For those who haven’t read my first blog post, my duties as a writer for Men’s Fitness and a never-back-down-from-a-challenge attitude demanded that I accept a challenge to compete in the Empire State Run-Up. After just two weeks of training, I was obligated to run 1,576 stairs to the top of the East Coast’s tallest building. The last time I beheld the building was an intimidating experience. As I approached it last night, it seemed to have tripled in size. What was I thinking? I found my place at the starting line. What came next was a blur of stairs, sweat, lactic acid and more stairs. Moving one foot in front of the other, I steadily made my way to the top of the cramped, suffocating 80-year-old stairwell. (This race is not for the claustrophobic.) Fifteen minutes after I started in the lobby, I had made my way up 86 flights and out onto the observation deck. It might have been because of the poor air circulation or because I had accomplished something that filled my dreams (and nightmares), but that cold winter air was the most refreshing I had ever inhaled. I wish I could say the view was spectacular, but because it was snowing and I was up so high, there wasn’t much of a view at all. Soon after the race, I was fortunate enough to encounter the man dubbed the Lance Armstrong of the Empire State Run-Up, a fitting title for the seventh-straight consecutive winner of this race. Thomas Dold, a German native, finished the race in just over 10 minutes. Epitomizing the camaraderie of the race, he congratulated me on finishing and asked how I did as soon as I introduced myself. Forgetting who was supposed to interview who, I told him my story. “But then you had to go and make me look bad,” I said. He laughed and went on to explain, in his German accent, how stair running isn’t just for elite athletes but for everyone. “Running up stairs is really a full-body workout that everyone can see benefits from,” said Dold. “You don’t have to run up buildings to see results. Just taking the stairs instead of riding the elevator helps you get fit.” He then grabbed a bottle of water, congratulated me again and made his way out of the building. There would be no time to celebrate as he was headed back to Germany early the next morning. I followed suit. I rounded up my photographer, who was busy meeting her idol, “Biggest Loser” contestant Tara Costa, who also competed. Walking home, I turned and took one last look at the Empire State Building. Funny thing—it didn’t seem quite so tall.