Durham firefighter racing up Empire State Building – again

Jan. 29, 2013 @ 05:25 PM

No one will ever accuse Touché Howard of being complacent.

The Durham firefighter, who achieved his goal last year of climbing to the 86th floor of the Empire State Building, plans to do it again, and has been training hard for the Feb. 6 event.

In February 2012, Howard achieved his goal of making it up all 1,567 steps of the New York City skyscraper in one piece – and with 55 pounds of equipment weighing him down.

But for Howard, once is not enough.

He completed February’s race in 34 minutes and 45 seconds. That hardly beats the world record of nine minutes, but few racers carry the extra load he does.

“My goal is just to beat my time,” Howard, 51, said. “I have some of my colleagues pushing me to do it in 30 minutes. I don’t think that’s realistic, but that’s what they want to see happen.”

As he did last year, Howard will make the climb breathing through his air pack, “which make it a little harder.”

But he believes that the moral support he’s gotten from fellow firefighters and other friends will help pull him through.

“I can honestly tell you: That is the true story,” Howard said. “The fact that I’m climbing up the building isn’t all that interesting, but my friends have done so much to get me back in shape after back surgery in 2008 and to keep encouraging me.”

Howard raised $30,000 from last year’s run for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, and this year’s race is expected to raise about the same.

His training recently took him to Dallas, where he climbed a 52-floor building to raise money for leukemia research. He also has been running up and down buildings in downtown Durham.

Howard will be the only firefighter in the race, which is sponsored by the New York Roadrunners Association and includes elite runners from around the world and others raising money for charity.

Even though Howard achieved his goal last year, he’s just as fired up the second time around.

“Sometimes, it’s easy to get enthusiastic about something the first time,” he said. “But there’s a real challenge to keep following through on your best experience, and to get the most out of it. And so for me, the second time is just as important – it’s about follow-through, and keeping that level of excitement.”

For more information about the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, go to www.themmrf.org