WSU-TC prof races to top of NYC landmark

RICHLAND -- Brigit Farley will be able to teach Washington State University Tri-Cities students about the Empire State Building in a new way after this week.

Farley, an associate history professor, was one of 213 people who raced to the observation deck of the Empire State Building on Tuesday during the 34th Empire State Building Run-Up.

It's an invitation-only race that includes 86 floors and 1,576 steps that Farley, 53, of Pendleton, took two at a time.

Farley said she first discovered the race when preparing to teach City of History, a WSU Tri-Cities course that includes New York City and the skyscraper phenomenon.

She said running up the skyscraper wasn't something she thought she could do until she joined the 3 Rivers Road Runners two years ago.

Runners must apply for the event and send an athletic resume, said Farley, who started teaching at WSU Tri-Cities in 1995.

She thought she wouldn't get in, since other runners were more experienced like Olympic marathon qualifiers. But in the second week of January, she said she received her invitation.

She'd already been training as best she could in Pendleton, where the tallest staircase includes 132 stairs. "I got to know every staircase in town," she said.

She also continued running, cycling, weight training and working with her personal trainer.

Farley arrived in New York on Sunday, and said she spent all day Monday researching Russian history in the New York Public Library.

Farley said the race was not as difficult as she anticipated. Although she was in pain by the time she cleared the 1,576th step, it didn't feel as difficult as a 10K.

Farley said she focused on keeping a steady pace throughout the climb, which she finished in 18:36.

"I was really happy with the finish," she said. "Everybody there was a really accomplished athlete."

Farley finished 174th overall, and was 43rd for the females who competed and third for the 50-59 age group.

The stairwell was narrow, with only enough space for two people side by side, she said.

"There is no negotiating with these stairs," Farley said.

And Farley admitted to being afraid to take her eyes off of the stairs to avoid falling. She did slip and fall between the stairs where another runner had spilled water.

Farley left New York early Wednesday on one of the few flights to make it out of John F. Kennedy International Airport because of an ice storm.

Farley arrived back just in time to teach her 4:15 p.m. class on Wednesday.

Now, Farley said she wants to apply to compete again next year so she can beat her time.

"I'd like to beat a few more of them," she said.

She said she easily met her goal of finishing the quarter-mile stair-climb in under 20 minutes, and kept a steady pace instead of pushing herself.

"It's a big thrill, and it's a big test," she said.

* Kristi Pihl: 509-582-1512; kpihl@tricityherald.com