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The Tunnel To Towers 5K Run Guide

September 20, 2015 2:15 PM

The 14th annual Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers 5K Run & Walk will take place on Sunday, Sept. 27.  The event brings people around the world together to run in the footsteps of a hero, celebrate the lives of those who died on 9/11 and join forces to do good.

Here’s the story: On 9/11, 34-year-old firefighter Stephen Siller had the day off. When he heard the first plane had hit the World Trade Center, he raced to his firehouse, threw on 60 pounds of equipment and drove to the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel which he then ran through on foot. He was last seen on West Street and like so many others, never made it home. Stephen’s siblings started the Tunnel to Towers 5K Run & Walk as a memorial tribute to his heroism. Funds raised through the T2T are distributed to burn centers to support fellow firefighters who have been injured in the line of duty, scholarship programs for children who have lost parents in Iraq and Afghanistan and the construction of Smart Homes for military returning home with devastating injuries, as well as several other charities. By Corey Whelan.

Stephen Siller Tunnel To Towers Run

tunnel to towers1 The Tunnel To Towers 5K Run Guide

(credit: Tunnel to Towers/Facebook)

Begins at IKEA Parking Lot
1 Beard St.
Brooklyn, NY 11231
(718) 987-1931

Despite the seriousness of the work made possible through this 5K event, you will have a raucous good time with around 30,000 people from all walks of life and ages participating. Leading the race will be our nation’s injured service members, followed by thousands of West Point cadets.  Firefighters from around the country and the world attend every year. All branches of the military are represented and the NYPD and FDNY will be out in full force.


img01746 20110925 0858 The Tunnel To Towers 5K Run Guide

Racers line up at the starting line of the Tunnel to Towers run, Sunday Sept. 25, 2011 (credit: Marla Diamond/WCBS 880)

Pre-registration is strongly advised and required if you want a timing chip. The registration fee is $70 for runners with a timing chip and $60 for runners and walkers without a timing chip. This year, adults who register for the 5K — walking or running — will also receive a free ticket to the New York Yankees’ home game on Saturday, Sept. 12! But act fast, the offer is only good while supplies last. Children under the age of 14 run for free. Timing chips are an additional $10 regardless of your registration date. You can register online, by mail or in person. Registration packets can be picked up in advance or on race day. Day-of registration is allowed but expect long lines and don’t be late; the race starts promptly at 9:30 a.m. If you are planning on race-day registration, make sure to get to the IKEA Parking Lot at 1 Beard St. in Red Hook, Brooklyn no later than 8 a.m. Backpacks cannot be worn during the race but UPS supplies complimentary transport of small personal items from the start to finish lines.

Note: The registration deadline for a timing chip is Monday, Sept. 21. After Sept. 21 and through Saturday, Sept. 26, you can get a timing chip only if you register in person at any registration site.

Getting There

(Tunnel To Towers Sculpture / Credit: Corey Whelan)

(credit:Corey Whelan)

Same-day registration and bib pick-up start at 7:30 a.m. in the IKEA Parking Lot and water taxis will be available. Free water taxis are available at Pier 11, but you must get in line for them no later than 7:30 a.m. Cars will not be permitted to park in the IKEA lot, so don’t drive to Brooklyn unless you want to search for a spot on the street. Parking near South Street Seaport is recommended.

It’s not easy to get to the start line by subway. You can take the F or G train to the Carroll Street station but you’ll have about a 30-minute walk to IKEA. The B 61 bus goes straight there but will be running on a Sunday schedule. However you get there, it will be worth it. The adrenaline of the crowd is exhilarating and immediate.

The Race

Marines starting Tunnel To Towers Run in Red Hook, Brooklyn on Sept. 30, 2012 (credit: Monica Miller/WCBS 880)

Marines starting Tunnel To Towers Run in Red Hook, Brooklyn on Sept. 30, 2012 (credit: Monica Miller/WCBS 880)

People start to line up around 8:30 a.m. Service dogs are the only animals allowed and strollers or wheels of any kind are prohibited. At around 9 a.m., there will be some speeches and the “National Anthem” will be sung. White doves will take flight and before you know it, you’ll be racing toward the Tunnel. Iron mounds rescued from Ground Zero anchor the mouth of the tunnel and everyone jumps up to high-five the banner at the official start line. You’ll be running with thousands of people but once you get into the tunnel, it’s surprisingly quiet. Throbbing music starts to pipe in as you get a little farther toward the middle and eventually you’ll hear the Army team chanting in unison. As excitement builds, so does the sound of everyone racing to the finish line. You can’t really feel it when you’re driving, but on foot you’ll notice that the tunnel becomes steep and slants uphill about halfway in. It gets a little harder then, but just when you feel like your chest is going to explode, you’ll see sunlight. When you burst out of the tunnel, the first thing you’ll lay eyes on is the Freedom Tower and a crowd of firefighters proudly holding up posters of the FDNY’s fallen. There will also be a water station, but you’re not at the finish line yet. The race continues in Siller’s footsteps up the Battery Park Esplanade where countless New Yorkers on land and boat will be cheering you on. Finally, the finish line and another banner to leap up and touch will be in sight.

The After Party

tunnel to towers The Tunnel To Towers 5K Run Guide

CBS employees post-race in 2010 (credit: Julie Parise/

Water and fruit will be waiting for you at the finish line but keep following the crowd and land in the best after party ever. Be sure to nab your race T-shirt (included in the registration fee) before they run out of your size. Tons of restaurants set up booths and hand out unlimited amounts of free food. Linger over a great selection of post-run favorites like wings, burgers and pasta from local restaurants. Free post-run massages are also available to soothe sore calves and feet. Keg beer can be bought up and down the street and activities for kids make the Tunnel to Towers after party an integral part of the day’s experience. As soon as it’s over, you’ll be counting the days until next year’s race.

Corey Whelan is a freelance writer in New York. Her work can be found at

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