Allard ready to continue length streak by climbing Empire State Building
GREAT BARRINGTON — Two stairs at a time with your hands on the railing.
That may not be how you travel up a flight of stairs, but for David Allard, 71, of Great Barrington, that's the mindset.
After starting in Albany back in 1992, Allard has become an avid stair climber and is preparing to again venture up the Empire State Building on Tuesday for the the Empire State Building Run-Up.
"I did the first couple in Albany because I worked there and had a couple buddies there," Allard said. "Then I heard about the Empire State Building, and of course you have to go to the next level and then the next level."
In 1993 he reached the top of the Empire State Building for the first time. In order to make it to the top, it involves 1,576 steps to go approximately one-fifth of a mile vertically.
"Only 100 of us were originally invited," Allard explained. "You start in the basement early in the morning for a mass start. It is the grand championship of stair racing."
Allard clocked in at 16 minutes the first time he climbed, but it wasn't easy.
"We'd go racing across a lobby into a little door," Allard said. "The stairways were only 44 inches wide the whole way up and its clockwise. Years ago you could only pass on the left, so you have seven stairs to pass a guy before a landing. Someone hits the landing and just has to turn so it was impossible to pass."
Times have changed, as they let everyone go five seconds apart to counter the crowded stairwells, but Allard's technique has remained the same.
"You bring yourself right to the edge of a heart attack, and you just hold it," Allard joked. "The Empire State Building is not a legs race, it's a lungs race. The trick with the race is to start at the pace you're going to maintain."
For inspiration, he looked to Chico Scimone, an Italian man who climbed the building until his passing at the age of 93 in 2005.
"He would travel from Italy every year," Allard explained. "Get up early in the morning and go climb to the top. At the age of 93 that is a pretty big deal."
Since he started climbing and running marathons at the age of 45, Allard's closet has become packed full of shirts and medals signalling his accomplishments that include over 60 marathons and 50 climbs, but he never had to train much before a big race or climb.
"I was spoiled early on when I discovered I could run a marathon without training," Allard said. "As I get older I try to do more stair work as we get closer to the race."
He has also done quite a bit of traveling in his time running marathons and climbing. For his 60th birthday, he tackled the Sears Tower in Chicago. Last October, Allard, along with his son, daughter, and granddaughter, did the Munich Marathon in Germany.
With that in mind, the Empire State Building and the World Trade Center remain his primary focuses, as he currently holds climbing streaks lasting over 25 years at both venues.
"The streak is a really strange thing because it has zero value," Allard said. "Yet to the person that holds the streak it has enormous value."
On Tuesday, Allard will set off to New York City to travel and run the 1,576 steps for the 26th year before preparing working his way up the World Trade Center on June 2.
"The World Trade Center ends at the observation center, which is nice," Allard said. "The Empire State Building is the best of them because you end outdoors with a lap around the top."
Once he descends from the climb, he will continue the routine with a couple beers before finding a Korean restaurant to end the night at dinner with the rest of his climbing buddies.
Jake Mendel can be reached at Jmendel@berkshireeagle.com, @Jmendel94 on Twitter and 413-496-6252.
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