After eight rounds of chemotherapy and six surgeries in her battle against breast cancer, Jennifer Bolstad was so weak she didn’t think she’d be able to climb her stairs again, let alone run.
But, in the year or so since, race after race, mini-marathon after mini-marathon, the 33-year-old Gowanus resident is now running better than she has in years. And on February 2, she’s taking on those stairs in the most extreme way, participating in the New York Road Runners Empire State Building (ESB) Run-Up.
The race is what it sounds like: this year, more than 300 runners are expected to race up all 86 flights of the city landmark, relying on their speed, strength, and, mostly, endurance.
For Bolstead, an avid long-distance runner before and especially after her bout with cancer, this new challenge is one of many that has seen her triumph over her illness.
“Treatment has left me feeling weak, exhausted and sick, and getting back into running seemed like the fastest path from being a sick person to being a healthy person,” said Bolstead, a landscape architect and loves to train all over Brooklyn, from the industrial avenues of Greenpoint and Williamsburg to the Coney Island boardwalk. “The ESB run seems like a particularly fitting challenge, given how vividly I remember struggling to climb the one flight of steps in my house a little over a year ago.”
This past spring, Mark Carolan was going through his own physical ordeal. After breaking both his elbows in a bike accident, the Williamsburg resident could have easily delayed his plans to participate in the New York City Triathlon. But later that summer, there he was, crossing the finish line. He looks to triumph again in his latest challenge, the ESB Run-Up.
“Sometimes walking up a five-story walk-up is frustrating. I’m assuming this is going to be pretty humbling,” says Carolan, 28, a graphic designer. “It’d be interesting to look at the city skyline and see the Empire State Building and say, I ran up that.”
Williamsburg resident Jesse Smith probably shouldn’t even be doing the run-up, thanks to a disagreeable Achilles, but he doesn’t want to miss out on the experience.
“I’m always on the lookout for new ways to push myself,” says Smith, 29, a senior accountant executive at L Magazine who also seeks thrills through hiking, snowboarding and boot-packing. “Something tells me the ESB climb will be a little different. I can’t imagine enjoying being crammed inside a stairwell with hundreds of other runners for 86 stories. But finishing on top of the Empire State Building, how awesome is that?”
Brooklyn continues to represent in the run. Also participating are Thomas Ryan, 48, a retired FDNY battalion chief, in his 10th run-up, and Jason Fleischauer, 30, a math teacher who lives in Windsor Terrace, looking forward to his first.