In a brief deviation from usual proceedings here I recently had a discussion with Geoff Marshall.
Geoff Marshall is the current Guinness world record holder for for travelling around all 270 London Underground stations in the fastest time.
I first heard about Geoff’s challenge on a recent catch up of my backlog of Marathon Talk podcasts (my backlog went back to August, I’ve been busy).
Geoff completed the challenge along with Anthony Smith on the 16th of August 2013 but it took Guinness more than a month to verify it.
Once I looked into the Tube Challenge a lot more I became more and more interested in the attempt and decided that I needed to speak to Geoff about it.
So I recently conducted an interview with Geoff regarding the ins and outs of the challenge.
Steve: So, Geoff, when did you first get the idea to visit all the London Underground stations in the fastest time possible?
Geoff: I think it was always one of those that I’d known about in the back of my head. I read it as a news story in the paper years ago but it was probably when I stumbled across a fictitious novel called ‘Tunnel Vision’ about a guy who has to try and get around all the station on the day before his wedding. He has to complete this otherwise his future marriage is in jeopardy. On reading the book I thought “actually, I think I could have a realistic crack at this”. That was in 2002 and I’ve been doing it for 12 years since!
The book Tunnel Vision is by Keith Lowe and was released in 2001. Here’s the blurb from Amazon about the book:
Andy’s obsession with the London Underground is interfering with his life. On the eve of his wedding, he makes a drunken bet that challenges him to travel through every single Tube station in just one day. Only by completing the entire map will Andy retrieve the Eurostar tickets he needs to get to his wedding in Paris. At 1 AM, Andy’s fiancée, Rachel, will be on the Eurostar, with or without him. Not just an unpredictable story about one man’s peculiar passion, Keith Lowe’s exceptional debut draws us effortlessly along on a deeply personal journey through chaos, commitment, and love.
Steve: It’s not just all sitting on trains all day though is it, there’s a bit of running involved as well isn’t there?
Geoff: One of my BIGGEST grumbles (apart from the fact that people think I’m a trainspotter which I am not) is that people say “so you just sit on trains all day then?” They don’t realise that a lot of it is connecting from one end of a line to another. i.e. we get out at the top end of the Northern Line (Edgware) and run all the way to Stanmore (top of the Jubilee line), and there are MANY connections like that over the whole day that are essential. my basic speed guide is running a 5 minute kilometre. If people ask if they can join me I ask them if they can run that fast they’ve said “no!” I think we do about 15Km of running across the whole day, and that doesn’t involved any of the corridors or steps WITHIN stations when we make connections.
Steve: You also go to parkrun to keep fit as well. Which is your local parkrun and how long have you been going?
Geoff: Ha! yes. I love this. my local parkrun is Gunnersbury in south west london. A friend that runs suggested I go, so I looked up my nearest one. I thought their website was broken because there were no ‘previous weeks results’, but I went anyway – to discover that it was actually the inaugural event! So quite by chance i went to the first ever Gunnersbury parkrun, and it is super friendly and I have done the majority of my runs there since. That was October 2011. I have also run directed once, and volunteered several times since.
Steve: Your current, and successful, record attempt was your 25th go around the network. Have you come close before and what pushes you on to keep having a go?
Geoff: Just because we know what the perfect time is and yet something always seemed to fail on us and go wrong that put us behind. I have a bit of a rivalry with the guy whose time I eventually beat, and four times we came close but not quite. Then we DID beat it, only to discover that another guy (who also does parkruns!) had beaten it. But we were still confident that we could better that, and we did. When I am running up the slog of the hill at Gunnersbury between 3 and 4Km I often imagine that I am running to make an essential connection at Cockfosters. That often keeps me going! Ok that’s a joke – but it’s not a lie to say thay all my PB’s at parkrun have come from a determination to be fitter to enable me to get that world record. When we got the record time in August 2013, my parkrun times suddnely dropped off! No motivation, y’see…
Steve: Now that you’re the record holder are there any plans to have another go and beat your time or are you biding your time awaiting for some to crack your record before you have another go?
Geoff: Well I am not saying the current time is unbeatable, but i think it would be very hard. So I am having a charity attempt in a few week time when I am leading a group of 20 people around – but at a sedate pace – called “walk the tube”, no running involved!
If no one else beats the current time, the most likely scenario is that the the record will get a rest when the network/map changes. in 2017, there will be three new stations on the Metropolitan Line up at Watford and on the day that opens the record will be up for grabs again. I expect there will be a lot of people out there (myself included!?) on that first day having a go at the record. There is also talk of an extension of the Northern Line down to Battersea – again, that would reset the map and current record.
It was lovely speaking to Geoff and if he attempts the challenge again competitively I’d love to tag along if he’ll have me.
You can find out more about Geoff Marshall at:
And about his tube challenges at:
You can also find out about, and purchase, Geoff’s fantastic stationmaster app at:
Also you can visit Geoff at Youtube at his channel, check out his documentary Underground USA: