Stuttgart resident Thomas Dold completed the Empire State Building Run-Up on Wednesday in 10 minutes and 28 seconds.
"Well, the good thing is that I've done better than all the others," said the 27-year-old Dold, who completed his last three run-ups in 10 minutes and 10 seconds or less.
He said he didn't know why the finish was "so exhausting" this year because he's "really fit" and compares training techniques with other runners.
Two other men have won the race five times since it began in 1978: American Al Waquie from 1983-87 and Australian Paul Crake from 1999-2003. Crake remains the record holder with a time of 9 minutes and 33 seconds but has not competed since suffering a devastating bicycle accident in 2006.
Melissa Moon, of Wellington, New Zealand, was this year's women's winner in 12 minutes and 39 seconds. The 42-year-old Moon also won the race in 2010.
"You can't start too fast too soon in a race like this," Moon said. "I knew I had it when I got to the 70th floor and I could no longer hear them breathing behind me."
Athletes from around the world took part in the grueling-even-for-the-elite-athletes trek from the lobby to the observation deck, floor by floor, up 1,576 steps.
About 650 people registered for this year's race, said Drea Braxmeier, a spokeswoman for the New York Road Runners, which hosted the race. NYRR also puts on the annual New York City Marathon.
In a switch from previous years, the race was held at night instead of in the morning. Braxmeier said the change allowed people who had to be at work in the daytime to take part and created a sparkling finish for the climbers.
"You get to finish under the lights of the Empire State Building," she said. "Everyone thinks of the twinkling lights of the city. This is exactly what we'll present to them."
Like the marathon, start times were staggered. The elite men and woman started before the general field.
In another first this year, Braxmeier said, the general public was allowed to start at 10-second intervals to avoid a crush of people all trying to get to the initial flights of stairs at the same time. She said the last climber would start at 10 p.m.
The Empire State Building race is among the more high-profile tower climbs in the world.
It's "an entire world unto itself," Braxmeier said of the climbs.
"Some people are really great at running 5 miles," she said, "and some people are really great at running up the stairs."