St. George Resident Will Take the Stairs -- 72 Floors of them in the 4 World Trade Center -- To Cancer Research - Staten Island Advance

If they can catch their breath, Runyon Up participants will have panoramic views during the stair climb in 4 World Trade Center.
(Photo Courtesy of Silverstein Properties)

By: Kathyrn Carse | Staten Island Advance

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Taking the stairs is a handy fitness routine when there are a few flights. But when the stairs number 1,632 steps and the floors 72, you better have a pretty good fitness routine first.

A good reason to climb the stairs can be a big help too.

Damien Alexander has both.

The 35-year-old St. George resident is one of 12 Staten Islanders, ranging in age from 29 to 55, entered into the Runyon Up, a stair climb that will take place Thursday at the new 4 World Trade Center to raise funds for the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.

Damien Alexander
Damien Alexander

Alexander is confident of his cardio fitness. He has run a half-marathon and just completed a duathlon — a 5K run and 10K bike race. When he spoke to us on Thursday, he had a second duathlon planned for this past Sunday.

A bicycle is his preferred mode of transportation in the city. He keeps up his training when he is traveling, too, which he does quite often as a music consultant with Remulae Records, the label of NFL player Tamba Hali, defensive end with the Kansas City Chiefs.

His motivation to keep in shape stems from a realization he had after his father who was HIV positive died from pancreatic cancer. During his father’s illness, Alexander had gotten woefully overweight. Seeing his father suffer from health issues, he knew he wanted to make changes.

Rather than focus on a list of possibilities, he framed the challenge to himself as “How can I best prepare for changes? What are the things I can control?” He realized “taking the reins on fitness” was what he needed to do to live his life more fully.

That led him to Manhattan trainer Marlon Bascombe and a drop from 240 pounds to 165 from both cardio training and weight lifting.

“What it does on the outside is great, but what it can do for your mind is the victory for me,” declared Alexander. A daily yoga practice is also an integral part of his maintaining overall well-being.

When Bascombe was getting a team together for the Runyon Up, Alexander was in.

He welcomes the physical challenge and the cause as a way to honor his father, “a lively, fun-loving man.”

The nearly 700 participants are divided into three categories. The elite category will take off at 6:30 p.m., followed by recreational climbers going to the 54th or 72nd floor. A final category is kindly dubbed the “virtual climb” — taking the elevator.

Part of the Silverstein Properties redevelopment of the Twin Towers site, 4 World Trade Center will be the sixth tallest building in the city. This will be a first view inside the 2.3 million square foot building, which is not expected to see tenants — including the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey — until 2015.

“The first time in the building, the cause, taking place at night — it’s going to be an amazing experience,” said Alexander.

“4 World Trade Center is a symbol of innovation and resilience, an appropriate venue to champion commitment to the cutting-edge researchers who are making the medical breakthroughs of tomorrow,” said Lorraine W. Egan, president and chief executive officer of the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.

The foundation is dedicated to the support of young scientists. Since its founding in 1946, it has invested nearly $275 million and funded more than 3,420 young scientists, 11 of them Nobel Laureates.

Damon Runyon was a sports journalist and short story writer whose stories inspired the Broadway musical “Guys and Dolls.” He died of cancer in 1946.

The fee is $40 to participate in this vertical challenge, plus $72 — $1 per floor. Participants have online donation pages at One hundred percent of all donations to the Foundation are used to support cutting-edge scientific research. Administrative and fundraising costs are paid from its Damon Runyon Broadway Tickets.

News: 03.31.2014