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Local Man Takes the Stairs -- a Lot of Them

Sports Producer Lindsay Applebaum:

Joe Murgo of Stafford, Va., first heard about the Annual New York Road Runners Empire State Building Run-Up two years ago.

The Stairmaster.

"My daughter lives in Manhattan, and for some reason I was just going through the New York Road Runner's website looking for races in New York," Murgo said. "I happened to spot that one."

And whereas some average person might have seen something like that and thought, I don't even take the stairs up four flights to my apartment, so no, running up 86 stories does not appeal to me, Murgo was intrigued.

Murgo, a 55-year-old retired Marine who has also done 24- and 12-hour runs(!) and 50-mile races, sent in an application -- yep, turns out only about 300 elite runners from all over the world get the opportunity to race up 1,576 steps. He got accepted and started training for the event, but it didn't go so well.

"I wound up slipping on the high school bleachers because there was frost on them," Murgo said. "I broke my rib."

So he waited another year and then started up training again, always choosing stairs over elevators -- "When i was in Paris, I snuck through and ran up the Eiffel tower," he said -- and steps over escalators in the Metro.

"I ran up the Exorcist Steps when I was at a conference in Georgetown," Murgo said. "I go up and down stairs in parking lots and things like that."

Of course, one can only go so high here in D.C., so Murgo had no idea what to expect when he ran (climbed?) the race last year. He paced himself and finished in 18 minutes 45 seconds (the record is 9 minutes 33 seconds, set by Australian cyclist Paul Crake).

"You kind of have to pace yourself or else the lactic acid just builds up and then you just don't make it," Murgo said. "I want to break my record this year, though."

So he's been training for two and a half hours every single day, starting with 1,000 situps at 3:30 a.m. and then using the elliptical trainer ("without holding the poles for balance") at the fitness center before going in to work. By choice.

"I've been doing that all my life," Murgo said. "I haven't missed a day of training, really, since middle school. Between playing football and wrestling [at Brooklyn College] and then the Marine Corps, it's just something that I enjoy doing. I'm just more interested in running different types of these extreme-type events. Next event I'm gonna maybe train for is in Antarctica, they have a 50-miler and a marathon."

(So, if you're looking to build some real self-discipline and maybe get in a few good workouts, I suppose I'd recommend joining the Marine Corps.)

There are some money prizes for winners of this event, and "everyone walks out with a medal and a shirt and stuff like that," but Murgo says he does it for the experience.

"It's really that the people that you meet over there are so great," Murgo said. "Last year I met two gentlemen from Sicily -- my family's from Sicily -- they ended up being from the same town that my father grew up in, Catania, so that was really interesting."

The race is Tuesday, Feb. 3, and Murgo can't wait, mostly because he's ready to go back to his regular training routine. His daughter is coming to watch -- each participant gets to bring one guest -- and they'll go to a reception afterward on the Observation Deck.

And then he'll take the elevator back down.

By Lindsay Applebaum  |  January 30, 2009; 10:53 AM ET
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That was actually not bad, Lindsay. No attempts at witty remarks or biting sarcasm jut an amusing, worthwhile little antidote, ala Stein. Well done.

Posted by: MarylanDChris | January 30, 2009 12:27 PM | Report abuse

A lot like Steinberg's posts', MDChris. Except Lindsay was able to write her's without making obvious a heterosexual man crush on Chris Cooley.

Posted by: redskins91 | January 30, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: MarylanDChris | January 30, 2009 1:08 PM | Report abuse

Good comment, MarylanDChris. I was trying to figure out why the post didn't anger me immediately when I saw who it was by. ;)

Posted by: sitruc | January 30, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

A set of stairs I would recommend to this gentleman - try the climb to the top of St. Paul's Cathedral in London. I've done this climb, although not at a run. The tricky part about it is that it's a lot of squirrel holes and a lot of stairs going in every direction at varying pitch and rotation. It's quite an adventure and not for the acrophobic, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Posted by: kittypawz | February 2, 2009 9:48 AM | Report abuse

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