Japanese Lecturer Yoshiko Jo Takes the Stairs Empire State Building

Maki Somosot '12

Lecturer in Japanese Yoshiko Jo
Races to Top of Empire State Building

by Maki Somosot '12
2/28/11

Yoshiko Jo
Yoshiko Jo (left) is visible at the start of the race in this Reuters video.

Lecturer in Japanese and seasoned runner Yoshiko Jo participated in the annual Empire State Building run-up earlier this month, racing 1,576 steps from the lobby to the outdoor observation deck of one of the country's most iconic buildings. Jo belongs to an exclusive group of 60 women, and 200 total, who were selected from all over the world for the arduous run.

"One of my friends recommended it to me," Jo says, "and I told myself that it looked interesting, so why don't I do it?"  In order to qualify for the race, she recounts that she had to submit a formal "running resume," complete with a list of awards and achievements to a panel of fellow professional runners that organized the highly popular event. Jo trained herself for the run by regularly using Swarthmore gym facilities and running in Crum Woods in snow shoes.

It took Jo 21 minutes to run up to the Empire State observatory deck, three minutes short of the average time taken by experienced female vertical runners. Despite having extensively trained at high altitudes in the past, Jo's first time attempt at "vertical" running was still a challenging experience.

"They do not use stairways at the Empire State Building so they were really dusty, and I didn't expect it at all," she says. "At one point on the 24th floor, it was really hard to breathe, my throat and legs were crying! So I slowed down."

"It happened so quickly," she adds. "After the run ended, I had thoughts about doing the race again for next year."

In addition to the Empire State run-up, Jo won the women's master's, and sixth overall, at the 50th Washington's Birthday Marathon in Greenbelt, Md. Jo is more than half way to her goal of completing a marathon in all 50 states by 2012.