Planning: the outline


One month in to the training programme, and already it’s started to make a real difference to my fitness. I’m up to running two whole minutes at a time – don’t laugh, this is a big deal for me – and with luck and perseverance I’m on track to finish the first major training stretch at the end of March. At that point, in theory, I’ll be able to run for 6 miles or so without stopping, and I’ll be starting to do endurance & strength training for my legs.

So between the end of March and the end of December, the Tube lines. There are 11 lines in total, and the plan is to walk as many as possible end-to-end in single days. But the sheer length of some lines means that’s not going to be possible – even if I’m fit enough to walk all day, some of them are 45 miles long. And some of the lines have multiple end points, and I’m still planning how to tackle them.

Here’s the plan – at least, as far as I’ve worked it out so far…

First, the Waterloo & City line – at about 2 miles long and with only 2 stations this should be by far the easiest, so it makes sense to me to do it first. So probably the first or second weekend in April will be the right time to start – and I’m going to be recruiting some walking buddies to come and do the easy one with me and help raise some cash.

The Victoria Line is relatively straightforward and not too horrendously long, coming in at just under 15 miles from Walthamstow Central to Brixton. Hopefully this will be the second walk, on the third or fourth weekend in April.

The Circle Line is actually not too bad, at 21.5 miles. Definitely a challenge, but I’m going to give it a go as a single-day walk – after all, if I get tired or can’t make it round in time, I can always hop on a Tube and head home, and finish it another day. Aiming to do this one in May, when it’s not too hot but the evenings are getting lighter.

The Jubilee Line is well over 47 miles and totally impossible to do in a day – I’m thinking of splitting it into three chunks of 15 miles or so each, and walking those in May and June.

The Bakerloo Line is a straightforward one that, at just under 18 miles, should be achievable in a day. The central London sections will be slow, but I reckon it should be possible to walk within 6 hours, so that’ll be a full Saturday in June.

The Hammersmith & City Line at about 21 miles should be another full Saturday’s walk, most likely in July.

The Piccadilly Line is unexpectedly huge – more than 35 miles even if you ignore the Uxbridge branch completely – so I’m splitting it into two or three chunks. Haven’t decided what I will do when yet, but most likely each will be 10-15 miles long, and will be completed during July and August.

The District Line is an absolute sod, what with having no less than 5 branch endings – but by the time I get to this one in August I’ll already have walked most of its length along the Circle and Hammersmith & City lines. I’m going to treat the remaining walk as Ealing Broadway to Wimbledon – possibly via Richmond depending on how fit I’m feeling and how long it takes.

The Metropolitan Line is another unexpectedly large one at 35 miles from Chesham to Aldgate station. I’m going to try and do this one in two chunks of about 17 miles each during September.

The Central Line is a tricky one, as it’s 45 miles long and goes right through central London. So the plan is to split it into 3 and walk it in chunks during October. Provisionally, the plan is to go Epping to Liverpool Street, West Ruislip to Notting Hill Gate, and finally Liverpool Street to Notting Hill Gate on Hallowe’en weekend dressed as a zombie, with as many zombie shuffling friends as I can manage to bring with me to do a street collection as we go.

Finally, the Northern Line – this is my home line at the moment, though I suppose by November it might not be any more. Still, it’s a long one – by my reckoning, 23.4 miles going from High Barnet to Morden via Charing Cross – and I reckon it should be possible to do in a day if I get a move on. So this will be the home stretch, sometime in November.

There are going to be various branch lines and bitty pieces that won’t get walked, under this plan – and I reckon that’s fine. I might try and fit in a few of the branches I haven’t mapped into the longer walks while I’m training, or in December when I’ve completed most of the map, or I might incorporate them into the challenge later on – or I might not do them.

This challenge is going to evolve and change as it goes on, but this is my basic blueprint for how it’s going to pan out.

My legs are going to be so sore…

Running wrong

Last night we went running and for the first time Grant ran behind me, and took a look at how I ran. He realised something a bit odd – I wasn’t picking up my feet or swinging my arms the way you should if you’re running. I hadn’t realised, but when I thought I was jogging I was in fact doing something closer to race-walking.

I know it sounds completely ridiculous to suggest I wouldn’t know what my body was doing – but this is part of why this is a real challenge for me. I don’t have a great relationship with my body at the best of times. I don’t know it well; I don’t know its capacities or capabilities, where it works well and where it doesn’t; I don’t know how to use it. Yet. I’m desperately sad that it’s taken me 26 years to work out something so basic as this, but happy that it’s finally happened.

On the way home I ran properly. I ran downhill and Grant sang the free-running music from Assassin’s Creed, which is fantastically free-flowing and evokes big wide-arm-stretched I-am-running feelings, and I ran, and it felt good.

So this is a good thing, because I’m finally getting to know my body. And it’s a bad thing, because I’m doing nowhere near as well as I thought in terms of training. But it’s good in the long run, because now I know what was going wrong, why my calves and knees were hurting but my thighs weren’t, why I couldn’t keep up with Grant. Now I can get better at this.

So yay. Mostly.

A series of Tubes

So. I’m going to walk the Tube lines. Overground, I hasten to add, and the point of the walk isn’t to follow the tunnels precisely. What I’m hoping to do is walk between stations and try to cover as many lines as possible end-to-end in a single day.

For some, that’s going to be very easy – the Waterloo and City line, for instance, is about 2 miles long in total. For others, it’s going to be very, very hard. I’m hoping to train to a point where I can walk 25-30 miles in a day – and that’s no small task, believe me, because I’ve never done any sort of systematic exercise before.

For most of my life, the most important things I’ve focussed on have been mental challenges. I’ve fought mental health issues and battled to stay strong in all sorts of ways, but I’ve neglected my body in the process. Thanks to a huge array of charities and professionals, including mental health charity Mind, I’m finally in a place where I don’t have to worry about my brain so much any more – and it’s time to try a physical challenge for a change.

But I don’t want this to just be a simple get-fit-for-the-new-year resolution. I want a real challenge – and in the process I want to give something back. So I’m asking people to sponsor me in my madness, and give money to Mind. The best way to do this is by donating here, but if you’d rather not donate online you can email me at mary@aseriesoftubes.co.uk, or come along to a Tube station during one of my walks and donate in person.

The name of the challenge, “A Series of Tubes”, is simultaneously a pretty accurate description of what I’m doing and a nod to US Senator Ted Stevens, who notoriously described the internet that way while discussing problems he’d had with email going wrong. It’s a hilariously wrong description of how the internet works, and it strikes me that it’s also a pleasingly close-but-not-quite wrong-headed description of how the brain works too.