Australian Suzy Walsham Wins Record Fifth Empire State Building Run-Up Title

International athletes swept the top spots at the recent Empire State Building Run-Up, as Australia’s Suzy Walsham earned her record-setting fifth title, while Norway’s Thorbjørn Ludvigsen captured his first. Walsham and Ludvigsen (above) climbed the 1576 stairs in 11:57 and 10:06, respectively.

“I’m so excited,” said Walsham, 40, a citizen of Australia and permanent resident of Singapore, where she has lived for seven and a half years. “That was a goal of mine coming here. No other female has won it more than four times so I wanted to be the first and I am really proud of that record.”

Lining up in the Empire State Building’s gleaming Art Decco lobby, Walsham was nervous yet focused on winning. Knowing she could become the most decorated stair-climber in race history, Walsham was ready to tackle the building’s 86 floors.

After the starter’s horn sounded, she was the first to reach the narrow staircase. By the 20th floor, Walsham was alone. Reaching the 40th floor – not quite halfway – she couldn’t hear any of her fellow competitors.

“I was feeling good at that stage so I thought if I keep focusing on my race and stay strong, I should be fine,” she said.

She was indeed fine, reaching the 86th and final floor more than 50 seconds ahead of California’s Erika Aklufi.

Unlike her wins in 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2013, Walsham had to break the finish tape indoors. Wet weather forced the New York Road Runners to move the traditional finish on the iconic 86th floor observation deck, overlooking the city, inside. The change of scenery didn’t dampen Walsham’s post-win elation.

“Among the tower running community, this is the one everyone wants to win,” she said. Her winning time was the fastest of her five crowns (although the distance was slightly shorter), and the first time a woman has broken 12:00 since Andrea Mayr set the course record of 11:23 in 2006.

Aklufi, 37, finished second in 12:48, while New Zealand’s Melissa Moon rounded out the top three in 13:25. Four-time champion Cindy Harris placed fourth in 13:46. New York Road Runners President and CEO Mary Wittenberg was eighth overall in the invitational division, timing 16:30.

In the men’s race, Ludvigsen’s title was extra special. A year ago, the Norwegian was not part of the men’s invitational race, yet managed to finish in 10:39, the second-fastest time overall behind champion Mark Bourne.

Racing with Australia’s Darren Wilson through a majority of the race, Ludvigsen managed to pass the 39-year-old around the 71st floor.

“It’s tough to get passed because you have to [pick the] pace up,” he said. In the end, Ludvigsen’s move wound up being the deciding factor. Wilson wound up second in 10:21, the same position he finished last year.

“It is really great. It’s been one of my goals this season [to win],” said Ludvigsen. “It was a good fight.”

Ludvigsen said he didn’t consider himself to be much of a stair racer, saying “it’s good to try different things.”

To celebrate his win, Ludvigsen planned to sight see and do some shopping before departing the city the following Monday. His next race will be Zegama, a sky-running mountain race in Spain.

Third overall was Slovakia’s Tomas Celko in 11:05, followed by Belgium’s Omar Bekkali (11:16).

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