The UnderRound Challenge – A Marathon of Selfies

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In my quest to complete at least one 100km challenge this year, my weekends have been given over to long and usually dreary walks.┬áIn 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┬áinitiated 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.

The UnderRound Challenge
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 Selfish View of the UnderRound

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.

Russell SquareI reached the final station, Russell Square at about 9:30pm and you can probably imagine my joy to see the sign at the top of the stairs.

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.

Delayed Confession

If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll be aware that my Salomon XT Wings challenge – to run the central London tube map – ended in the middle of last week, and since then I’ve been suspiciously quiet about it.

At the time of my last posting, I had two more lines left to complete and only one day left to do it. Not being of the easily defeated variety, I left work all togged up for running, took two buses and two tubes, battled across multiple time zones and arrived at 7:30pm to a drizzly evening in a grim, grey location. The only point of brightness and colour was a large golden M on the other side of the street. I’m ashamed to say I trogged across that road and gorged myself on a big mac meal before returning to the tube station to reverse the journey back home.

Hours of my evening wasted and zero miles added to my tally.

So here’s what my map should have looked like:
The Salomon Challenge

and here’s what I managed:

Salomon XT Wings Challenge

I think I may well go back and finish this off at a later date, the Victoria line picks through some great spots and I’d like to see it completed. For now though, I am just happy to return to my runs along the river, where I can roll out of bed and set off running without first having to share bugs with London’s sick in an overcrowded train carriage.

Salomon XT Wings Challenge
Cumulative:
104 Tube Stations
92.56 km

Pilgrim’s Progress

With only 2 days left to cover off 3 tube lines the pressure was on today.

All started positively as my hacking cough ensured I had a spacious seating arrangement on the tube as it transported me across to the other side of the metropolis.

Pilgrims Progress

I started to feel a bit more jaded as I headed up towards city boy land and already my plan to tick off two lines this evening was beginning to seem a bit optimistic.

Running alongside pubs spilling out at the seams with pinstriped blokes holding cold beers is not appealing to me very much at the moment. I’m quite looking forward to the return of my genteel river runs and an end to public transport, running in bus lanes and pretty much anything east of Westminster Bridge.

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The new Garmin wasn’t performing very well either. Out in the sticks the 405 seems noticeably faster than the 305 but within the square mile it is equally useless, the Nokia N82 in contrast was able to pinpoint my location in seconds.

I’m going to have to do some considerable jiggery pokery with the route before I can publish the map, it didn’t lock on to a signal until I found myself wandering around a beautiful burial ground right at the city limits. Bunhill Fields hides the bones of many plague victims, tipped into unmarked pits as well as some fine memorials to notable authors such as Bunyan and Defoe.

Moorfields Eye Hospital

I came out of the graveyard to find all the passers by had lost an eye. It was quite surreal, I must have passed about 10 people with either bulging eyeballs or whopping great bandages obscuring half their face. I was a little worried to proceed lest a similar fate should befall me.

Round the corner I found my explanation. No need to fear daylight attacks by the walking undead.

The Bank branch of the Northern Line was not too inspiring, apart from the dead people, and by the time I’d completed it I was losing the will to live. Walking takes too flipping long, so I bailed on the Victoria Line and went home to open my Big book of Symptoms on the tuberculosis page.

Is Walking Cheating?

There are 3 lines outstanding on the Salomon challenge – Northern Line (Bank branch), Victoria Line and the Bakerloo Line. With only 4 days to go it should still be quite manageable but the trouble is I am still ill.

For the past two weeks I’ve been hacking up chunks and have had to avoid deep breathing as it tends to lead to paroxysms of coughing. I’m not particularly under the weather but the symptoms have been harsh enough to scupper my Juneathon chances and to take me to the line with the Salomon Challenge.

Westminster Abbey

Yesterday I was in central Londinium for a meeting and as I arrived more than an hour early I did a bit of walking (and shallow breathing) to fill in the missing sections of the Circle Line.

Only 3.5 km but it was an interesting section and the sky was beautiful.

I was approaching this building absolutely convinced it was the Houses of Parliament but I clearly had my bearings all wrong. It’s obviously Westminster Abbey but I didn’t realise that til I turned the corner and saw Big Ben leering out at me.

Another reason for me not to opt for a full time tourist guide position.

Big Ben

Trooping the Jubilee Line

Beefeater

I went to London but missed the Queen. I arrived on her doorstep to see a trail of red as the horseguards shot back into their cubby holes.

I set off from West Hampstead and had an unremarkable run down to Central London but as soon as I entered Bond Street an ominous rumbling filled the sky, I looked up and caught sight of a WWII Lancaster Bomber, with a couple of Spitfires in tow. They were rapidly followed by hoards of other military planes that I was unable to recognise.

Turns out it was her birthday and I had narrowly missed the Trooping of the Colour with the celebratory flyover. That probably explains the high density of gents in bowler hats.

Horse Guards

It’s probably just as well that I was a bit late, my route took me straight through the Horse Guards parade and I can’t imagine they would have been too keen on me running through the middle of the trooping.

I’m quite impressed with the jubilee line, for a grey line it’s proved to be pretty colourful. Even without the Battle of Britain re-enactment there seemed to be a photo opportunity round every corner and now have a picture of a Beefeater and the London Eye on my phone, I think I can claim to be a true tourist.

Embankment

Salomon XT Wings Challenge
Today:
10 Tube Stations
9.37 km

Cumulative:
91 Tube Stations
80.79 km
See the combined progress map here.

A bit of Circle Line

Aldgate

I woke with a stinking cold yesterday but as I was in central London for a meeting I could hardly evade a quick tube running session.

The plan was to tick off the yellow Circle Line, starting at Aldgate.

It seems to me that every photo I’ve taken on the tube map challenge has included either the telecom tower or the Gherkin, I feel like I’m doing a massive maypole dance around the two landmarks. Only its June so I can’t be.

I headed down the Minories of Jack the Ripper fame to The Tower of London and then promptly sat down for a rest.

Tower of London 2

Running this route along the north bank of the Thames is actually quite feasible. The tourists flock to the South bank so you have a relatively unhindered passage and the views are great all the way out along the Embankment.

Unfortunately I had to keep stopping to retrieve tissues from my rucksac and I gave up earlier than anticipated and jumped on the tube home at St James’s Park.

Salomon XT Wings Challenge
Today:
10 Tube Stations
7.25 km

Cumulative:
81 Tube Stations
71.42 km
See the combined progress map here.

Juneathon Tally
Runs: 8/30
Total Distance: 31.1 m

Underground Surgery

An absolute scorcher today, June has finally arrived and what better way to enjoy the sun than spending 2 hrs locked in a tube train and another couple running through the crowds of Central London?

Salomon XT Wings Challenge - Progress 080608

I wonder if I’ve ever mentioned my dislike of the London public transport system. I’m sure the feeling is mutual, I hate it and it feels fairly venomous towards me.

There are some building works going on outside my flat that have resulted in restricted traffic flows. As I left my flat this afternoon I could see my bus waiting patiently for an opportunity to turn into the main flow. I sprint down 3 flights and out onto the street, timing my crossing perfectly to run between a car and the bus to arrive just in the nick of time at the bus stop. Arm goes out but the bus doesn’t stop, instead he honks his horn and starts to gesticulate as if he can’t understand why I would have just run in front of him and stood by the bus stop. The woman running along behind me is absolutely incensed by this and taking no chances, throws herself in front of the next arriving bus.

The next bus decides to pull off just as I’m about to climb onboard but temptingly he leaves his door open so I try a run and leap manoeuvre. The jury is still out so I’ll leave it until tomorrow to decide whether I’ve done myself any lasting ankle injury.

On the way back home the tube decides I’d look better as an amazon and with a particularly swift and violent door closure, attempts a single mastectomy in full public view. Not pleasant, but I survive with a solid black line bisecting me from chin to nipple.

Graffiti - Chalk Farm

I did manage some running as well as performing heroic transport antics. I started in Belsize Park for my journey along the Northern Line (Charing Cross branch). I love this area of London, the moment I become monied I’ll be buying a flat on this street. perhaps one just above the book shop.

It’s a great start to a run as well, from the top of Haverstock Hill you can enjoy a downward sprint all the way to Camden. I had to slow down briefly at Chalk Farm for graffiti purposes and then ground to a complete stop by Camden Market. Camden on a hot weekend is a nightmare, far far worse than Oxford street. There is no room to run but even if there was, this is not a street for deep breathing. Inhale too hard here and your head will be swimming for hours and I didn’t have time for the munchies.

Mornington Crescent

I start running again past Mornington Crescent, which is pictured here for the benefit of any Radio 4 listeners. Quite an unassuming tube station but obviously carrys a great deal of competitive importance.

The Northern line is relatively short, about 7km from Belsize Park to Waterloo so I decided to make the most of my travel card and complete the Central line as well. Heading back to Embankment I took the district to that joyful little retreat at Mile End. This time round it was sunny which added a positive glow to the place and I noticed the canal which I’d missed the first time here but I still didn’t want to linger. Some error in navigation had me running along the road to Stepney Green again, before I hung a right, heading through social housing city and up to Bethnal Green.

End of the Line

Bethnal Green to Liverpool street is quite an interesting route. I liked it around there. It looked like I’d just missed a street market as I was having to work quite hard not to slip on discarded portobello mushrooms and grapes. I’d also overlooked my invite to a hip biker event. There were stacks of cyclists around and every one had a cool fixie with aero wheels and aggressive track styling. Odd to see people bouncing down curbs with 5 spoked wheels though, can’t imagine they’ll last very long.

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Beyond Liverpool Street it was in to City Boy Land.

This shot shows St Ethelburgers Church which was apparently destroyed in 1993 by an IRA bomb. It had previously survived the Great Fire of London and the blitz.

It has recently been rebuilt and they’ve done a fantastic job as the building just grabs your attention, maybe its enhanced by the backdrop of the Gherkin.

Threadneedle Street

Threadneedle Street has many more impressive buildings but at this point I’m getting a little too hot and bothered for further architectural appreciation. Besides, I’m preparing for the Underground surgery awaiting me at Holborn.

Two more lines completed!

Salomon XT Wings Challenge
Today:
19 Tube Stations
16.04 km

Cumulative:

71 Tube Stations
64.17 km
See the combined progress map here.

Juneathon Tally
Runs: 7/30
Total Distance: 26.6 m

Piccadilly Line Complete

For the last 4 nights I have left work with the declaration, “Right, I’m off to do the Piccadily Line”. Tonight all excuses escaped me and I finally had to knuckle down and get it completed.




Covent Garden

It wasn’t as grueling as I expected, Garmin reported a total distance of 11.6 km but there were a lot of squiggles on the trace so it may have been quite a lot lot less.

Not much running in the proper central London bit, too much risk of being mowed down by a tuk tuk.

Eros

I started upping the pace around Piccadilly Circus as I didn’t want to make myself a sitting target for Eros.

Wellington Arch

After the lure of the bookshops on Piccadilly I managed to get a good stint of running done, past the Ritz through the relative oasis of Green Park and then out onto Wellington Arch and the traffic chaos of Knightsbridge.


Salomon XT Wings Challenge

Today:
13 Tube Stations
11.57 km

Cumulative:
52 Tube Stations
48.13 km
See the combined progress map here.

Juneathon Tally
Runs: 4/30
Total Distance: 14.6 m

Warriorwoman vs Jogblog 100m Challenge Combo
38.5 miles total

Pink Line Down

I completed the Hammersmith and City line today.

I had initially planned to run it as a single long run but in the end I took 3 attempts at it. I’m trying to take it gently with my back but today it was seizing up every time I stopped to take a photo and then I couldn’t get going again, as a result todays run bore a strong resemblance to walking in many parts.

Peeking

Still, I did have to stop and take those photos, it’s not often that you get to look up a lady’s skirt without getting on your hands and knees.

This mid section of the H&C line was a visual treat. It started with the fantastic St Pancras building which is an absolute beauty from the outside and has now been renovated internally.

St Pancras

I can’t walk past the station without nipping in and gazing up in wonder at the roof and the clock. Strangely enough I manged to resist the longest Champagne bar in the world, I probably wasn’t dressed quite right anyhow.

Newton

Immediately after leaving the station and while the garmin is still attempting a lock on, I stumble into the grounds of the British Library and get acquainted with Newton.

I bet he’s got a bad back.

There are loads of interesting buildings to see on the Euston/Marylebone Rd so long as your vision is intact. All this running along busy highways is chucking all sorts of grit and general atmospheric pollutants into my eyes and I can feel my corneas abrading as I move.

Philological School

This building is the St Marylebone Grammar School or Philological school, set up in 1792 to support families suffering under unexpected misfortune. Directly opposite this is the Samaritan Free hospital for women and children, where “Admission free, without letter of recomendation, poverty and sickness the only passport”.

It wasn’t all that long ago that life was tough.

Heading left, away from the grotty dual carriageway, I veered towards Paddington station. Here’s another area of fabulous architecture but shamefully it is one that has worked hard to develop a shabby overcoat. St Mary’s Hospital must have been imposing in its day and you can look up to the second floor window and imagine Alexander Fleming poring over his agar plates of penicillin.

Portobello Road

From Paddington onwards, the interest in the route declined for me. The stations were such a flippin faff to get to. Royal Oak for example, is almost an extension to the platform at Paddington, I’ve often wondered what it’s point was but when you try to get to it by road you have to wiggle in and out of streets for about 2k. Ridiculous. Royal Oak to Westbourne Park is even worse and really, why would you want to bother. Get the tube that’s my advice.

Ladbroke Grove is the home of the Portobello Road market so there was a bit of colour here, but I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to hire a nice red Ferrari.

Salomon XT Wings Challenge
Today:
10 Tube Stations
10.84 km
Sports Tracker map with photos

Cumulative:
38 Tube Stations
36.56 km
See the combined progress map here.

Warriorwoman vs Jogblog 100m Challenge Combo
23.9 miles total

Extending Google Maps

So, here is the tube map showing progress to date, you may have to zoom out to catch the extremes, depending on the size of your screen:

**UPDATE** I’ve removed the image as it seems to be slowing the blog down and crashing folks computers, you can still view The Full Screen Map over here.

If you don’t know about google maps, it’s a particularly useful little gadget. Click on the “my maps” tab and then either plot a map manually or import a data file from SportsTracks or whatever GPS mapping system you have on the computer. There are a number of examples in the previous few posts. You can colour the map as you see fit and then copy the link to an embedded image. Very swish.

I’ve been including these embedded google maps to illustrate each section of the London Underground route but have been struggling to display all the sections together on one interactive block.

There are a stack of hacks for google maps out there as well but the two I have found particularly useful are, GPS Visualizer and Map Channels.

GPS Visualizer is an incredibly in depth utility. If you are into maps, you want to check it out. It enables you to plot multiple gpx tracks onto one image and will colour them according to an amazing array of variables such as speed or altitude. You could plot atmospheric pollutants with coloured blobs suggesting density or of course simple tracks showing how slow you actually run. I’m sure I could plot my geographical tube map using GPS Visualizer but to be honest I can’t be bothered to stay up all night trying to fathom out how to do it.

Map Channels is very easy to use. It requires you to have set up all your routes as google maps already but thats not a problem for me. You can then create maps with multiple map channels visible. If you set the colour and style of the track in google maps this will be replicated in Map Channel image. Incredibly easy and yet it includes a great number of style control options.

I’ve only just started playing with this one but I’m impressed by how well it has enabled me to display multiple, differently coloured tracks.