What? Why?!

The “what” bit is probably easier to explain so let’s start there.

There are a little over 6,000 streets in the city of Glasgow – defined by the local authority boundaries (which are quite ‘creative’ in certain places!). Obviously this number is constantly changing as new housing springs up so it’s a race against the map as much as anything else.

A website called City Strides logs my completed runs and ticks off the streets as I run up them. Distance wise, if I were to very neatly run every single street once I would clock up 1,138km. However, it isn’t that simple!

  1. My map reading skills aren’t brilliant, so I usually end up going back over the same street more than once trying to get to one I missed (this is improving)
  2. The so-called ‘Chinese postman problem‘ – how to efficiently get from one point to another while reaching every point on the route. It has something to do with polynomial time.
  3. Dead-ends result in running the same street twice, unless you can crawl through a wee hole in a fence to get to a nearby street. This means that particularly in new housing developments built for cars you end up running a lot of streets more than once. (to put that in context – if you could perfectly run every street just once the distance would be 1,138km – I’ve completed 50% of the streets so far but I’ve already clocked up 1,352km!!!)
How I’m planning the challenge

In the early stages I just ran everywhere I could near my house. This meant that runs got longer and longer because I had to run further to get to streets I hadn’t been on before. Eventually I realised I actually needed to start planning!

Each run I pick a section of the city and print off a map of where I still need to run. It’s then a case of trying to work out the most efficient route round all of those streets minimising duplication as much as possible.

Afterwards City Strides does all the work – syncing my GPS track to their database and logging the streets I have completed. This isn’t an exact science – especially in the city centre when tall buildings block the GPS signal. I’ve run the same lanes in the city centre three or four times to try to get the GPS signal to pick them up!

Why then?

Initially it was to (a) make good use of my daily permitted exercise during the first COVID-19 lockdown and (b) to give some structure to my random running about the city.

Then I came across Rickey Gates who had actually completed every single street in San Francisco and written widely about it. Many people were following his lead across the world, including a bunch of people in my own city of Glasgow.

After that it became as much of an adventure as a running challenge. While I can’t escape Glasgow to Scotland’s munros I could look at a map, plan a route and discover a part of my own city I didn’t know very well. Even parts of the city I did know well I learned new things about – hidden lanes around the west end or streets that are steeped in history in the east end.

Along the way I started to record photographs of my runs and wee bits of history of the area I was exploring that day. I started to speak to people I met along the way – usually wondering if I was lost because I was studying a map in a cul-de-sac housing estate. I’ve been writing down those conversations and the histories and am in the process of writing a book about this experience. More on that – hopefully – soon.