I’ve been lucky: thanks to an awesome schedule, amazing supporters and donors that help with my fundraising, and my own passion and drive, I’ve competed in every stair race that I’ve wanted to. I’ve done 14 so far!

My streak just came to an end. A couple weeks ago, I was denied the opportunity to race in the oldest, most prestigious race in the country. It’s held in this landmark building:


The Empire State Building Run-Up (ESBRU) in New York City is nearly four decades old. It’s the oldest stair race in the country, and attracts top-tier athletes from all around the world. Since the very first year, the same organization produced and ran the event – until this year, when a new organization took control.

It’s hard to get in to the ESBRU. If you’re a super-fast, elite climber, they’ll invite you to compete in the race. I’m not nearly fast or accomplished enough to earn an invitation. In previous years, they distributed additional spots using a lottery system.

This year was the first year I really wanted to go. In 2014, I kicked my stair racing into high gear, competing in nine races, compared to just four in 2013. I’d like to compete in new skyscrapers around the country, and what better skyscraper to add to my list than one of the most famous buildings in the world?


This year, the new organization shook things up. Instead of conducting a lottery for the remaining spots, they implemented an application process. You had to fill out an application and write an essay (!) about why they should pick you to compete.

You better believe that I filled out my application on the very day they became available online, and spent a lot of time crafting what I thought was a smart, compelling, confident-but-not-cocky essay.

A few weeks later, I got a form letter rejection via email. Here’s the key sentence:

Unfortunately, we were unable to accept your application due to the very few spots that were available and the huge number of applicants.

It arrived on December 19th. Merry Christmas to me!

I’m not gonna sugar-coat it: Getting that email sucked. It was deflating. I found a way to spin it, though, in my own head: not going to New York City for a stair race meant that I wouldn’t be spending $600-800 (or more), which is what a trip like that might end up costing me. Plus, there’s always next year.

I spent a good amount of time on my 250-word essay, and I’m not going to let that time be for nothing. So I’m sharing my essay here. Enjoy!

Five years ago, I weighed 402 pounds. Since then, I’ve lost and kept off 160 pounds, and stair racing keeps me focused and challenged. I’m new to the sport – my first race was in 2012 – but I’m hooked. They’re grueling, intense endeavors, but the sense of pride and accomplishment I feel after a race is one-of-a-kind, and one that fuels me. In 2014, I competed in 9 stair races, including the tallest buildings in LA, Chicago, Las Vegas, and San Diego. And I’m getting faster: In September, I climbed the 75-floor US Bank Tower in LA in 18:30 – almost two minutes faster than last year!

I blog about my health and weight-loss journey at, and I’ve built a loyal audience: over 500,000 page views, and around 9,000 followers between subscribers and social media. In addition, I’ve appeared on four talk shows (Ellen, The Doctors, Home & Family, The Jeff Probst Show) to talk about my weight loss.

Racing up an iconic landmark like ESB would be life changing. If selected, I’d love to share this experience with my readers. I can’t imagine how it’ll feel, standing for the first time on the ESB observation deck, knowing that I climbed up every one of the 1,576 steps below me. A few years, a feat like this would’ve been impossible. But I’m living proof that someone can turn their lives around, and that’s why you should select me to participate in this year’s Run-Up.

Thank you for your consideration!

I realize that I left a word out of the third-to-last sentence – it should read “a few years ago.” I hope that’s not why I wasn’t picked!

I got over the rejection pretty quickly, although about a week later, I was thinking about the Empire State Building for hours on end, because my mom, as a Christmas present, got an Empire State Building 3D jigsaw puzzle, and my sister and I helped her put it together. It was a fun project, and even though this photo makes it look big, the end product is only about 18 inches high:


One more thing: I’m not going to dwell on this rejection, because I have big race plans coming up. I may not be going to New York City, but I’ve already signed up for five other races in five different cities, all happening in the next four months. I’ll sign up for a sixth race (in a sixth city) just as soon as registration becomes available. And I have my eye on a seventh race (in a seventh city), but I haven’t figured out if I can go yet. I’m going to share the details on all these races very soon.

There’s no point in bitching and whining about my Empire State Building rejection, because my race calendar is filling up nicely. I have all sorts of challenges in front of me. And I won’t let one rejection slow me down.

Keep it up, David!


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9 Responses to REJECTED!

  1. I would have picked you, David!! I would love to know what the criteria was, it would have been amazing PR all around! Can’t wait to hear your next climbing adventure!

  2. Dana says:

    Bummer that you did not get picked David. I also would love to know what the criteria was. I am looking forward to hearing about all your upcoming race adventures. By the way, Happy New Year!!!

  3. Kenlie says:

    i can’t think of a better candidate than you. I’m not sure what they were thinking, but you’re an incredible inspiration. I’m thankful for you, and I look forward to reading about lots of other races.

  4. Linda says:

    Hi! Just discovered your page as I am climbing the Stratosphere next month and was looking for more accurate info about the building! It will be my 5th stair climb, 3 here in Charlotte, NC and Willis Tower in 2013! I’m completely addicted. I too got turned down for NYC and was very disappointed. I was hoping to go with my friend who is an elite climber and was invited back as part of the invitational group. I’m shocked they didn’t accept you but from what I’ve gathered this is all about publicity and if you can raise large amounts of money. With a celebrity group, press and I believe NY Realtors, there’s hardly any spots left for people who really deserve the opportunity. Congratulations on everything you have accomplished! I look forward to following your blog!

    • David says:

      Thank you, Linda, and congrats to you, too! Best of luck at the Stratosphere… I know a few dozen folks that will be there. It’s quite the event! If it didn’t fall on the same day as my Detroit race, I’d probably be there too! I’m sure you already found it, but in case you didn’t, here’s my Stratosphere blog post. Good luck in Vegas… and KEEP IT UP!

      • Linda says:

        Thanks, David! I did read your post on the Stratosphere. Sounds like an interesting stairwell! At least I now know what to expect!

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