NEW YORK (06-Feb) -- Athletes from Australia took four of the six podium spots at tonight's 36th Empire State Building Run-Up Powered by the MMRF here, led by race winners Suzy Walsham and Mark Bourne. About 600 athletes took part, climbing the 1576 steps from the gleaming marble Art Decco lobby to the 86th floor observation deck of this city's tallest building.
Walsham, 39, who lives in Singapore, scored her fourth victory at this race in five attempts, overwhelming her nearest challenger in the invitational women's field by 43 seconds. She was the first to enter the stairwell on the ground floor, and climbed to victory alone. Her time of 12 minutes and five seconds was her fastest ever here by a wide margin, although it was well of the event record of 11:23 set by Austrian steeplechaser Andrea Mayr in 2006.
"I was first through the door so I was able to run my own race," Walsham told Race Results Weekly. "In the past, if you're not first through you kind of panic a little bit." She continued: "Today I had a strategy not to go out too hard for the first 20 floors, because there are no landings there and you build up a bit of lactic acid. So, I tried to hold back a bit, and once I hit that 20th floor where the landings start I really got into my stride."
Brooke Logan, a 33 year-old Australian who lives in Templestowe, took second in 12:48 and Erika Aklufi, a 36 year-old lawyer turned police officer who lives in Los Angeles, took third in 12:57. Four-time champion Cindy Harris, 44, of Indianapolis, took fifth.
Men's champion Bourne was a surprise winner. Seven-time winner Thomas Dold of Stuttgart, Germany, came to New York to try to win his eighth straight Run-Up, but caught the flu and could not compete. He had to ride the elevator to the 86th floor with the journalists, instead.
"I got sick," Dold, lamented. "I think a little fever. I couldn't eat the last two days."
Bourne, a 29 year-old government ecologist from Canberra, slowly worked his way through the field after the feverish start where the competitors bolt from the starting line for a small doorway leading into the stairwell just a few meters away.
"It was pretty hectic at the start, obviously, with everyone going for the stairs," Bourne said. He continued: "I was second, then third, then worked my way back to first."
Bourne, who said he didn't take the lead for good until the 60th floor, clocked 10 minutes and 12 seconds, handily beating 38 year-old compatriot Darren Wilson from Adelaide (not the athlete who won the Tokyo Half-Marathon in 1997), who clocked 10:45. Mountain runner Rickey Gates, 31, of San Francisco, got third in 11:01.
Because he had a big lead, Bourne was able to savor his victory, and got to look at the twinkling lights of the Manhattan skyline as he rounded the observation deck for the finish line.
"It was great," said Bourne smiling broadly. "Knowing I was in the lead by a comfortable margin I could look out over the edge there and enjoy it for a few seconds."
PHOTO: Suzy Walsham and Mark Bourne of Australia after winning the 2013 Empire State Building Run-Up Powered by the MMRF (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)