In my quest to complete at least one 100km challenge this year, my weekends have been given over to long and usually dreary walks. In an attempt to stir things up I thought I’d try a home-brew challenge. Inspired by the last issue of Outdoor Fitness magazine which ran an article on DIY challenges, I resurrected my interest in The UnderRound initiated by Rory Coleman.
The UnderRound is a challenge requiring you to travel approximately 42km above and below ground by visiting the platforms of 42 different London Underground stations. The official route takes an anti-clockwise rotation starting and finishing at London Kings Cross. In case you are in doubt, you must use the stairs wherever they are available resulting in about 3000 feet of ascent on top of your marathon.
I started the day in a fairly leisurely fashion, sneaking the first of many selfies at 10:30 am.
I was off, striding purposefully towards Euston ticking off 7 platforms in just over a mile stretch along the Euston Road. I’d guess it took me about an hour to clear that mile but the distance travelled underground could easily have added another two to the tally.
It was a glorious hot Sunday and my above ground stretches were positively mediterranean. It hurt me to walk past all the street cafes offering long, cool, glasses of lager and I think this torment may have added to the increasingly grumpy faces. I only managed one smile through the whole ordeal and that was only because I’d spotted “the best ice cream” shop at the entrance to Queensway. I deserved it after ascending 123 steps of the spiral staircase.
I started the day counting every step but I got completely fagged off with that idea by about station 4 and then just relied on the excessively cautious warning messages at the top of each staircase “WARNING – 83 STEPS. USE ONLY IN CASE OF EMERGENCIES”
My least favourite stretch was Knightsbridge to Gloucester Road which was long and littered with hordes of shambling sightseers. At this stage I was not interested in adding any extra steps by weaving in and out of bodies so I was probably at my all time arsi-est here.
From Sloane Square to Cannon Street, a stretch of 9 stations, 7 of them were closed for planned engineering works. This of course had the huge benefit of preventing me from descending to platform level but it began to feel like cheating and did result in a fairly deserted final quarter of the event.
If I were to do the event again I think I’d try the clockwise route, so that I hit The City sections earlier in the day. At 8pm on a bank holiday Sunday the place was deserted. I walked miles in desperate need of the loo and every pub was shut. I eventually reached a tiny oasis by Farringdon station where a solitary pub provided blessed relief and the second smile of the day.
All in all it was a noble challenge, but as with all DIY challenges it is sadly lacking in post-event bling, I’ve had to make do with one slightly battered travelcard, now stuck on the fridge door, to remind me of the ordeal.