My fascination with visiting underground stations stemmed from being a regular visitor to London. One day, I wondered if it was possible to visit every stop in one day. I looked it up and found there was a Guinness World Record for it: currently 16 hours, 20 minutes and 27 seconds. I have attempted it around 20 times and my best time is 16 hours, 44 minutes and 15 seconds.
I must have visited around 22 underground and rapid transit systems around the world so far. My favourite is London as I have travelled on it the most, but Paris is also good because it is so dense. Barcelona is the only system I’ve come across that has a minute/second countdown system.
I did the Barcelona metro run about a year ago, visiting every station. It took me a total of four hours, 49 minutes and 45 seconds to complete, which was, as someone pointed out, quite a poetic time. I was staying down the road from the Sagrada Família, and remember walking past it on my way to the metro and feeling that it was magnificent, but I don’t go to the cities to see the sights: I just concentrate on their underground systems.
London and New York are the only networks that qualify under the Guinness rules, but I just appy their criteria and do it on my own. The train must stop at every station, but you don’t have to alight until it is time to change. I take the escalators to save time, but having a good basic fitness helps when running between lines.
It is 30 percent planning and 70 percent luck—there are so many things that can go wrong. Red signals are the worst: once I waited 20 minutes for a signal to clear in London as there was a train stuck on the platform, but I wasn’t on a running mission that day so it didn’t matter.
I don’t go in for official accolades but occasionally I get picked up by the local press. The Toronto equivalent of 20 Minutos ran a cover story on me, for example, and I was given a plaque of a subway stop with my name on it by the Chicago Transit Authority. The Toronto thing was quite big, actually: I had a temporary fanbase for a couple of days, which was quite funny.
I never tell people I am going on a run. It is quite interesting to go away for several days and find out no one misses me, so when there has been press attention, people back home are usually surprised. I prefer to have what I call ‘secret pressure’.
I don’t usually talk to people when I am travelling, unless they show an interest in what I am doing. There is actually a lot to think about in terms of the route and the documentation. Some people Tweet while they are doing it, but I bloody hate the thing! If I am attempting a record, I will need a witness signature, but that is the only time I usually approach people.
When I am not doing this or working, I sit at home researching metro systems or search Google Street View. I spend many early hours going to different places, and looking up borders and time zones. I am probably the most boring person you are ever likely to