Accompanied by three friends, Jon Cooper has run the entire length of the London tube network above ground, notching up more than 350 miles…
‘Back in 2014, I was looking for a new challenge that would raise some money for charity. I had been running for a few years and had done 48 miles around Jersey, but I would still have classed myself as a casual runner.
The flash of inspiration came when I was meeting some friends in Farringdon to watch the football. There was an issue on the tube, and I remember thinking: I could probably just run there. That’s when it dawned on me that we really could try and run all the different tube lines.
The four of us – Simon Gibbs, Adam Broadbent, Sébastien Hine and I – did some research and discovered that the combined length of all 11 lines on the London Underground network is 250 miles. Before we began, we set ourselves a few rules. Going from station to station as directly as possible, all lines without separate branches had to be run in one go. Any separate branches (for example, on the Northern line) had to be completed in another single run. Any overlapping lines or branches had to be run multiple times.
As a result, in the end we actually ran a whopping 362 miles, finishing the challenge in 23 separate runs. These ranged in length from two-and-a-half miles to 36 miles – considerably longer than a marathon.
The whole thing took us 70 hours over the space of 18 months. We were fitting the runs in at the weekends, and had to deal with various injuries and health problems. I broke my foot, Adam turned an ankle, Seb had a back problem and Simon was struggling with knee issues. Otherwise, it was all surprisingly straightforward.
The only station that we couldn’t reach on foot was Heathrow Terminal 2/3, as that’s right in the centre of the airport. We asked, but we were denied access to the service tunnel.
The hardest run, by far, was running from Cockfosters to Heathrow on the Piccadilly line. We faced torrential rain the entire time, and having already run more than 30 miles, that last three miles around the airport was just total misery. Saying that, the Central line was my first run back after three months off with my foot injury – so doing Epping to Ealing in one day was a bit of a difficult one!
One of my favourite runs was our last, along the Waterloo & City line, when a few extra friends joined in. Meeting our family and friends at the finish line for celebrations felt really awesome.
Sébastien had never been a runner before, so throughout it all, we made sure we went at his pace. Now he runs a line whenever he finds himself in another city. He even did one in Amsterdam during a six-hour layover!
The whole experience made me realise that people should walk or run around a lot more. Particularly in central London, everything is so close together. (Just don’t make the mistake we did and run down Oxford Street.) Even outside the centre, running brought new perspectives. Following the Metropolitan line through the fields of Buckinghamshire, we felt like we were a world away from the city down the tracks.’
Donate to the Tube Runners’ charity fundraising page at www.justgiving.com.
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