Last weekend Melissa Goldsmith ran 5km through all 32 London boroughs in two days. She picked a running buddy in each borough to guide her through their neighbourhood, before hopping on to public transport or travelling on foot to the next borough.
She started at 6am both days and ended late at night. In total Melissa covered 160km — roughly the length of the Circle, Bakerloo, Jubilee and Central lines combined.
This is a feat well beyond our athletic prowess, and it was for a good cause. We spoke to Melissa, as she recovers from this heroic effort.
What inspired you?
I was envious of hearing of challenges other individuals were doing, for example running the perimeter of Wales or running from Vancouver to Buenos Aires. But I could not commit to such long time frames. So I thought, 'well I live in one of the best cities in the world... surely I can use that to my advantage?' I was originally planning on 10km in every borough until I Googled the actual number of boroughs, and then I quickly scaled it down to 5km.
How did you handle things logistically?
Luckily London has some great transport options, when everything is working properly. It was simply a case of overlaying a map of the London boroughs on an actual map and figuring out how to do a 5km run in one borough which would end somewhere that I could easily make my way (via foot, train, or underground) to the next one. Of course, this also meant I was at the mercy of weekend timetables, which sometimes made me fall behind schedule. My rests were my travel times, where I would refuel and stretch.
Having a running buddy in each borough must have helped. Were there any boroughs where you couldn't find one?
I actually had only one borough where I ran by myself and that was Bexley. After a whole day's worth of talking to people it was a bit welcoming initially, but I struggled physically and it got very emotional. When someone else is around, you typically put on a brave face. When you are by yourself, you have nowhere to hide.
Did you learn anything about each borough as you ran through them?
My logistics team actually tweeted a fact I researched about each borough as I ran through it. I was also amazed at how much green space London really has. It was so surreal being in Redbridge in a lovely field and in the distance seeing Canary Wharf. Even my running buddies would profess to learning about a new park, common or open space they never knew about in their own borough.
Was there a favourite borough?
I liked bits of all of them actually, but in terms of nature I really enjoyed Hillingdon and Redbridge. Tower Hamlets was the best all rounder as I got Regent's Canal and lovely, leafy, Victoria Park. Southwark had the best ending because it concluded at Tower Bridge, one of my favourite landmarks in London.
I figured running the equivalent of four marathons in a weekend is a bit much, so I'm now scaling back down to half marathons in September. August is all about recovery and going back home to Buffalo, New York. Which incidentally has 32 different neighbourhoods... do I smell another challenge?!
Full details of the run and the route taken can be found on Melissa's blog.