Practice and Patience

by Lauren Weiss

The student-sponsored Tower Run, in which participants race up the 440 stairs of the W. E. B. Du Bois Library, has become a popular fall tradition that brings together members of the UMass Amherst community. One of them is alumnus Edward Appel ’81.

A Holyoke native, Appel majored in wildlife biology and worked as a U.S. National Park Service Law Enforcement Ranger at Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in Bushkill, Pa. When he and his wife, Diane ’77, a member of the U.S. Forest Service, retired, they moved to Leverett, Mass. They were visiting the Campus Center last year with their cocker spaniel as part of the campus’s Paws Therapy Dog program when an article in the Daily Collegian about the Tower Run piqued Appel’s interest. 

Appel ran occasionally while a student at UMass, after running cross-country and track for four years at Holyoke High School (Mass.). “In my senior year, I was the third-best runner behind two juniors,” he says, “and we had the worst win-loss record in school history.” 

In 1991, Appel’s oldest brother convinced him to pick up running again, starting with the St. Patrick’s 10K in Holyoke; he has participated in it every year since, with the exception of the 2020 virtual race. “My main races are 5K and 10K, so I thought the Tower Run was an interesting change and challenge, from running horizontally to running vertically,” says Appel.

So, how does one prepare for a 440-stair run? 

“I ran the Tower twice before November,” Appel says. “Once in October, I ran the entire height, and then two weeks before the event, I ran the steps and walked the landings from floors 15 to the top. I tried running two steps at a time but quickly tired, so I decided to run every step.” 

Appel’s practicing paid off. In a record crowd of 78 runners, mostly undergraduate students, he placed 14th. At the top, “I was pleased I had beaten my practice runs,” he says. “My goal was to place in the top 10, but 14th was great.” Appel says his favorite part of the event is the camaraderie and sense of campus community that quickly develops among runners of all ages.  

Appel says that, although he may not have been a top racer in his younger days, “since I entered the 60-69 age group, I’ve won some. I think 90 percent of it is showing up and being patient.”