Amy Fredericks likes the challenge of the Empire State Building Run-Up . And very few people chugged up the 86 flights of stairs and covered the 1,576 steps Tuesday faster than the Norwalk woman.
Fredericks won the 40- to 49-year-old women's age group and was the fifth woman overall in the annual race. She ran 14:27 and was 59th overall in a field of 440 runners. "I'm glad it's over,'' Amy said. "It's a real nerve-wracking race. I can't believe how competitive it's getting."
Amy is one of the top 5k runners in Fairfield County and a four-time winner of the Bigelow Tea Community Challenge . The Empire State race, however, is one that she aims for every year. This is the 10th time she has finished the race, which is sponsored by the New York Road Runners, and the eighth time she has finished in the Top 5.
"This is my signature race,'' Amy said. "It really is a race that defines me, 'Amy the Stair Grinder.' I like the challenge. I think it's a good motivator going into the New Year."
Fredericks said she felt the affect of a hamstring injury she suffered in fall. "I was gasping for air,'' she said. "My cardio was shot." She felt strength work that she incorporated into her training helped her overcome her lack of aerobic conditioning.
She also had a good start. Runners line up on the bottom floor and sprint about 20 yards to a doorway where they squeeze through an opening "the size of your bathroom door,'' says Amy, who was second through the door. Runners charge up the 5-foot-wide stairwells to the top of the building. "The start is really dangerous,'' says Amy, who takes two steps at a time. "The first 20 flights, there are no landings. After that, you really have to concentrate on running through the landings. That's when you have to get really tough. I heard women behind me crying. You need lots of upper body strength. There's no windows, you're breathing in dirty, dusty air."
Amy was just 20 seconds out of third in an international field that featured Olympic athletes. Fredericks was the second U.S. woman across the finish line.
"I'd rather run a marathon than this race,'' Amy says. "It's just so much pain even though it's such a short distance. It's one of the hardest races around. That's why I keep coming back."
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