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Why Lake Worth's Chris Rush Ran All The Way Up The Empire State Building

While most of us dread climbing the three flights of stairs it takes to get to our condos or offices, a Lake Worth resident voluntarily raced up 86 of them—all the way to the Empire State Building’s Observation Deck.

On Wednesday morning, Chris Rush, 56, hopped on a flight from South Florida to the Big Apple to compete in New York City's annual Empire State Building Run-Up taking place that same evening. Participants in the Feb. 1 event ranged from professional stair climbers (yes, that's a thing) to charity runners, but Rush was neither. The local attorney had simply been selected in a lottery. 

"I’m not a regular runner," Rush said. "I just kind of thought it’d be cool and put my name in the lottery."

Rush tossed his hat in the ring for the bucket-list event and was selected as one of 60 lottery winners to participate alongside (or should we say behind?) the seasoned vertical runners.

Once Rush was informed in early December that he'd been selected, it took him until day 13 of the 15-day response period to actually decide he should go for it.

"In some ways, I was happy and in other ways, [I felt] trepidation, but I wanted to honestly try to set an example for my kids," he said.

Rush then worked with a personal trainer in the weeks leading up to the event, with the simple aim of training to finish.

"You know, I’m 56 years old, so there were certain muscle groups that had to be woken up, so to speak," he said.

He found buildings in the area that would allow him to practice in their emergency stairwells a few times a week, and he also trained in the gym.

"I dropped 13 to 14 pounds trying to get ready for it," Rush said.

Then, on Wednesday, it was go time. The stairwell felt stuffy—with steeper stairs than he'd practiced on, Rush noted—and he had made the rookie mistake of starting out too fast, to boot. But 1,576 steps later, Rush would accomplish his goal: finishing.

"It was kind of exhilarating at the end," Rush said.

The equivalent of a one-minute elevator ride up to the skyscraper’s 86th Floor Observation Deck tends to take the fastest runners at least 10 minutes. Rush clocked in at 24:25, putting him at 19th in his age group (males ages 50 to 59) and 184th overall.

How did the top runners fare? Of the invited tower runners, eight-time women's winner Suzy Walsham, of Singapore, and fellow elite athlete Piotr Lobodzinski, of Poland, came out on top in each of their heats, with times of 12:11 and 10:31, respectively. 

Rush capped off the race with a dinner out on the town along with his daughter, Melissa, who recently moved to New York City—another big incentive for him to make the trip.

Though this might sound like a one-and-done, knock-it-off-your-bucket-list-and-move-on kind of deal, Rush says he wouldn't mind coming back to the city for more.

"I think there’s a real possibility I might just do it again, and maybe try to talk some people into doing it with me," he said.

A bit of advice for future competitors? "If you’re in your 50s, you better get a little training."

Chris Rush with his daughter Melissa in New York City (Submitted by Chris Rush)

(Lead photo of Men's Invitational heat courtesy of Empire State Realty Trust)