Last Sunday, plenty of Westporters went for runs. Some jogged lightly. Others put in a few hard miles. Even with hills, the terrain was fairly easy.
David Schachne’s was not.
The longtime Westport businessman — who earlier climbed the Himalayas — spent Sunday racing up the Freedom Tower (1 World Trade Center).
That’s 102 floors. 2,250 steps. Straight uphill.
Schachne’s run was part of the “Tunnel to Towers” Climb. The event paid homage to — and raised funds in honor of — 1st responders killed on 9/11. Among them: firefighters Stephen Siller (the namesake of this foundation) and Billy Burke (who gave his life to save someone in a wheelchair).
Of the 665 racers on Sunday, Schachne was the 2nd highest individual fundraiser. With help from many Westporters, he raised nearly $6,000.
Runners were not allowed to bring or carry anything into the building: no watches, cell phones, cameras, GoPros — not even keys. All gear was deposited in a truck, prior to 3 security checks.
Schachne was in the 4th wave (of 7). The 1st group took off at 5 a.m. He got into the tower at 6 a.m., with more than 100 others.
At the entrance to the stairwell, where badges were scanned, Schachne thought he was waiting for a final security clearance. Instead, his timing chip had been scanned. A man suddenly yelled “Go!”
Schachne planned to double-step the entire way up. Yet after standing outside for 15 minutes in cold air, his airway had constricted. He has asthma, but had forgotten his inhaler.
Fortunately, a few minutes inside the warm building acclimated his body. Just around then though, his heartbeat spiked.
Without a watch or phone, Schachne had no idea how long he’d been climbing. He did not look at floor numbers, not wanting to get discouraged.
But after a while, thinking he was halfway up, he checked. He read with dismay: 27.
He’d trained each week by climbing 4 or 5 sets of stairs in a 50-floor building. Now, he began counting steps. Most Freedom Tower floors have 23 steps. The building he’d trained in had 14 steps per flight. (The Empire State Building, which Schachne climbed a few years ago, has 18.)
He realized he would not hit his 23:30 goal. But he slogged on, step after step after step.
As he neared the top, the stairwell grew congested. He continued to 2-step, weaving to the left and right of crowds.
Finally — 2,250 steps and 26:11 after he began — Schachne reached the top. It had been much harder than he’d anticipated.
Considering the extra stairs, he was satisfied. When he calculated his time against his Empire State run, he figured he beat that previous pace by 20 seconds.
Schachne ended up 201st, out of all 665 finishers. (Winning time: 14:26. Slowest: 1 hour, 40 minutes.)
At the finish line — the observation deck — he was awed by the views. He gazed out at the Statue of Liberty, and much of New Jersey and Manhattan.
“It was an amazing morning,” Schachne says. “The Freedom Tower is truly a sight to behold. The event raised over $300,000 for catastrophically injured servicemen and women, and 1st responders’ families. I am honored to have helped, and I thank all who supported me.
And how was your Sunday morning run?
(There is still time to support David Schachne. Just click here!)