Stair Masters

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Some 216 brave souls high-stepped it up 86 floors in New York Road Runners 30th Annual Empire State Building Run-Up event yesterday morning. We caught up with four novice runners after they survived 1,576 quad-burning steps and a blast of nine-degree weather as they crossed the finish line on the observation deck — in just their sweat-soaked T-shirts and shorts.

Levente Kiss, 26, Newark, NJ, Ph.D. Student
There is a similar race in Hungary, where I'm from, and I am a record-holder in that. But that's only 22 floors. I'm not a runner, but my father was. He has a record for 10 floors. I had my pace like a locomotive, but my throat was killing me, and it was real tough to go outside. I'm not so sure that was a good idea.

Gavin Bannat, 42, Wayne Valley, NJ, Physical Education Instructor
This was my training program: I had an 80-pound tire and I live on top of a hill. So what I'd do is three or four times a week I'd go out and run four or five miles, then I'd drag my tire a few times up and down the street. I'll be honest with you, my hill strength is incredible ... I'm like a fine wine, the older I get the better I get.

Danny Bellino, 26, Bronx Physical Education Instructor
Actually, it went by a lot more quickly than I expected. Once I got into the rhythm with
the other guys, the floors just started ticking away. I was feeling good the whole time, and was in third place for most of it, then just kicked it in at the end and won, which was great. Plus I get a free burrito.

Kevin Ward, 48, Brooklyn, Observation Deck Employee
I'm the first person from the building to compete. I did practice. Yeah, I trained on the stairs, but don't mention that, I might get disqualified. And, believe it or not, all the training I've been doing, and I've done it about 20 times, I finished faster, just because of all the adrenaline coming in. And my legs are OK. I'm not one of those hard-core athletes — I don't jog, though I should. I was just pulling on the railings, one step at a time. — Janelle Nanos