By: Nicole Pesce | New York Daily News
These fundraisers are on top of the world.
More than 700 people raced up the first-ever stair climb at 4 World Trade Center on Thursday night to benefit the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation. Vertical marathoners ages 14 to 71 from all five boroughs and 15 states raised $170,000 and counting for the 72-story climb, with 100% of donations benefiting cancer research.
Participants, including Giants kicker Steve Weatherford, hoofed the 1,632 steps in three heats kicking off at 6:30 p.m. Climbers could stop at the 54th floor if they felt winded or take on all 72 flights. A few opted for the “virtual climb” and took the elevator to the top.
The vertical challenge kicked Weatherford’s butt.
“That was harder than I expected,” said the NFL player, sporting his finisher’s medal after stepping up all 72 floors in just under 15 minutes.
“If this was weight lifting, and we were picking them up and putting them down, I would dominate, but running a vertical mile is definitely different from the type of training I’m used to.”
Unlike recent unsanctioned stunts at the sacred site of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, including a 16-year-old arrested last month for sneaking to the top of 1 World Trade Center, the legal Runyon Up fundraiser was approved by building owner Silverstein Properties.
“It’s symbolic: gathering at 4 World Trade Center, reclaiming it and taking the space back," said Meghan McCurdy from Damon Runyon, which also hosts a charity 5K at Yankee Stadium each August.
“And climbing all of those flights of stairs is a lot of hard work, just putting one foot in front of the other and taking it one step at a time, and that’s what our approach to cancer research is.”
Climbers included a team from AIG, whose 21 climbers raised about $20,000, and New York firefighters who tackled the climb decked out in their full FDNY gear. Even a team of 20 structural engineers from the Consulting Structural Engineers firm, who built 4 World Trade Center’s support columns, made the climb.
“It’s worth the sweat,” said John Rosko, who climbed as part of the Port Authority Police Department team with Weatherford. “It’s for a good cause because cancer is the biggest thing going nowadays, and the money gives scientists the chance to find a cure.”
Veteran stairmasters found this climb tougher than the Empire State Building run up 86 floors, since the new stairwells at 4 WTC are a lot wider.
“You can’t use both hands to help pull yourself up by the railings here like you can at the Empire State Building,” said Matthew Memoli, 29, from Bergen County, N.J., who finished in 13 minutes. “It took longer for me to get into a rhythm.”
Each athlete received a medal and a cold Michelob Ultra Light at the top, plus a sneak peak of the brand new 2.3 million square-foot building, which won’t see its first tenants, such as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, until 2015.
The 72nd floor featured floor-to-ceiling windows that offered 360-degree views of the city.
“This is on hallowed ground, which is really special,” said Rutherford.
“To actually be in one of the buildings on the World Trade Center site is certainly spectacular.”