PanCanal pilot Luis Huerta’s Big Apple ordeal

Empire State Building
It is, after all, there. The Empire State Building is no longer the world’s tallest, but it’s still an icon and still a 1,576-step uphill climb.

Captain Huerta’s climb

an interview with Luis Huerta

Panama’s Luis Huerta recently ran up the stairs to the observation deck of New York City’s Empire State Building, in the 2017 version of the annual Empire State Run Up. He did it 21 minutes and 26 seconds, 24th in his age group and 143rd overall. The Panama News interviewed him by email, with our questions in italics.

Where do you live?

Panama City, Republic Of Panama

What is your occupation?

Panama Canal Pilot, a ship pilot.

Did you get into stair climbing as a sport or fitness activity in Panama? Are there many others who participate in stair climbing?

It started as a personal goal to run the most famous races around the world, and the Empire State Run Up is the most famous of its kind. I do not really know who does this as a personal sport other than fitness activity. Nevertheless, it is is an excellent tool for training for trail races in Panama where you climb about four times the Empire State height on a 50k race. Also for me it was the second time I did this race because it is simply amazing and challenging.

Have you climbed the stairs that start behind Mi Pueblito Antillano and go up to the top of Ancon Hill? If so, how would you compare that climb with the Empire State Building?

Yes I have many times, last time I did was on New Year’s Eve. The Empire Estate is way more challenging than Ancon Hill, it is because it is a vertical run. I would compare it with a hill called La Mesa or Cerro Gaital in El Valle, Panama — you just go 1000 feet vertical.

I have on occasion noticed various of Panama’s law enforcement agencies running people — generally cadets at the police academies — up and down the stairs at the Panama Canal Administration building. Have you done that? How does THAT compare to going up the stairs at the Empire State Building?

Yes I have done that, but still the Empire Estate is way more challenging. Nevertheless, training at the Admin Building gives you a beautiful view.

Have you had the opportunity to run up the stairs in any of Panama City’s tall buildings? Are there any buildings in Panama that you’d like to climb?

A couple of years ago there was a vertical race in Panama City at the F&F building (The Screw) but I did not participate. I would like to do the Platinum Tower in Punta Paitilla. I train on a 45-floor building in the San Francisco neighborhood.

Do you have a special training diet? If so, what is it? Which Panamanian foods do you really like but have to avoid while training?

When I am in running season I do keep a special diet, which is a low carb diet. Therefore, no hojaldra, corn tortilla or rice and beans for me. Lots of sea bass (corvina), greens and plenty of seafood soup, that latter I would not give up.


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