Go go gadget legs!

Mirrored signs

I made it. Yesterday I walked 15 miles across London, visiting every station from Walthamstow Central to Brixton along the Victoria Line.

Well, I say 15 miles. It was probably closer to 16 in reality, because I got mixed up and walked the wrong way at Seven Sisters for a while, and then got totally confused by Kings Cross St Pancras and ended up turning round three times before I finally managed to find Euston. I have the natural sense of direction of a concussed duck.

Anyway! Batteries held out, food was good – pretty certain that bulla bread is basically the same as the elven waybread the hobbits ate in Lord of the Rings – and thanks to the decent pair of trainers I picked up when I started this whole mad thing, no blisters to speak of. Legs ache in a good way, and I seem to have developed unexpected thigh muscles overnight. And I can cross 16 more stations off my list.

When I was 14 I was desperately unwell. I almost passed out while trying to run the 800 metres in a PE lesson – I remember the grass under my feet swimming, and for a while it felt like I was trying to run across the sky. I was eating perhaps half the calories I needed a day, because I was convinced I didn’t deserve to eat; looking back, it’s clear I was underweight. And I was often shaking or sick from shock, because of how badly and how often I was hurting myself.

Yesterday I walked more than 15 miles.

Achievement unlocked: Go Go Gadget Legs!

I got worse before I got better. Much worse. But I did get better, and Mind were a big part of that. Without their services I would have fallen through the cracks in NHS mental healthcare provision more than once – and so would many other people I love.

One of Mind’s ongoing campaigns is to stamp out the stigma against mental illness that exists in the UK today. I’m still frightened of speaking about it – this blog post is pretty scary to write – but it’s part of supporting their work. I shouldn’t have anything to fear from talking about my problems, and neither should anyone else. And I’m living proof that with the right kind of help and a lot of fighting, it can get better.

Between 1 in 6 and 1 in 4 adults in the UK suffer mental illness at any one time. If you or anyone you know (hi!) has benefited from the services Mind offers, please donate to support them. I’m plotting a few things I can do to say thank you for donations – but if you’ve any ideas, please share them.

Victoria Line, here I come

Momentarily alone (again) on the Victoria line by red_rooster82, on Flickr

It looks like a fine day tomorrow to walk the Victoria Line.

This is the first big one – end to end, 14.6 miles long, which I’m expecting to take more than 6 hours all told, once you include time spent sitting down half way through. I’ve packed bananas, chocolate, bulla bread and a very large amount of water for the trip.

I’ll be walking past 15 stations, from Walthamstow Central to Brixton, and the current plan is to stop somewhere near Kings Cross for some sort of food. The plan is to track my progress along the way using Instagram to take pictures of each station, checking in at Foursquare, and posting to Facebook and Tumblr. I’m also hoping to use Google Latitude to actually track my progress live. In theory, you’ll be able to follow me at this link and live on this map:



Wish me luck. Oh, and please sponsor me! I’m pretty sure that by 3pm tomorrow I’ll really, really need your support – and Mind need it whether or not I do.

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…