diamond geezer

 Thursday, April 14, 2011

There are some damned stupid feats in the Guinness Book of Records. The heaviest chocolate rabbit. The fastest half marathon dressed as a vegetable. The largest gathering of people dressed as leprechauns. Indeed, some would assert that this best selling book has dumbed down so much over the last decade that to earn a place in its pages is now utterly worthless. But there is one damned stupid feat which still excites the hearts of many here in the capital, and that's the record for the fastest time to travel to all London Underground stations.
The fastest time to travel all London Underground network stations is 16 hr 44 min 16 sec and was achieved by Steve Wilson, Andi James and Martin Hazel (all UK), on 14 December 2009.
This is a record whose conditions regularly change, as new stations open and old lines close. Shoreditch, Ongar and Aldwych no longer have to be ticked off, which helps speed things up, but Terminal 5 now has to be reached, which slows things down. Meanwhile challengers are getting better and better at planning their routes. Twenty-five years ago (today), Robert Robinson managed to get round all 272 stations in 19 hours, 51 minutes, 14 seconds, whereas the current record is 15% quicker. Can today's time be broken? There's many believe it can, and all that's needed is the perfect route under non-disrupted conditions.

One such tube challenger is Geoff Marshall, former joint holder of the aforementioned record (275 stations in 18 hours, 35 minutes, 43 seconds). His place in the Guinness hall of fame endured for two years before being narrowly pipped, by just five seconds, and he's been attempting to grab back victory ever since. But a tube challenge isn't undertaken lightly. It requires planning, and research and several dry runs, plus a support team to ensure that things could possibly just maybe run smoothly enough. Dedication, that's what you need, and Roy Castle would have been proud.

This time last Thursday Geoff was at it again, on his 13th attempt, careering round London via a top secret route. Somewhere out in the wilds of zone 6, I dropped in. All the telltale signs of a tube record attempt were present in the carriage. Three athletic souls were standing around in sports kit flexing their leg muscles. One was pointing their camera out of the door at every station to take a photo as official evidence. Another had a notebook for the scribbling down of times to the nearest second. I noticed several bottles of energy drinks - full, empty or refilled - essential for keeping everyone appropriately hydrated. Much technology was evident amongst the support team, including a laptop and a walkie talkie, ensuring that everybody was up-to-date on what was happening elsewhere on the network. And there were smiles all round, because you have to, even when things aren't going great.

A piece of paper was thrust into my face, the top half of which explained what was going on to bemused bystanders, while the bottom was a tear-off slip for witnessing purposes. My signature and email address would be used later by Guinness to confirm that any successful attempt had been genuine, and hadn't been deceitfully concocted by Geoff with the aid of fake photos and a fictional notebook. But it didn't look like my verification would be necessary. The Piccadilly line had played up earlier in the morning, scuppering best laid plans, and then the District line had stalled, scuppering the back-up. Alas tube challenge attempts only succeed if every connection works smoothly, so a signal failure or even "minor delays" can mess the whole thing up, and they had. "But I reckon we can still get back to Olympia if we go via Shepherd's Bush, later on, that might work." It's no use sticking to your perfect plan if the network won't play ball, so adaptability to prevailing conditions is the key.

I didn't stay with the team for long, because they were getting off a few stations later to go for a run. You don't get a record-breaking time by staying on the train all the way from zone 1 to the outskirts and back again, you find a shortcut from the end of one line to the end of another via public transport. In this case Geoff & Co were running it, which I thought was insane, not least because the temperature was sweaty-warm and the distance was "how far?!" Off they charged (out of a perfectly-aligned door), up and over the footbridge, then disappeared through the gates in search of station number 78. I followed by bus, which took simply forever, and by the end of the ride I was so far behind that their decision to jog had been firmly vindicated.

I caught up with Geoff, Vicki and Anthony later in the day, on a completely different line. They were going to Cockfosters, I was going to Cockfosters, so it made sense to share the journey north. A little more perspiration was evident, although I bet nowhere near as sweaty as things would be later in the day. By now one of the team had an injured foot, no doubt from all that jogging, which wasn't going to make careering between future platforms any easier. Never mind, everyone's sense of optimism still prevailed. Until, that is, the driver unexpectedly announced that this train would be terminating one station early. Rude words were spoken. My photo shows the team discussing their untimely options after ejection at Oakwood, which is somewhere that no tube challenger ever wants to alight. There were only a few minutes delay before the next Cockfosters train rolled in, but that would likely be enough to destroy a series of crucial connections and wreck the entire attempt. And so it turned out.

Better luck next time, Geoff. So much can be planned in advance, but the tube's random quirks and breakdowns mean that a winning time is also down to pure chance. Will the Mill Hill shuttle be in the platform or are there 18 minutes still to wait? Will the Hainault Loop require one train or two? Will a good service be operating on all London Underground lines or have you unwittingly picked a day of tube hell? And you'd better hurry up, because beating the record's going to get hugely harder in December when the District line timetable changes. There'll be no more trains to Olympia on weekdays, apart from a couple of services early morning and mid-evening, and if you miss those you're doomed. I'd wager that whoever holds the Guinness chalice at Christmas is likely to keep it for some considerable time. Eight months remain, whether you're Geoff or another team convinced you can do better.

» Geoff's 10000-word report is now here (and worth waiting for)
» 47 photos from Geoff's tube challenge are here (they'll do nicely)

<< click for Newer posts

click for Older Posts >>

click to return to the main page

...or read more in my monthly archives
Jan22  Feb22  Mar22  Apr22  May22  Jun22  Jul22  Aug22  Sep22
Jan21  Feb21  Mar21  Apr21  May21  Jun21  Jul21  Aug21  Sep21  Oct21  Nov21  Dec21
Jan20  Feb20  Mar20  Apr20  May20  Jun20  Jul20  Aug20  Sep20  Oct20  Nov20  Dec20
Jan19  Feb19  Mar19  Apr19  May19  Jun19  Jul19  Aug19  Sep19  Oct19  Nov19  Dec19
Jan18  Feb18  Mar18  Apr18  May18  Jun18  Jul18  Aug18  Sep18  Oct18  Nov18  Dec18
Jan17  Feb17  Mar17  Apr17  May17  Jun17  Jul17  Aug17  Sep17  Oct17  Nov17  Dec17
Jan16  Feb16  Mar16  Apr16  May16  Jun16  Jul16  Aug16  Sep16  Oct16  Nov16  Dec16
Jan15  Feb15  Mar15  Apr15  May15  Jun15  Jul15  Aug15  Sep15  Oct15  Nov15  Dec15
Jan14  Feb14  Mar14  Apr14  May14  Jun14  Jul14  Aug14  Sep14  Oct14  Nov14  Dec14
Jan13  Feb13  Mar13  Apr13  May13  Jun13  Jul13  Aug13  Sep13  Oct13  Nov13  Dec13
Jan12  Feb12  Mar12  Apr12  May12  Jun12  Jul12  Aug12  Sep12  Oct12  Nov12  Dec12
Jan11  Feb11  Mar11  Apr11  May11  Jun11  Jul11  Aug11  Sep11  Oct11  Nov11  Dec11
Jan10  Feb10  Mar10  Apr10  May10  Jun10  Jul10  Aug10  Sep10  Oct10  Nov10  Dec10 
Jan09  Feb09  Mar09  Apr09  May09  Jun09  Jul09  Aug09  Sep09  Oct09  Nov09  Dec09
Jan08  Feb08  Mar08  Apr08  May08  Jun08  Jul08  Aug08  Sep08  Oct08  Nov08  Dec08
Jan07  Feb07  Mar07  Apr07  May07  Jun07  Jul07  Aug07  Sep07  Oct07  Nov07  Dec07
Jan06  Feb06  Mar06  Apr06  May06  Jun06  Jul06  Aug06  Sep06  Oct06  Nov06  Dec06
Jan05  Feb05  Mar05  Apr05  May05  Jun05  Jul05  Aug05  Sep05  Oct05  Nov05  Dec05
Jan04  Feb04  Mar04  Apr04  May04  Jun04  Jul04  Aug04  Sep04  Oct04  Nov04  Dec04
Jan03  Feb03  Mar03  Apr03  May03  Jun03  Jul03  Aug03  Sep03  Oct03  Nov03  Dec03
 Jan02  Feb02  Mar02  Apr02  May02  Jun02  Jul02 Aug02  Sep02  Oct02  Nov02  Dec02 

eXTReMe Tracker
jack of diamonds
Life viewed from London E3

» email me
» follow me on twitter
» follow the blog on Twitter
» follow the blog on RSS

» my flickr photostream

twenty blogs
our bow
ian visits
blue witch
on london
the great wen
edith's streets
spitalfields life
round the island
wanstead meteo
christopher fowler
bus and train user
ruth's coastal walk
the ladies who bus
round the rails we go
london reconnections
from the murky depths

quick reference features
Things to do in Outer London
Things to do outside London
Inner London toilet map
The DG Tour of Britain

read the archive
Aug22  Jul22  Jun22  May22
Apr22  Mar22  Feb22  Jan22
Dec21  Nov21  Oct21  Sep21
Aug21  Jul21  Jun21  May21
Apr21  Mar21  Feb21  Jan21
Dec20  Nov20  Oct20  Sep20
Aug20  Jul20  Jun20  May20
Apr20  Mar20  Feb20  Jan20
Dec19  Nov19  Oct19  Sep19
Aug19  Jul19  Jun19  May19
Apr19  Mar19  Feb19  Jan19
Dec18  Nov18  Oct18  Sep18
Aug18  Jul18  Jun18  May18
Apr18  Mar18  Feb18  Jan18
Dec17  Nov17  Oct17  Sep17
Aug17  Jul17  Jun17  May17
Apr17  Mar17  Feb17  Jan17
Dec16  Nov16  Oct16  Sep16
Aug16  Jul16  Jun16  May16
Apr16  Mar16  Feb16  Jan16
Dec15  Nov15  Oct15  Sep15
Aug15  Jul15  Jun15  May15
Apr15  Mar15  Feb15  Jan15
Dec14  Nov14  Oct14  Sep14
Aug14  Jul14  Jun14  May14
Apr14  Mar14  Feb14  Jan14
Dec13  Nov13  Oct13  Sep13
Aug13  Jul13  Jun13  May13
Apr13  Mar13  Feb13  Jan13
Dec12  Nov12  Oct12  Sep12
Aug12  Jul12  Jun12  May12
Apr12  Mar12  Feb12  Jan12
Dec11  Nov11  Oct11  Sep11
Aug11  Jul11  Jun11  May11
Apr11  Mar11  Feb11  Jan11
Dec10  Nov10  Oct10  Sep10
Aug10  Jul10  Jun10  May10
Apr10  Mar10  Feb10  Jan10
Dec09  Nov09  Oct09  Sep09
Aug09  Jul09  Jun09  May09
Apr09  Mar09  Feb09  Jan09
Dec08  Nov08  Oct08  Sep08
Aug08  Jul08  Jun08  May08
Apr08  Mar08  Feb08  Jan08
Dec07  Nov07  Oct07  Sep07
Aug07  Jul07  Jun07  May07
Apr07  Mar07  Feb07  Jan07
Dec06  Nov06  Oct06  Sep06
Aug06  Jul06  Jun06  May06
Apr06  Mar06  Feb06  Jan06
Dec05  Nov05  Oct05  Sep05
Aug05  Jul05  Jun05  May05
Apr05  Mar05  Feb05  Jan05
Dec04  Nov04  Oct04  Sep04
Aug04  Jul04  Jun04  May04
Apr04  Mar04  Feb04  Jan04
Dec03  Nov03  Oct03  Sep03
Aug03  Jul03  Jun03  May03
Apr03  Mar03  Feb03  Jan03
Dec02  Nov02  Oct02  Sep02
back to main page

the diamond geezer index
2021 2020 2019 2018 2017
2016 2015 2014 2013 2012
2011 2010 2009 2008 2007
2006 2005 2004 2003 2002

my special London features
a-z of london museums
E3 - local history month
greenwich meridian (N)
greenwich meridian (S)
the real eastenders
london's lost rivers
olympic park 2007
great british roads
oranges & lemons
random boroughs
bow road station
high street 2012
river westbourne
trafalgar square
capital numbers
east london line
lea valley walk
olympics 2005
regent's canal
square routes
silver jubilee
unlost rivers
cube routes
Herbert Dip
capital ring
river fleet

ten of my favourite posts
the seven ages of blog
my new Z470xi mobile
five equations of blog
the dome of doom
chemical attraction
quality & risk
london 2102
single life
april fool

ten sets of lovely photos
my "most interesting" photos
london 2012 olympic zone
harris and the hebrides
betjeman's metro-land
marking the meridian
tracing the river fleet
london's lost rivers
inside the gherkin
seven sisters

just surfed in?
here's where to find...
diamond geezers
flash mob #1  #2  #3  #4
ben schott's miscellany
london underground
watch with mother
cigarette warnings
digital time delay
wheelie suitcases
war of the worlds
transit of venus
top of the pops
old buckenham
ladybird books
acorn antiques
digital watches
outer hebrides
olympics 2012
school dinners
pet shop boys
west wycombe
bletchley park
george orwell
big breakfast
clapton pond
san francisco
children's tv
east enders
trunk roads
little britain
credit cards
jury service
big brother
jubilee line
number 1s
titan arum
doctor who
blue peter
peter pan
feng shui
leap year
bbc three
vision on
ID cards