Team of three takes on "L Challenge" - and nearly wins prize

A few weeks ago, Andrew Karas wrote me to say he and two friends were going to attempt the "L Challenge" - riding the entire length of every rail line in the shortest amount of time possible.

I wrote extensively in May about Adham Fisher's journey -- or shall I say, he wrote about it, in great detail. Adham finished in 9 hour, 36 minutes and 33 seconds. Andrew and friends came close to that.

Here are a few details from their voyage, including their itinerary. Adham guarded his itinerary late a British state secret, interestingly enough.


There were three of us, Andrew--me--Grace, and Ryan. We made our trip in about 9:57, counting from the time the first train doors closed to the time the last train doors opened. We also have a list of arrival times at every station on the route, if for some reason that might be interesting.

Briefly, our route was as follows: On at Ashland/63rd at about 9:40 AM, change at Garfield for Cottage Grove, back to Roosevelt, then catch 54B bus (Cicero) at Midway, walk from Cermak & Cicero to 54th/Cermak, ride to Clinton, then to Harlem/Green Line, walk to Forest Park, ride to O'Hare, return to Jefferson Park to catch 81 (Lawrence bus) to Kimball, ride all the way around the Loop and change to Purple at Belmont, quick ride up to Linden, return to Howard, out and back on the Skokie Swift, finally the entire Red Line. We arrived at 95th/Dan Ryan just after 7:30. We had enough to time in the evening left to go get Chinese food afterwards.

All in all, it was a successful and well-executed effort. I think we would have gotten very close to the record if Ryan hadn't had leg surgery beforehand, and we seemed to strike out waiting for trains three or four times in a row, showing up at the turnstile as the train pulled away.

We found some lovely Chicagolanders on the El, some funny for the wrong reasons, but some worth mentioning. There were a couple of guys at Skokie who looked like they had never seen a train before, but who weren't uncomfortable opening 24 oz cans of Heineken Lite and lamenting a recent unsuccessful wooing attempts.

We had a chance to help some highly Chinese Chinatowners find their way to the Orange Line, but we had our confidence shaken when a concerned fellow rider sharply reminded us they were looking for the Red Line. Hopping between cars also proved very popular. On the South Side Elevated especially, a bunch of people casually opened the end door and walked across to the next car. Apparently the danger sign isn't scary enough.



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  • Kevin, what happened with the Claypool meeting?

  • In reply to mikep621:

    Mike: I'm collating up my notes and hope to have a post or two very soon on the Claypool interview.

  • At least these folks said what their route was. However, they are like goroo, in that all the sudden there's a jump between Roosevelt and the 54B bus. I guess one can iterate that the Orange Line was involved there.

    As I implied that last time, apparently using buses is legal, but still no explanation why these people walked between Harlem-Lake and Forest Park instead of taking the 318 bus (or 307 to Harlem-Congress and the quick L ride to Forest Park). Is there something in the rules that you have to be like Frank Kruesi and Ron Huberman and claim not to know that Pace exists?

    Also, relevant to the issue of time, why did they ride around the Loop on the Brown just to transfer to the Purple (presumably express) at Belmont? I suppose there might have been a "ride the whole line" rule, but they transferred from the Pink inbound at Clinton to the Green outbound. Obviously, they could have gone through the station to change platforms to get to the northbound Red or Purple at Belmont, and (depending on how the westbound Green Line train is scheduled) saved a minute or two by transferring between Pink and Green at Ashland (although I am not sure whether one could stay in the paid area of the station there).

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    Hi, we did ride the Orange between Roosevelt and Midway--I was trying to shorten the details of the ride to just the necessary points, so I'm just clearing that up. As for the walk in Forest Park, it's only 1.2 miles (about fifteen minutes for us, much faster without the leg injury). That bus comes every thirty, so we should have expected a fifteen-minute headway and at least a five-minute ride. We didn't encounter the southbound bus during our walk, so we made the right/lucky choice at that particular time. Also, the one-stop ride if we had bused to Harlem-Blue would have probably lost us time. By walking southwest on DesPlaines, we saved the several-minute wait time, and the distance wasn't all that much greater (think Pythagorean Theorem). Maybe next time... And to the last point--we only had to ride around the Loop once, so we chose to do it on the Brown Line. The link between the Loop and Merch. Mart is shorter than that to Clinton or to Roosevelt, so it seemed like the best option. We knew we could change to the Purple Line at any point after joining the Main Line at Clark Junction, and for no particular reason we waited until we had gone all the way around and returned to Belmont for a second time. I realize that had we switched at, say, Belmont the first time we passed it rather than the second, we would have achieved the same result (Purple isn't express until north of Belmont). Obviously we couldn't change trains in the Loop because Brown is CCW and Purple is CW.
    For rules, we were following the rules as we understand them from the London Tube Challenge, minus the stuff about certifying the record.
    Overall, this was the best route we could come up with. But I don't know it was the fastest possible; I think you could get very different results based on your start/end locations. For example, for awhile we were planning to begin at Kimball and end at O'Hare. I'd love to know if somebody knows what works best!

  • I get your point about the Pythagorean theorem and the headway on the 318, although the headway is not so bad on the 307. Come to think about it, 305 is also available between Harlem Lake and Forest Park.

    Also, thank you for saying what your route was and having a link to the rules (which the last guy wouldn't do). However, since the rules deal with London, the relevant parts are that "All of the stations served [by London Underground] trains must be visited." and "It is not necessary to cover every stretch of track on the network." Since they are talking about a record of hitting 275 stations, and the train has to stop at each station, I guess that does explain having to go around the Loop and transferring at Clinton. Clockwise or counterclockwise would be relevant only if you transferred at Clark and Lake (through the Thompson Center) and didn't hit every station. Therefore, it is not just stopping at all terminals.

    Also apparently relevant is "It is necessary for a through train to stop at the station for the visit to count," which means that you couldn't ride the Purple Line each way, although the train stops at Howard, a station on the Red Line. "Feet or public service transport may be used to transfer from one underground line to another. The use of private motor vehicles, taxis or any other form of privately arranged transport (bicycles, skateboards, etc) is not acceptable." puts my idea of taking the Airport Bus between Midway and O'Hare on hold.

    Heck, if the Red Line from Howard had one of its "Express between Morse and Bryn Mawr" unscheduled runs to avoid bunching, you would have been disqualified.

  • I may have to come out of retirement...

  • ibright: Adham is waiting.

  • In reply to Kevin O’Neil:

    That gets back to Adham having to verify what he did. The rules at least state that witnesses have to start and stop the master stopwatch.

    Of course, the question is who is the verifying authority for the Chicago version. For instance, by not disclosing the route, we don't know if he hit all stations.

  • Adham is waiting indeed. I have only just found out about this. Well done with that time, Andrew and colleagues.

    I included a link to the New York Subway record rules in Part 2 of my account, but when it was published here it went to the wrong place. I therefore put a link to the rules in a comment, as did someone else. Evidently, it was overlooked.

    This is a reason why I gave no clues about my route. These people managed a fast time with theirs, but if they had followed mine, they might have beaten me. It seems to have turned into a little competition now.

    As I said before, verification for this is irrelevant because Guinness World Records will only consider official records for London and New York. I had not the slightest intention of submitting anything about the L to them and still don't. Andrew and his friends kept a logbook, but there was no point in asking witnesses along because Guinness would turn down this record claim.

    Anyone can disclose a route, but it doesn't mean they executed it. Hence the proof demanded in the rules. Of course, I did not follow all the rules because no official record was being attempted, and I thought no one would care, but three people did so enough to have a go themselves. I have photographs of all stations from when I did it and anyone who wants to look at them may, but they will be in alphabetical, rather than chronological, order.

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