The One Where We Set a New World Record
On Wednesday 5th May 2004, we visited all 275 tube stations in 18 hours, 35 minutes and 43 seconds, for the first time breaking the 19 hour barrier and setting a new record time.
So we're chuffed that we did it, and although we're obviously not going to reveal our exact route, there are of course quite a few bits about our day that can be related to you.
First up, let me introduce my new recruit and partner in tube-grime Neil Blake (right) who came with me on this run for the first time.
Out of the guys that I'd attempted this with before, only Chris could help out (he came with me on Tube1 and Tube4), but this time acted as the all-important backup point/supply man - vital for any serious attempt!
It also helps I reckon not having a camera crew following you around the entire day, plus the fact that we were a small three man team meant that it was just easier to concentrate amongst ourselves when making key decisions. And yes, we did have to make several 'on the fly' choices during the day due to the flexible nature of our route, and to get round some of the minor problems that we faced.
Now the time set by Jack Welsby in April 2002 of 19 hours, 18 minutes and 45 seconds, is still - as I write - the officially registered Guinness World Record as I called them today to check.
But an important fact that you should know is that not so long ago I'd heard from someone else - Steven Karahan, who said that he made an attempt back in February with a time of 18 hours, 47 minutes and 57 seconds. We're still waiting to hear if this has been officially confirmed by Guinness or not, but we though we'd better use that as a marking point, and try to beat that just to be sure!
This meant planning a whole new route, so the Heathrow start and Amersham/Chesham finish was thrown out of the window, and many weekends of going round the tube over the last couple of months produced us a new route of an Amersham/Chesham start, and a finish at Upminster.
And so what happened was ...
Well we started in the top left of the map on the Metropolitan Line in the Amersham/Chesham corner, and then followed our new route which we'd tested almost in it's entirety a few weeks before and knew that if it worked today as well as the test, then we'd be on for a good time.
As per usual we had our good bits and bad bits.
The good moments included when we sailed round the Central Line part through the Epping/Hainault loop with no problems at all - an area where with a 20 minute service you'll also lose time if you just miss a Hainault train. Is there a sweeter sentence in the english language than "Woodford via Hainault - Due" ? I don't think so!
It was also raining quite nicely by the time we got to Epping as well.
Not long after that, we got absolutely soaked when the heavens completely opened and from light rain to a total downpour - complete with hailstones as we ran between two stations - and got drenched!
We also feared that the rain might knock out the Richmond branch signals and close that section of the line - notorious for failing in wet weather. However it held up, and the District Line caused us no major problems all day - even the Olympia branch ran to time and didn't stuff us up.
But the Northern Line did play it's usual tricks again, as Mill Hill East was our main hold up of the day.
When we changed at Camden Town heading north up the High Barnet branch, we missed a MHE train by about 30 seconds. Annoying!
Even more annoying though was that when we got up to Finchley Central by taking the next train, we had to wait 25 minutes for the next Mill Hill East train - we weren't happy! And yet overall, we still made a fast time.
So the obvious thing we kept thinking at the end of the day was "Imagine if we'd of made that Mill Hill East train .. how much quicker would we have done it?". i.e. with a tiny bit more luck, we could have done it/could do it again even faster!
We also had a train cancelled on us in the latter half of the day at Uxbridge. We came in on a Piccadilly Line train (which are only once every 20 minutes), but Metropolitan Line ones are every 10 minutes, and that was what we intended to get back out.
Well we just missed a Met line one out by just one minute!. But we weren't that concerned as we knew we could afford to wait the nine minutes for the next one - except it wasn't there. Instead, we found a sign telling us that that particular train that we wanted had been cancelled!
It was an awful moment, as we then realised that where we had to run to connect with another train further down the line, we'd probably now miss it and that would put us behind.
The only train to get back out of Uxbridge was therefore the Piccadilly Line train that we'd just come in on, and after working out the times it occurred to us that we might make it the connection further down the line, but we'd have to run bloody hard if we were going to stand any chance of doing it.
Well, I don't know if you've spent hours and hours on the tube when you've already run about 9 kilometres during the day (I'm guessing you probably haven't), but that's what we were faced with doing - A 1.2 milometer run in 5 minutes or less, rather than the leisurely 8 minutes pace that we were anticipating.
And we did it! God knows how. The run was uphill as well which didn't help, and by the time we arrived at the station, Chris was waiting for us and we collapsed onto the floor of the train, gasping for breath and with just a few seconds to spare before the train left.
When we recovered, we has a little joyous moment, as it was at the moment that we realised that we could well now be on for a record time.
Mind the foot!
What else? Well, Neil trod on some poor woman's foot at Camden Town, and she yelled some abuse at him as we ran on to miss that Mill Hill East train. I trod on some poor old ladies toe on a bus, but she was very nice about it and didn't retaliate with her walking stick like I thought she might. It might have been a different story though "If you'd have hit my dodgy knee" she said. Ah, bless 'er!
I also managed to piss off some woman coming down the Piccadilly Line at Arsenal, when a group of adults were taking a large group of school kids on a trip, and as they all bundled the children off of the train I cheekily commented "Hey you've missed one!", and she failed to see the funny side of it. Oops!
Also the driver of our Victoria Line train out of Brixton recognised me (lap up that attention Geoff!) when he said "Hey! You're that guy that runs around all the tube stations aren't you?". Er.. yes, I am!
Chris also managed to get his face whacked by a closing door! He was with us for part of a journey on the Northern Line, and he was leaning out of the door looking back down the train when the doors started to close, and he didn't move in time! He got whacked in the face and it left a nice dirty streaky mark down the side of his face. Nice!
Also, I think people always think I'm taking the piss when I tell them that we carry round an empty bottle with us at all times just in case we get short caught at any point.
Well no I'm not, and here's the proof - coming up the Northern Line from Morden at Colliers Wood, there aren't any toilets and so my empty Ribena carton that I'd drunk earlier came in handy for relieving myself ...
On the District Line at Earl's Court we were treated to the amusing sight of about thirty drunken Monaco fans on their way to the Chelsea v Monaco champions league semi-final match, and they were being escorted/shepherded by about ten policemen.
They appeared at one end of Earl's Court, came down the steps to platform level, and walked along past us whilst singing and chanting, and then up the steps at the other end of the platform and out of the station. It appeared that they were being marched all the way on foot to Fulham Broadway and weren't being let on any trains!
And if you think hearing English football fans singing their teams praises to the tune of 'Camptown Races' is silly, it sounds even funnier when it's sung in French!
There are a few people we promised we'd give a 'shout' to.
Firstly we promised (if we were successful!) to give a plug to Nita Hurley's B&B in Amersham where we stayed the night before, and crept out at a quarter to five in the morning to walk down to the station.
Also, a big "Hello" to the nice American couple and their children that we met on Circle Line train who were going to Tower Hill to see the Tower of London.
Also a "Hello" to Alec, a TV man from Reuters who we got chatting to on the way down from Cockfosters who said "Oh, you should have told me you were doing it, I would have come and filmed you!".
Plus a big "Sod you!" to the rudest bus conductress that we've met so far on a routemaster somewhere in town (not telling you where!) as she made us sit down (when we wanted to loiter at the back ready to jump off and run), and she told me to "Move my legs and sit straight". I'm 6" 3' for goodness sake, my legs just are gangly, and tend to stick out! Ok?
Time Gentleman Please
And the day went on, and the hours ticked away, and we kept ticking the stations off of the map.
We made good progress here, lost a bit of time there, thinking we might get a sub-19 hours time, but not really being sure until we made out last connection of the day somewhere in the city onto a slow moving District Line to take us up to Upminster and to end of our journey. And so we sat with our watches, pens, paper and timetables working out what time we might finish at.
I've never had a more agonising 30 minutes of my life than that last train home! Thinking of things like: "Suppose the train breaks down now?", "Suppose some drunken thugs cause trouble and pull the emergency alarm?", etc.. etc.. you get the idea.
But no, the train trundled its way into Upminster and we got their shortly after midnight at 00:05 and a few seconds, and it was weird. There was no-one to meet us (we got an expensive taxi home!), and we didn't even really go mad with excitement! I think we were too knackered for any exuberant celebrations.
Instead, we spoke to the driver of our train who was very friendly to us, we got him to sign our log book to verify our time and location, and he kindly took this photo of us as well. And that was it! It was all over, and so we trudged round the corner to the minicab company, and got ourselves a ride home.
Three months of planning, 18 and a half hours on tube trains, and a cold and dark Upminster with it's pokey minicab office will be my aide memoire of a very long and tiring day.
Tube 7 statistics:
Stations visited: 275/275
Start time: 05:29.25 Finish time: 00:05.08
Time taken: 18 hours, 35 minutes, 43 seconds
Number of people: 2
Support team: 1
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
I found an old ticket-collecting booth at Finchley Central which looked like it hadn't been used for a while.
This was us after the run to catch a train which we didn't think we were going to make,
We covered 1.2Km in 5 minutes, it was in the latter half of the day, and it was bloody agony!