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Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Scott Beale

There’s nothing more stressful than the Penn Station Scramble

Will Gleason
Written by
Will Gleason

No matter your level of physical activity, you’re bound to be familiar with a few basic workouts if you live in New York. There’s the subway sprint, that mad dash through the grate, down the stairs and through the closing doors to make it on to a train; the Times Square obstacle course, a challenging attempt to make it across the busy intersection while dodging tourists; and, perhaps most challenging (and unnecessary) of all, the Penn Station Scramble.

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The Penn Station Scramble should be attempted only by experienced urban athletes or under the supervision of a trained Amtrak professional. Many travelers choose to warm up before the main event by getting to the station a bit early so they can spend 10 minutes or so convincing themselves to pay $12 for a soggy chicken wrap from Zaro’s Bakery. They then proceed to the playing field: a crowded subterranean hall with digital displays on either end announcing departure tracks.

Standing in the middle of this crowd anxiously eyeing these displays, you should find it easy to work up a sweat by the time it’s two minutes before your train is supposed to leave and its track has yet to be announced. All of a sudden, there it is! 7E! Time to show these suckers who’s boss. Jump over those roller bags! Use that upper-body strength to rifle through that tote bag for your ticket! Slide past those swinging backpacks! And don’t forget your form when you join the line at the gate in a manner you hope doesn’t look like cutting.

Sure, other transportation hubs have clearer directions or more easily navigable halls or more places to wait than a single underground pit of anxiety and confusion, but where’s the fun in that? If the universal popularity of high school gym class has taught us anything, it’s that everyone loves a little mandatory fitness.

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