David Schachne’s 86 Flights Of Hell

Some people run for office.

Others run out for a quart of milk.

David Schachne ran up the Empire State Building.

That’s right. The Westporter ran up 86 floors. All 1,576 steps. In a stairwell only 44 inches wide.

And he did it for a cause even better than a great heart rate, and bragging rights in any yeah-well-the-weirdest-thing-I-ever-did conversation. David raised $7,525 for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation.

David Schachne, with a model of the Empire State Building. The actual building is somewhat taller.

David Schachne, with a model of the Empire State Building. The actual building is somewhat taller.

The event was last week’s Empire State Building Run Up. The 37th annual race — sponsored by New York Road Runners as an MMRF benefit — is almost as hard to get into as it is to complete. Just over 700 made the cut, from thousands of applicants. They came from 26 states, and 25 countries. The youngest runner was 20 years old. The oldest: 78.

So there was David last Wednesday night. From 8 to 8:30, batches of elite athletes were released. He was not among them. Those runners clawed their way through a standard-sized doorway, to reach the stairwell.

Then, for the next hour or so, the rest of the pack was released, 1 at a time, every 6 or 8 seconds. The last was a firefighter from North Carolina. He climbed with 55 pounds of gear.

David’s goal — 20 minutes — was nearly twice as long as the guy who had won it 7 years in a row. Then again, Thomas Dold is half David’s age, and competes in events like this every week. He also ran the world’s fasted mile — backward. (Under 6 minutes. Yikes.)

David had no idea if his goal was realistic. He’d trained in a building with only 43 floors — so he had to do 2 sets to replicate the Empire State.

He ran 8 minutes on those 1st sets, training every other day for 2 months. After taking the elevator down to the ground floor, his 2nd sets were 9 minutes.

However, the Empire State Building averages 19 steps per flight. Most buildings have 15. The ESB step heights are also a couple of inches higher than the typical building. (Who knew?)

The crowded scene at the start of the Empire State Building Run Up.

The crowded scene at the start of the Empire State Building Run Up.

As David jockeyed for a good starting position, on his  left was a guy from Australia. On his right, a woman shook with  nerves. For good reason: She’d never practiced in an actual building. She figured a Stairmaster was fine.

Shortly after 8:30, David was released into the “stairhell.” That is not a typo.

He took the 1st 10 floors at a good, steady, 2-step pace.

By the 20th floor he felt tired. That was his 1st water break, as the layout changed from zigzagged to stacked flights.

The stairwell was incredibly hot. The dry air burned his throat.

The next 44 flights were killers. Each was more difficult than the previous one. He 2-stepped all the way to the 64th floor, where his legs felt like rubber.

Empire State logoIt was too difficult to speak. All requests to pass runners were done with hand signals.

By the 76th floor, he says, his heart was working harder than it ever had. He willed himself to go on.

When he saw the sign for the 80th floor, David felt elated.

But the feeling was short-lived. There were still 6 flights to go.

With his throat and lungs burning, and his heart beating through his chest, he slogged upward. He counted down each flight.

Finally, David hit the 86th floor. He entered the outdoor Observation Deck. The cold blast slammed into him.

But he still was not finished. The finish line was on the other side.

Mustering every last bit of effort, David crossed the finish line. His time: 19 minutes, 14 seconds.

That placed him 289th overall. He was smack in the middle of the entire pack.

But he’s #1 on our list of Westporters Accomplishing Amazing Feats That Make The Rest Of Us Look Like Lazy, Worthless Slugs.



4 responses to “David Schachne’s 86 Flights Of Hell


  2. wow! just reading this sounded painful. congratulations. i cant even walk up the small flight of steps in my own home without huffing and puffing.

  3. Only two comments on this story??? Where are all the vocal 06880’ers now? This is INCREDIBLE! What a hero! What and athlete!!! Unimaginably great job, David Schachne! I hope I meet you some day around town.

  4. David-we are so proud of you-you’re amazing- sounds like a once in a lifetime experience. love, marilyn and mark o