NEW YORK (AP) — On your mark, get set, CLIMB!
Athletes from around the world are taking part in a race UP the New York City skyline, climbing 86 flights of stairs at the Empire State Building.
The annual Empire State Building Run-up, being held Wednesday night, is a grueling-even-for-the-elite-athletes trek from the lobby to the observation deck, floor by floor, up 1,576 steps.
About 650 people are registered for this year's race, said Drea Braxmeier, a spokeswoman for the New York Road Runners, which is putting on the race. NYRR also puts on the annual New York City Marathon.
In a switch from previous years, the race is being held at night instead of in the morning. Braxmeier said the change allows people who had to be at work in the daytime to take part and creates a sparkling finish for the climbers.
"You get to finish under the lights of the Empire State Building," she said. "Everyone thinks of the twinkling lights of the city. This is exactly what we'll present to them."
Like the marathon, start times are staggered. The elite men and woman start before the general field. German six-time men's champion Thomas Dold finished the race last year in 10 minutes and 10 seconds.
In another first this year, Braxmeier said the general public would be allowed to start at 10-second intervals, to avoid a crush of people all trying to get to the initial flights of stairs at the same time. She said the last climber was expected to start at 10 p.m.
The Empire State Building race is among the more high-profile tower climbs in the world.
It's "an entire world unto itself," Braxmeier said of the climbs.
"Some people are really great at running 5 miles," she said, "and some people are really great at running up the stairs."
Empire State Building Run-up: http://bit.ly/8d7lnA
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