MIAMI (CBSMiami) — A South Florida mother will put her legs and lungs to the test next month for the 41st Empire State Building Run-Up, the ultimate vertical challenge that has competitors climbing 86 flights, or 1,576 stairs, up Manhattan’s most iconic skyscraper.
Melinda Mizrachi, of Miami, is one of only 60 runners selected via lottery to participate in the grueling challenge on February 7 and she is the only runner from South Florida.
Not only that. It is the second time she has been chosen to take part in this intense vertical race. She also ran the one-fifth mile straight up in 2015.
Those on the starting line are there for different reasons.
Melinda, a stay-at-home mom, is there for her 13-year-old son Jonathan, who has Autism and he is the reason she is running it again.
“The reason behind running up the Empire State Building again is my continuation of wanting to spread Autism Awareness and to continue to show our son Jonathan that whatever challenges get thrown your way, never be afraid to take on the challenge,” she told CBSMiami.com. “If mommy can run up 86 floors at my age then there is nothing you can’t do in life. The sky is the limit for you.”
Melinda has completed more than 80 races over the last five years, but this race, is by far, the most difficult.
“I would rather run the New York Marathon again then take on this challenge. It is by far the most challenging race ever,” she recalled. “I told myself I would never do this again but when the opportunity came my way and I knew I couldn’t turn it down. I never say no to a race. Not only are you running up 86 floors but it also becomes extremely hard for you to breathe as you are going up because of the altitude.”
What makes this race even more difficult is that there is hardly any ventilation in the narrow staircase. However, for a South Floridian like Melinda, she faces another obstacle.
“The first time I ran this race I was super nervous because I was undertrained for this race and had absolutely no idea what to expect. I am a Floridian, we don’t go up and down stairs, we drive everywhere,” she said laughingly. “So I was full of nerves and by the 80th floor I wanted to quit because my legs were on fire and I felt I had nothing left in me. This is when I ran into a young lady who was an amputee and she was taking a break and we decided we were going to finish the last 6 floors together.”
So what is going through her mind now that she is getting ready to run this extremely difficult race again?
“I am actually telling myself ‘Are you nuts! How can you be doing this again?’, but this time I am actually training for the stairs. I am running on a treadmill on a 10 incline and I am hoping to be better prepared for this race.”
She says while she does know what to expect this time, her nerves “will definitely be there because I know how intense this run up is.”
Her son Jonathan often runs with her. But not this time.
This time, it is about the message she wants to send Jonathan and to other families with Autism.
“You don’t know unless you try. Don’t let anything hold you back. Never quit. Give your child a chance to try and succeed but you don’t know what they are capable of doing unless you let them try. If they don’t like something then you know not to do it again but at least try and challenge them or yourself to try something new.”
The Empire State Building Run-Up encompasses numerous heats of runners, from professional stair climbers to charity participants. Celebrities have also gotten in on the action with the likes of Kelly Ripa and Natalie Morales completing the climb in recent years. The Run-Up has become a bucket list event for athletes across the globe.
In 2015, Melinda finished the race in 34 minutes.
The current record is nine minutes and 33 seconds for men and eleven minutes and 23 seconds for women.
Melinda says it doesn’t matter how long it takes her this time, as long as she finishes.
“I never go into a race saying I am going to better my time because then I end up doing worse than my previous time. I go into races thinking whatever time I finish, at least I finished. I always love seeing that I beat my previous time but I am never hard on myself if I don’t. My goal for all of my races is just finishing healthy and injury free.”
Melinda’s husband is a CBS4 employee.
Their son Jonathan unfortunately will not be joining her this time because the race is on a school day.
“He doesn’t like to miss school but as soon as I am finished I will call him and let him know mommy finished and then send him a picture of my medal. He loves seeing all of mommy’s medals.”
Good luck Melinda!