GREAT BARRINGTON -- There are 1,860 steps from street level to the observation deck of the Empire State Building and David Allard has climbed them all, many, many times.
On Feb. 6, the 65-year-old Great Barrington resident will run up the stairs, two-by-two, to the 102nd floor for the 20th consecutive year as part of the annual Empire State Building Run-Up and will be submitting his feat to the Guinness World Book of Records.
"It's the most beautiful ending to a race because you have to run one last lap around the observation tower and you get to see all of New York ahead of you," he said.
As a child, Allard's mother often took him to the massive architectural wonder. It was one of her favorite places in the world.
Running to its top, some six decades later, Allard says he wishes his mother were alive to see how the building had become such an integral part of his life as well.
When Allard began running the race in the early 1990s, it was far more humble affair. Only 100 or so participants were invited.
But, when it was discovered that Chico Scimone, a man in his 80s, was competing, the event garnered the attention of the national media. Soon, there were more television cameras and crews than there were competitors, Allard said.
Conditions were cramped as is without the reporters. The width of the Empire State Building's stairwell is only 44 inches wide, so passing other runners quickly became an even more difficult challenge as more and more
"It was a simple race at first, with a mass start that begins in the lobby," he said. "We all had to hit this tiny door and then begin our ascent. But a lot of people tried to go too hard, too fast and many ended up holding their chests, slumped to the side of the stairwell by the eighth floor. For me, I set a steady pace and held it."
Climbing so many stairs at such a pace, it's easy to imagine that people's legs would be the focus of training, but Allard said that isn't the case.
"It's a breathing race, not a leg race," he said. "It's all about holding a steady breathing pattern and using the handrails to carry your momentum."
Allard said the race is fairly quick. It takes him only 20 or so minutes to reach the top.
Although Allard is an avid marathon runner now, it wasn't always that way.
"I didn't start running until my daughter had joined the high school cross country team," he said. "I had never run a step in my life until then."
Since that time, Allard has run more than 50 marathons across the world, many with his son, daughter and his wife, Cindy, all of whom are accomplished marathon runners.
When David and Cindy Allard got married on Feb. 8, nearly two decades ago, he insisted on delaying their honeymoon until after he had run that year's race up the Empire State Building.
Even multiple back surgeries couldn't stop Allard from running.
"I guess it's habit," he said of why he continues to compete in marathons. "I like the tradition of it."
As for training, Allard said his routine isn't complex, but it's not easy either.
"Training is simple, it's all about just getting out the door," he said.