World Trade Center Stair Climbers Faced Steep Challenge

Vertical Racers Run Up 72 Flights of Stairs of World Trade Center to Raise Cash for Charity


Stair climbers ascended 71 flights at 4 World Trade Center Thursday evening in the name of cancer research, taking part in the largest public event the building has hosted since it opened in November.

Nearly 700 people took part in the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation fundraiser, which filled the sleek building’s no-frills stairwells with climbers in sneakers and volunteers who delivered water and support along the way. So far, just under $173,000 has been raised.

Osamu Sassa, the project architect for the tower for Tokyo’s Maki and Associates, which designed it, completed the climb and said the experience was a bit emotional. He lost both of his parents to cancer during the seven years he spent working on the building.

“There’s something I guess poetic in a way that there is such an event for such a good cause, and it’s in the intimate setting of a building I know very well,” he said.

Other climbers were also well-acquainted with the building, which has played host to cocktail parties, movie shoots and other fundraisers since its opening. Megan Lenz, a design engineer with Leslie E. Robertson Associates who has worked on the building for about three years, said that while she had climbed all the stairs before, she had never done them all at once.


David Hill stretches before ‘Runyon Up’ a fundraiser for the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation at 4 World Trade Center in New York on Thursday. Participants climbed to the 72nd or 54th floor.

“You have memories on every floor, and it’s kind of like a time-lapse going all the way up,” she said. “Really makes you proud to be a part of this project.”

Other participants knew more about climbing than the building itself.

Ken Myers, 45, whose friends call him Spider-man, climbed the stairs dressed in a Spider-man shirt and matching red shorts. “It’s a nickname that stuck, and it’s perfect for climbing buildings,” he said.

This is the fifth building Mr. Myers has climbed in New York City, and the 45th or 46th overall in a total of six states and three countries, he said. He lives just outside Philadelphia, where last weekend he completed a race at the Bell Atlantic Tower, climbing the building’s 50 stories and 1,088 steps twice. Next week, he plans to head to Germany for the Mount Everest Stair Marathon, in which climbers attempt a 397-step outdoor staircase 100 times, or however much they can get through in 24 hours.

“There’s no standard between step height or pitch, every building is a little bit different, every building you’re not sure what you’re getting into til you get there,” Mr. Myers said. “It’s interesting.”


Runner Sarah Anderson stretches after running in the race.

Steve Wechsler of Manhattan, 26, who finished in just under 13 minutes, did the race with colleagues from Mount Sinai Hospital. The group of physical therapists called their team 72 Problems But Stairs Ain’t One and hope to climb the stairs at the Empire State Building next.

“Stairs, they come pretty easily to us,” Mr. Wechsler said. “Seventy-two flights, it ain’t no problem.”

Rocco Flores, 40, of Summit, N.J., who climbed the stairs with a team from his company, Vita Organic Foods, said the event had particular resonance for him because of 9/11.

“One of the things that I’ll keep in mind going to the top is how the firefighters, what they went through to get to the top of the stairs to help people through 9/11,” he said.

The event’s fastest climber, Tim Donahue of Manhattan, 44, reached the 72nd floor in just under nine minutes. A high school teacher, he told a group of reporters afterward that this is the only type of running he can do because it’s gentler on the knees.

He said the hardest part of the event was getting to the building itself, riding his bicycle through crowds of people in the neighborhood.

“It’s striking how new this building is, it’s like an unused baseball glove,” he said. “It’s missing the cigarette butts and gum stains.”

See Video Summary of Event Here