Run-Up women's champion, told Anadolu Agency.
"The experience definitely helps. I know what I'm going to go through. I know my race plan, and I will try to stick with that," she said.
Walsham, who holds the most race victories in women’s invitationals, has won the last five races from 2013 to 2017, and is now looking to extend this streak and achieve her ninth total victory.
She also gave valuable advice to newcomers and first-timers before the race that will require participants to climb 1,576 stairs to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building.
"Don't go out too fast. You can actually feel pretty good for the first 5 or 10 floors, but you may very quickly not feel very good. I always say try and go out slower than what you think you need ... Just try to pace yourself," she explained.
"It's a tough race. In stair races, anything can happen," she said, adding that she trains in stairs three times a week, mixing it up with flat running, gym work and cross training.
Rudy Garcia-Tolson, a two-time paralympic gold medalist, said this will be his first participation in the race.
"The Empire State Run-Up has always been on my bucket list. For me, it's probably the most unique race I will have ever done," he said.
"Going up 86 stairs with no legs is always a challenge. Hopefully, at the end I will be the first double above-knee amputee to finish the race," he added.
Garcia-Tolson, who won gold in 200 meters individual medley swimming in both Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 Summer Paralympics, said he trains year around by running four times a week, swimming three times a week, and has done Ironman before -- one of the hardest single-day triathlons in the world.
By completing the Ford Ironman Arizona in 2009, he became the first double above-knee amputee to finish an Ironman triathlon.
Garcia-Tolson said he first heard about the Empire State Building Run-Up a few years ago after some of his teammates participated in the race from Challenged Athletes Foundation -- the official charity of the Run-Up
"Over the past five years, we raised over $200,000 for Challenged Athletes Foundation," he noted.
Laura Stein, the marketing director of the Challenged Athletes Foundation, said this is the fourth consecutive year the foundation has been a partner in the Run-Up.
"This is an incredibly important event for not only our foundation, but [also] what we think is our greater mission which is to create a culture of inclusion in the world," she said.
The Challenged Athletes Foundation has a presence in New York for 11 years, representing its athletes, Stein said, adding "We help show the world what people with permanent physical challenges can accomplish if they show up at the starting line."
She said the foundation has five athletes to compete in the Empire State Building Run-Up, who will race for the first time.
"It's important for them as individuals to accomplish this incredible challenge in the most historic and famous building in the world. And, even more important that they are doing on behalf of the Challenged Athletes Foundation, rising awareness and money to help people with permanent physical challenges get access to sports and an active life style," she said.
About Turkish Airlines presenting the Empire State Run-Up, Stein said "We are thrilled to be partnering with such a powerhouse and an important brand in the airline industry."