The One With All the Firsts (We'll Never Forget)
Tube 14 - 6th July 2011
"So we're all agreed then?", I say as I look around the table to a chorus of "Uh huuuhs". Chris is mid-chewing on his dinner, and so just nods. "One twitter account will give us more focus, and with an extra support person too it's got to be our best attempt yet, right?" Yes. Yes it has to be. We have to have a day that works, when the tube doesn't go wrong, and we can finally prove how fast our route is.
"Yes!", everyone says almost in unison as the six of us sit around the table in a pub in Kingsbury, tube maps spread over the table. To be honest though, the maps had hardly really been touched, instead there was an array of technology that showed just how much the age of the tube challenger has advanced in the last few years - multiple iPads out on the table, with apps letting us know the latest status of the tube. This kind of technology simply hadn't been around in 2004, the last time I'd had the record, TfL certainly didn't offer up the sort of data that they do now online to make your navigation easier, and of course ... there was that killer app of the new social media world -> twitter.
Since whenever it became fashionable to tell the world every five minutes what you were doing, it seemed like the logical step to update anyone that wanted to follow on the day how we were doing. But in the pub this evening, we'd realise that all this along with a few other things had become a distraction, and we needed to regain our focus and concentrate on the one thing that mattered the most - getting round the tube in the fastest time possible.
So tonight, we had all met in a pub congenial to us all, and worked out our latest tweets - sorry, I mean tweaks for this new attempt
For a start, Vicki is swapping roles - from runner to a support person. She'd called it that she wasn't going to be fit enough to get around, so she's on the support team. And then there are just two of us doing it - me, and Anthony.
The route? Nothing special ... and oh how casually I say that, in that it was one that was familiar enough to us now as it was practically the same as the one we'd used the last two times, but all we really needed was a day where nothing broke and we knew it would be good. There were no major tweaks from the last attempt - just a couple of new key decision points where we realised that going one way or another might help us depending on what train came up first. And we were good to go.
Normally, out recent 'night before' strategy has been to stay in a hotel in the Wembley area, and get the first train up from there for the start, but due to a certain boy band playing huge stadium gigs that week, all the local hotels were booked out, and so we were forced to move further up the line and stay the night before over in Rickmansworth instead. It turned out to be an advantage in the end, as it gave us a bonus of a further extra half an hour sleep - vital for sustaining energy the next day.
So it was light - and even vaguely warm - at 6am in the morning when we got up, with the station cafe selling sausage sandwiches too! Delicious.
The tweeting then, was going to be done from just one account @to_the_trains, and Anthony and I were under strict instructions to worry about the attempt first, tweet later. My instructions, in fact. And Vicki got the first one in.
Breakfast bars, radio checks, queries over t-shirt choices. Oh its time alright!! //vicki
Anthony joins as at his normal spot at Chalfont, and the majority of us head up to Chesham for the stopwatch start at 06:50. It all works without a hitch, and we even had a pleasant chat to the driver of our train to whom we explained what we were doing, and we set off bang on time.
At Chalfont, the nice driver got into the spirit of things immediately as there was a train on the other platform .. ours? No! He chirps over the PA - "The train on the other platform is going to Chesham, so please don't break your necks running for it, as if you'll do you'll only end back up where you came from and I don't think you want to do that, do you?", big smiles and a small cheer from us, and we wave up the platform to driver who waves at us - top man!
In and out of Amersham - heavy with morning commuters already, and down to Moor Park where we almost catch the previous train going up to Watford as it was running a few minutes late. As we run up the steps the doors close on us - just a few seconds in it, and we wonder if we had of caught it and being five minutes ahead here would have actually helped us or not.
We soon find out, as it happens again! On our first 'on foot' run of the day, Anthony & I pace along steadily all the way, and as we approach our connecting station Kate crackles in on the radio the "The train is in sight and will be pulling in within a minute!". Would we make it? We upped the pace a little - feeling perfectly comfortable doing so, and we glide into the station in unison, paper travelcards swooping through the gates and via the stairs onto the platform where the previous train to the one we are scheduled to get was sitting .. almost waiting for us, and as we dive in, the doors beep, close, and we're on our way almost immediately - great timing!
Train ahead at -station name- FAST RUN! yeeees! //kate
That was good - that felt nice, although I knew really that unless we got lucky a few more times and somehow got trains ahead to get us twenty minutes ahead of schedule, then it didn't really help just being a little ahead, as we would still have to wait for one of the three 'twenty minutes' services that you have to get done on the tube - the infamous Olympia, Mill Hill East and Hainault Loop services.
We're five minutes up! How did that happen? Oddly, I'm not sure it's an advantage though. //geoff
The fun of having just the one twitter account would later be evident to me. During the day, I know what me and Anthony are doing (obviously) and where we were, but had no real idea of the movements of the support team, so it was fun to read up to see what they were doing via the one account.
Some awesome running from the team and the sun is out. Perfect tubechallenge weather! #lovingit //kate
Alperton, my favourite of all the cereal based tube stations!! #themusingsofapointperson //vicki
There's then a moment when I overhear Kate on the phone to Matt who's gone ahead to a future change point, and I hear the word 'delay' - what? Don't panic Geoff ... too late, I panic and think about how utterly unfair it would be again to hit a problem so early on, but we press on and it transpires that there is a delay, but it's only affecting a London Overground service, and our District Line train runs just fine - perfectly to time thanks very much. In fact, it's about 30 seconds early when we get to the connecting to station to catch it, and we make it with less than a minute to spare. It's a continued nice feeling though that everything is running to plan as it should, as it should always so, and as it has never done before in the last year of challenges. Maybe today will be the day when it all works out.
All this running though has stirred up my bladder though, and for the first time of the day, I get the urge to go. We're at a station where there is a toilet, but - what's this? - I have to pay to go. Sod that!
20p to use toilet! What! Since when? #spwtoilets
The toilet can wait, and instead I make an effort to finish the current bottle of water I am drinking so that I can then have it as an empty to wee into. I see Anthony check his watch "It's just gone nine o'clock" he observed. "Time to get another witness statement?", he suggests. Indeed it is. We're standing in a quite a crowded carriage full of grumpy looking commuters, hmm ... this could be tricky. Maybe speaking loudly will help?
"Hands up if you want to sign our logbook!" I say out loud like a bit of an idiot so that everyone can hear us ... never dreaming that someone would actually put their hand up. Until out of the corner of my eye, I see a woman put her hand up! "Hello!" I say going over to her "Thanks for helping, let me tell you what we're doing". "Oh I know what you're doing" she says, "Because my brother does it too!".
On District Line train : "Who wants to sign our witness log?" and a woman puts her hand up! //geoff
She says : "My brother does/has done this too, so i know what its all about!". Excellent! //geoff
We get talking to her for the next ten minutes, and it transpires that indeed her brother has also previously made attempts to get round all the stations in a day. She fires off a text to him on her phone to tell him that she's met us ... and within a minute he's texted back. "Oh, apparently you're quite a professional at this?" she says grinning, as that's what he's texted back. "Professional?" I say, laughing "Well we've done it quite a few times now, so we're certainly ... experienced !?", and with that she's gone, out of her station and back to the hum-drum world of a Monday to Friday job, and not the fun of running around the tube.
There's an uneasy moment just after this where Anthony and I look at each other and neither of us says anything to each other - even though we want to - because at the same time we both suddenly became aware of where we are : We're at the station where it all went horribly wrong last time out. The train is in the platform where we ground to a halt previously. I count the seconds, knowing that a District Line train's average dwell time is 22 seconds ... 18 ... 19 ... 20 ... Come on, come on, 24 ... 25 ... and beep beep beep! The doors close and we are on our way. I know it's going to tempt fate but I say it anyway - "Well, we've gone further than last time without any problems!". "Noooo!" groans Anthony back at me in a fun way - but it's ok, the train carries on, there are no signal issues, and we make our next connection just fine.
Almost too fine in fact, we have three minutes according to the timetable to make this, but when it comes it then sits in the platform and waits for two minutes before leaving - this is annoying. We're not going very far until we have an on foot/bus connection, and two minutes wasted here is eating into that connection time further up the line, dammit .Three minutes, and eventually, the District Line doors almost apologetically close and we slowly clunk our way up the line.
This has reduced our ten minute connection down to seven minute one. My instant cynical thought is that we're not going to make it. "We're not going to make it", I tell Anthony - way to go Geoff, really positive there. But he is having none of it "Start running!" he shouts, and leads the way up a slight incline. I look for a bus behind, but there isn't one, there's never one when you really need one is there? And we could really do with a bus right now, but there really isn't one.
Hang on - yes there is. There is a but but with one caveat - it's up ahead of us instead - still at the stop in the distance. Could we make it? "Anthony! Get that bus!", I yell as he is 20 metres ahead of me and better at me for sprinting short distances ... and he goes for it. He makes it just as the bus doors are closing, but the driver sees him and kindly lets him on, and he stalls for a few more seconds waiting for me to catch up to get me on. "Thank you! Thank you so much!" I say gleefully, and notice that the driver is a lady who beams a smile back at me - a friendly driver, excellent!
She's even better a few minutes later - I can see the traffic ahead and know that if we sit and wait for the bus to take us all the way down the road to the station, we won't make the train. Instead, I opt for getting out at the stop before and running the last part. Except that we're now stuck at a red light pedestrian crossing and these twenty seconds could be vital. "We're not going to make it! Damn! If only she could let us out right now!" I say in a slightly louder voice on purpose, never dreaming that she would hear me for real and open the doors. But there is something about all the lovely drivers that we meet today, as she hears us ... smiles ... and opens the doors, letting us out to run, run, run across the crossing in front of the bus and down to the station. "Thank yoooouuu! I Love youuuu!" I actually scream at her, and do a big thumbs up and smile to the driver as we go. She waves back. Fantastic!
I've just shouted "I LOVE YOU!!!" to a brilliant lady bus driver. No wedding plans as of yet. //geoff
We make the connection - Matt is waiting for us. And actually, it's minute late so we have a whole minute to spare. I call ahead to Chris at our next connection, as it's dependent on the time of the train we're about to leave on. I relay the information to him ... and after a moment of checking he instructs me that there will be no change ... we're on schedule, and we will stick to the plan.
We trundle along for four stops, getting witness statements off of a couple of cute girls sitting next to each other who we thought knew each other - turns out that they don't though, but it's okay as by the time we get off we've got the two of them chatting to each other, and we like to think that we've just formed a new friendship. Chris is waiting for us as planned at this next change point, and guides us in with plenty of time to spare. The change after this is going to be vital though as it'll take us onto the Central line, and - if it's running to schedule - straight onto a Hainault Loop train, one of the tricky services which if you just miss then you know you've got about a twenty minute wait until the next one. Kate & Vicki are both there ahead working points duties, and spotting the pattern of what trains go into which platform to predict which one we'll come in on.
"Where you going?" asks friendly station cleaner. "I'm not.just checking in/out platform patterns" <credibility notch decreases 4points> //vicki
According to the timetable, it should be a thirty second in-and-out job, but when we get in, we're told that the train on the opposite platform is not the next one out - the one that we've just come in on should be going back out again ... when the driver gets here, that is. Where is the driver? The one that just brought the train in is casually sauntering down the platform, and we see in the distance another guy casually working his way up ... aaagh ... ridiculously slowly, and I check my watch agonisingly knowing that the time to make the Hainault train is being eaten away.
When we do eventually move, the positive person in me again is insistent that we're not going to make it. Kate and Vicki have other ideas though, "YOU ARE GOING TO MAKE IT!" they yell at us, "Just run at a steady pace!" reminds Anthony, and to a chorus of "GO! GO! GO!" at the change station, we are off and out and down the steps, and out of the station and running down the road.
It's a busy central London road and Anthony and I cross diagonally across it, heads swinging both ways looking for traffic - dodged. Then we get to another crossing - with pedestrian lights and everything, but there's not time to press a button and wait for a green man here, so Anthony just ... runs out right in front of a fast moving van. Instead of braking, the driver just toots his horn, and I hesitate and hang back, letting it pass ... and cross in front of the car behind that not moving quite so fast. Anthony has gained 30 metres on me because of this, and he's ahead, turning, along the road, and then disappearing from view as he ducks into the tube station that we're getting the train at. Through the barrier, down the steps, where Matt is waiting for is, and have we ... have we ... ? "YES!!", I yell and do a little jump off the last of the bottom steps onto the platform as I cheerfully see that the Hainault train is next one in, at one minute away. We have made it - with a few seconds to spare actually, time enough to walk down the platform and get on at the carriage that I know we're going to want to get off at later. The train rolls in - Chris is on it as he'd got on at the station before, and the four of us sit their happy, drinking water, eating fruit, with a nice feeling that everything was still going very well indeed.
On the train I relax - we all do. There is a good feeling. The feeling that I have most of all actually is that everything is running at it should. Proving that it can work. We've had a decent route for over a year now, but there has always been a failure, or something gone wrong on the tube that has knocked us back - but today - so far - we are doing our part by making the connections, and the tube is holding up and doing its part by running as it should, and thus everything is working out perfectly.
Anthony just found an umbrella! Red, to match the central line, win!! //geoff
The Central Line train speeds on, running exactly to schedule - actually second perfect, as the trains and signals are all computer controlled to the second, and from the working timetables that we have, there is a timing point at Woodford where the train pulls in at hours:minutes and then even seconds. And unbelievably, the doors do open at the exact second timing point as per schedule. I could 100% say that we were now running exactly on time.
Two out if the three hard bits done already. And the running/training has most definitely been paying off! //geoff
Anthony & I head to Epping to reverse alone - no need for anyone to be with us there, and in the four minute turnaround make use of the toilet, and and do the now seemingly obligatory weather related tweet. It seemed though that at that point other people were having a harder time than us with the toilet breaks.
Well hello there Epping. You look lovely in the sunshine ... //geoff
This corner of London is cold and the loo was a skankfest. Tube rule: always go when you can. And bring disinfectant alcohol rub! //kate
We head back into the centre of town. We miss Matt at a point where he was meant to be because we just run straight past him and don't see him! And we run, and run some more, and I am yet again reminded of all the people who think it's all just a matter of 'sitting on trains all day', and have no idea of how fit you need to be if you really want to make a serious attempt at doing this.
So we run. We run up, we run down, and we turn around. And as those lines went through my head it started to sound like a really bad disco record from the 1970's, and then with another extremity done, it was time to tackle Mill Hill East.
We get to another point where we have a decision on what we do about the day, where Chris is waiting for us. Actually, Chris and our friend Richard are both sat waiting for us, and look surprised as we are four minutes (one whole train) ahead of schedule - somehow. How? Don't know!
"Quick! - This way!" points Chris, and sends us in the direction of the train that I knew he would be sending us next, which ultimately would take us over to the Northern Line, and to connect at Finchley Central for the Mill Hill East shuttle.
I am underground. How does my phone have a signal? //geoff
Kate had been posted ahead at the station, and has got chatting to the driver of the train - again, another nice friendly driver who was happy to talk to us. By the time we get to Finchley Central we have four minutes spare before he was timetabled to leave, so he even let us have our photo taken with him! His name is Aaron, and turns out that at just 19, is one of London Underground's youngest drivers. Inside of me I have chuckle to myself ... I wanted to suggest that he was the new boy, like on his first day at school, and thus he'd been given the tedious job of driving the Mill Hill East shuttle back and forth all day ... I wonder if he's had his lunch money bullied out of him by an older driver too? I didn't like to ask.
MILL HILL EAST WIN!!!!! that's a perfect three! YEEEES!! //geoff
There, and back. In and Out. Up and Down. Am I making up ridiculous song lyrics again in my head again? Yes I think I am, probably, maybe, whatever. As we knock out arguably the most trickiest station on the network, meaning that we have now done the three major tricky parts of the system - and all before 2pm. A perfect three. I liked that, a lot. Yet we are far from finished.
Its that time of the day when my head has turned to jelly. Tube madness but lovin' it ... //geoff
Oh. My. God. Its the running. Sweeeaaaatt. Ommigod. //geoff
So tired. So very tired. //anthony
Back into the centre of town, and then back out again - spokes of a wheel as always - ticking the stations off, counting down the time, and snapping photos as we go. It's still going well, it really was going well but not so good that I felt charitable enough to stop and donate money whilst mid-running between two stations.
A bloody Charity Mugger tried to accost me whilst on the last run!! //geoff
"You look like you're exhausted, why don't you stop and talk to me?" she'd said. "Can't stop! World Record to beat!" I panted back, getting my travelcard out of its holder mid-run ready to slam into the barrier gate as I approached the station.
At this station - something rather marvelous happened. A cup of tea appears! Kate was here again acting as point and running supplies, and when she'd asked for orders earlier, I'd asked that we get a nice cup of tea at this point of the day, et voila ... she had provided, and timed it right so that it was still hot too. Nectar to the taste buds, that slides down gorgeously. Heck, yes.
A cup of teaaaaa! HELL YES! thanks to the wonderful @kateyay //geoff
There was just one small hitch though to take away from the tea jubilation - and that's that we were now a train down on schedule.
It had happened on the last run, which was a killer to do involving hills, and we got to the connecting station with a minute before the train left. Problem being is that we were three minutes late, and this was the train that left four minutes after the one we were supposed to get.
Strangely though, I wasn't that bothered. Maybe it was because I knew it felt like the network was holding up today. That on two occasions already we had got two trains ahead, and so to be one down wasn't a problem - it was time that I knew we could make up.
Had a bit of a minor setback. But we will not, I repeat, NOT give up! One train down but can try to make it up. //kate
The train heads back into Zone 1. Texts are fired off, phone calls are made, as we work out what's next and who's where. I look forward to the next connection after a fairly long run, because I know it's also the time of day when the de rigueur KFC chicken dinner moment is to occur. We should be all together at this point to eat together, and get the camaraderie levels back up, but due to a miscommunication, a point person or two gets on the wrong train, and they have to double back to join us to get in on their share of the greasy chicken!
Still a train down, we battle away to make it up. We're in and out of Brixton in under 30 seconds - on the same train - a nice new '09 stock train doing the duty, as the '67 stock trains are now no more.
At a connection in the middle of town we miss one by thirty seconds ... dammit, but there was probably no real way of catching that. At a reversing station we run across the platform just as the doors are beeping, and are in and out of the station on a different train faster than if we'd of stayed on the same train ... always a good feeling, and that gives us renewed hope of getting another train which will put us a train ahead - i.e. back on schedule and on for the record time. But as we change, and run the steps, I hear the doors beep around the corridor and we get onto the platform just in time to see the doors close - and they don't reopen again, shit. That's how close today is in terms of success or failure.
Tube grime. On my hands. All over my face. In my lungs. I breath the tube. //geoff
I consult with Chris about the next move, to see where we are against the schedule. "It's going to be close" (isn't it always?) he says, as to if you make the Circle Line train or not. Referring to the fact that our schedule has us getting a certain Circle line train - which only run every 8 minutes - in two changes time. "Either way, I'll see you out east" says Chris, and leaves us - KFC still in hand - to make his way ahead of us.
I glance at my watch, I know what time we're meant to get to the next station and we're already two minutes behind, the train starts to pull in ... it's going to be three minutes provided we run and make the train that will connect us with the Circle. And we run, dodging passengers, running around a child, half jumping a tourists suitcase, and through a corridor and up/down some stairs to make it the platform to see ... a train leaving! Shit! Again ... and although the next one is only a minute behind, I'm already aware that that was the train we needed to be on to get back on track to a record breaking time.
And indeed it is so. We get the one a minute behind, which means we miss the Circle line train we want to get by a minute or two. Vicki is here waiting for us. "If you'd have been on the previous train, you would have made it", she said glumly, but nicely ... and in vain I look up at the 'next train' board to see three District Line trains coming in next before the next Circle one is due ... in nine minutes time. Fuck it, fuckety, fuck, feck, fuck! We were that close to making it, we'd been one train down earlier making us four minutes down, but the irregularity of the Circle meant that in effect we were now ten minutes behind. I sit down on the floor, grumpily and let out a huge sigh, and try not to let it effect me.
Half an hour later, and we're out on the District on the eastern side of the tube map. We've actually had to wait eleven minutes for that next Circle Line train, which really due to connection times later on I know means that if it all runs to time from now on, we're going to be twenty minutes down. My phone bursts into life at Bow Road when it gets a signal, and I get a single message from Chris asking "Did you make it?". "No" I simply text back in two characters, and this only compounds my feelings. For the first time in the day, I start to feel unhappy.
Insert Eastenders drums here. Drama on the District! This is mental. I am exhausted. //geoff
It doesn't help, that as we make our way east - we hear news of our first proper delay of the day - the irony being in that it's not on the tube. Matt is already out ahead at Upminster and tells us that there's been an incident at Pitsea on the C2C line, and all trains running back into London (which we'll need to get) are running with severe delays.
We got to Upminster late, District seemed slow, and now there there has been a person under a train on the c2c line. In other words ... delayed. // geoff
So, that's probably game over. 11 hours in, and a non-tube service lets us down. //geoff
Tired. Deflated. Hate trains, as usual. Don't talk to me. #spwt-butonlyjust //geoff
So. 14 minutes wait for a train at Upminster. No record today. Possible sub-17 hour all 270 completion still on the cards though. //geoff
Upminster. Platform 1. Waiting for a train that never comes. I really shouldn't complain, as somewhere miles up the line to the east someone has been fatally hit by a train. But I still look at the board showing what a time a train should have come through - and it doesn't, the time comes and goes, and even when a train does eventually crawl in, it sits and waits at the platform at Upminster for six minutes. Why? Why is it waiting here when it is clear of the incident? A full twenty minutes after we should have left, we eventually, slowly, move out, back towards the centre of town.
So we're at the moment of the day that I usually know what our finish time will be - from here on, we're out of the rush hour, trains have dropped from four minute frequencies right down to ten minutes in some places, and everything is pretty much set. But today, I don't work out the time ... I just carry on, trying to be content in the knowledge that it's been a good day so far, and if nothing else goes wrong, we will at least get a completion.
It's still on. Sort of. Maybe. Perhaps. We are going to complete, unlike the last two times!! //geoff
We head back into London, tidy up the rest of the stations, before heading north on the Bakerloo line, to knock out the middle-top left of the map before heading for the finish at Heathrow.
Our train annoyingly terminates at Queens Park, but as we pull in - there is an Overground service on the adjacent platform. We squeeze out of the doors of the train we're on even before they've fully finished opening and dash across the platform ... with time to spare, because the driver is obviously sensible enough to wait for those who want to make the connection. And it feels like a little bit of luck - catching an Overground service that only runs once every half an hour. I am buoyed again.
I believe the expression is 'second wind' or something like that!!! COME ON!! #spwt
We're on an Overground train. It is mostly pleasant! We're still going ... //geoff
We knock out the Bakerloo and do the run to take us to Preston Road where Chris and Vicki are waiting. Chris is singing Take That songs, and points to the glowing arches on Wembley Stadium in the distance, and we all stand quietly for a moment, to hear ... Robbie Williams singing! Yes, from the platform of the station, the wind is carrying the noise of the concert through the air, a mile down the road to us.
I am cold and Chris is singing Take That .... Errrrrr .... Help! //vicki
But before we can get into a Barlow & Co. medley though, our train pulls in ... and it's a shiny new S Stock train! This is a first, we've not been on one of these before on a challenge day.
Preston Road! And an S Stock train, w00t! //geoff
Through Harrow-on-the-Hill, and beyond. To Uxbridge and reverse, to Ickenham to make the run to West Ruislip. The mood has picked up again, as we know we are into the last two hours and the end is in sight. Anthony is starting to realise that this time (his fifth attempt on the network) he is finally going to get his first completion. Chris is making noises that we're still on for a good time, but I refuse to be drawn into that conversation - it will just be good to complete, seeing as we have failed to do so on our last two attempts.
On the Ickenham to West Ruislip run - a minor miracle occurs, we get the fabled U1 bus. In thirteen previous attempts, I've seen them going in the other direction, but one has never come my way at the right time to save me running. This time, with a point-woman helping out at the bus stop, we get a bus to take us up the hill to the Central Line for the last time of the day.
I GOT A U1 BUS!!! //geoff
Not that it helped us make up time. It's just nice to know that they exist! //geoff
As the train pulls out of West Ruislip, I make a note of the time in the logbook, and finally allow myself a moment to work it through ahead and come up with an estimate of a possible final finishing time. It's going to be under 17 hours, but how much under 17 hours though ... ? I reason that we're probably going to have the third fastest time overall.
All of us are on the move one way and half another for an elaborate flourish! We can do this! //kate
We're looking at a podium place, I think. //geoff
Ok. We're in our final positions. Last minute munch of some severely flattened cereal bars for energy ... bringing it home!! //vicki
Down the Central Line, and as we tick off the stations even Anthony concedes and gets a little carried away by the situation, and allows himself a moment when he realises he's going to complete AND get a very respectable time too! We share a little moment of joy, before making our final connection of the night ...
... where we get a great bit of luck to help us on our way! Now of course - dear reader - there's no possible way that I can reveal to here what we did, but I can assure you that it was a valid move, within the rules of the challenge, and perhaps a little fortuitous, as something happened there right at the end, which meant that we gained a whole train up - which is ten minutes at this time of night, meaning that we were now on the Heathrow 4 train ahead of the one I predicted we were going to be on. Hang on, what's our finishing time going to be now!?
HOW ON EARTH!! We just made up a whole train/ten minutes!!!
We are on the Piccadilly down to heathrow ... are we are eating Jelly Babies, obviously. //geoff
At Hatton Cross, Richard (who'd been with us for a few hours earlier during the day) re-appears. He's been following our tweets and worked out what train we are going to be on, and comes out to meet us for the final part again.
Everyone is now together for the first time in the whole day. At every point during the day, someone was always somewhere - elsewhere - being a pointman at a station ahead, but here now there were seven of us, all partying along in one carriage.
At Terminal 4, there is a seven minute wait. The driver walks down to check something at the back of the train - sees us, instantly realises what we're doing and jokes that "The train will be held here for half an hour!", classic. I don't know what was in the water that all tube drivers drank today, but it put them all in good moods and we loved it.
Round the Heathrow loop, to T123 and to the final train of the day. We know now. We know what time the train is due. We know what time it's going to get to T5 at. And so we know pretty much how fast we're going to be.
Our train pulls in, and it is exactly twenty six minutes past eleven o'clock in the evening. At eleven twenty-six and twenty-two seconds, it departs and takes two minutes and fifty-five seconds to travel to the end of the Piccadilly Line at Heathrow Terminal 5. At the precise second that the doors open I have my foot through and touching onto the platform and Chris stops the watch, and we get a final time.
We. Are. Finished ... ! Hello, Terminal 5. //geoff
I am always amazed at this point - considering what a long day it's been - at how I'm able to do maths calculations in my head and get it right, but I do. I kneel down on the dirty floor, and with the same pen that I've been scribbling down times with all day, do the sums.
With a final time of ...
Chris already knows because he has it on the stopwatch, but I like doing the double-check of the manual calculation using my notebook, and work out that 23:29.17 minus 06:50.36 gives us a total time of 16 hours, 38 minutes, and 41 seconds.
Start: Chesham at 06:50.36. Heathrow 5 Finish at 23:29.17
Total time: 16 hours, 38 minutes, 41 seconds ... //geoff
This beats the previous record time held until only ten days ago by six minutes, but misses short of the brand new record recently set by just 9 minutes.
We were one train - ONE TRAIN - out from possibly making it.
There is jubilation all the same. We have got round all the stations. We have done it in a fast time. We have a 'second' place on the podium - a silver medal, and it all feels rather nice, and we take a mass group photo to celebrate.
"To the trains!" we all shout and giggle laughing away. Suddenly, from behind us a unknown voice shouts "YYYEEEAHH!" and feel another person join in the mix with his arms, and start shouting too ... it's the driver! He's been walking down the platform and crept up behind us, and he gives us a big group hug and is really friendly. What is it with the drivers today? They've all been brilliant!
We sit round on the platform floor waiting for the last London bound train of the night to take us home and immediately start the debrief about what had worked and what hadn't. What time would be possible, the good moments and the not so good moments. Water was passed around, more Jelly Babies appear, video is shot, photos are taken and many a tweets are sent updating the world on our finish.
There was very happy feeling on the train back. It was odd - we hadn't broken the record, but it had been a brilliant day. I think Chris was more pleased than most - it had proven the route, and were it not for that twenty minutes at Upminster stuck, we would have had the record time. If we'd of caught that Circle Line train that we'd missed by less than a minute, we predicted that we would have come in two trains ahead of the world record, a time of around 16 hours and 8 minutes.
I remembered again how it was the first time that Anthony had got round the whole network. I recalled how I'd got a U1 bus for the first time. We'd been on an S Stock train for the first time on a challenge, and for the first time ever for me, I'd had the 'Perfect Three' (less than five minute wait for Olympia, Mill Hill East and Hainault Loop) on a challenge. And - best of all - it was the first time in fact that the tube had not let us down - the major delay of the day had been out on the C2C part of the day, and not the fault of the tube.
"It's the one with all the firsts" I chirpily announce to everyone "Isn't it?". "Well either that or the one that Chris will never forget", jibing him about his Take That antics earlier, at which point he happily burst into song once more ...
Tube 14 (X.4) statistics:
Stations visited: 270/270 (All stations complete)
Start time: 06:50.36 Finish time: 23:29.17
Time taken: 16 hours, 38 minutes, 41 seconds.
Number of people: 2
Support team: 4, plus 1 other
Tube 1 | Tube 2 | Tube 3 | Tube 4 | Tube 5 | Tube 6 | Tube 7 (World Record)
Tube 8 | Tube 9 (Tube Relief) | Tube 10 | Tube 11 | Tube 12 | Tube 13 | Tube 14 | Tube 15 | Tube 16 | Tube 17 | Tube 18 | Tube 19 | Tube 20 | Tube 21 | Tube 22 | Tube 23 | Tube 24 | Tube 25 (Second World Record)
• We're in second place on the full tube challenge league tables
• Diamond Geezer wrote about us on his blog again, I promise you I don't ask him to this - it's all of his own volition.
• Kate's complete set of photos from the day, as featured in the video.