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.

Training, week 3

Yesterday, Grant and I went for a walk. It’s the third week of training, and I’m using the Couch to 10k app on the iPhone as a way to get me started. I’m not kidding when I say I’ve never done exercise before, and luckily the app isn’t kidding when it says it starts off at the lowest level.

Just before New Year, I started the programme. I wanted to start before January 1, because otherwise I’d be one of those January people who get all overexcited and overdo exercise in the first two weeks of the year and then stop completely and never start again. To be honest, I doubt the one 54-minute session actually made much difference in real life, but it did make a difference psychologically – by the time I started putting this website together and talking about A Series Of Tubes on Twitter, I’d already started. That helps.

The idea behind the programme is basic interval training. To begin with, you run for 30 seconds and walk for 4 and a half minutes, repeated 8 times over the course of nearly-an-hour. Slowly you increase the time spent running and decrease the time spent walking, and after 13 weeks, the theory goes, you can run for 55 minutes without stopping.

I am, frankly, sceptical – but so far it’s going well. After three weeks I’m up to running for a minute and a half at a time with 3.5min recovery periods – and I haven’t asphyxiated or fallen over yet. I’m clearly not ready to run a marathon yet, but I’m already able to run further than I’ve ever managed before in my life. (This should tell you quite a lot about how much running I’ve done before in my life…)

I’m also using Runkeeper to track my training, and looking into it as an option for live-tracking the walk itself, but so far I don’t have any friends on there. I could use some encouragement, so if you use it and you’d be happy to buddy up, let me know.