Riding the Subway, From A to Z in 22:52:35 or Bust

Help Break the Record

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Share your knowledge of New York’s subways to help Adham James and Andy Fisher break the subway-riding record.

It’s an endeavor many train enthusiasts have dreamed about trying: ride every inch of a transportation network, traversing every subway line and station — and do it all, not in a week or a month, but in a day.

This week, Adham Fisher, 27, of Leicester, England, who manages camp sites during Formula One races, and his friend Andy James, a 36-year-old pharmacist from Bournemouth, England, began on-the-scene research into their attempt next Wednesday to break the Guinness World Record for riding the entire New York City subway system.

Both visitors are well versed in the competitive subway-riding world. Mr. Fisher established the record for riding Chicago’s rail network in 9 hours 30 minutes 59 seconds. Mr. James still holds the record for riding the entire London Underground in 16 hours 29 minutes 13 seconds.

But the task ahead of them in New York is more daunting. In 2009, two New Yorkers, Matthew Ferrisi and Chris Solarz, set the Guinness record for covering the city’s 468 subway stations in 22 hours 52 minutes 36 seconds; they credited a computer program that they devised. The previous record, set in 2006, was 24 hours 54 minutes.

Mr. Ferrisi, who has since moved to New Hampshire, said he would not mind trying again, but most likely at a somewhat more leisurely pace. During the nearly 23-hour trip, he said he had time only for two cups of coffee.

He was too busy chronicling his journey for Guinness, which involved taking time-stamped photographs of every station; getting a passenger to sign off each station they passed through; filming their journey by video; and live blogging part of the trip.

He suspects his record will be hard to top because the subway system has had so many service cuts, lengthening waiting times for trains.

“It was exhausting,” said Mr. Ferrisi, who is now trying to claim other records, like visiting as many countries as possible by rail in 24 hours. “This is not a record I think we’re going to come back and reclaim.”

At noon on Wednesday, Mr. Fisher and Mr. James did seem a bit in awe at their undertaking. They had arrived in New York the night before, and had ridden only four lines (the A, F, 1 and 2). Mr. James was still dragging his red suitcase through the system and buying his first MetroCard.

Mr. Fisher offered an immediate tip: a MetroCard can be swiped only once every 18 minutes. Their friend Hannah Brady, who came along to offer support, nudged them to share some of their strategies for winning.

“To be honest, I’m not expecting to break it on my first time here,” Mr. Fisher said.

As the pair headed down into the subway system, they seemed to gain more confidence. Mr. James described how he had broken records riding the London Underground by studying the exit locations of train doors and knowing how to rush to the next connection. He studied New York City subway transfer points on Google maps and on YouTube videos before he arrived.

Mr. Fisher worked out a strategy to ride certain parts of lines and explained how it wasn’t efficient to ride lines from end to end. By the end of the day, they had ridden a dozen lines and met with developers of an app to figure out how to plot their journey.

The two men have already learned the art of complaining about the New York City subway. Mr. Fisher said that for next week’s journey, he may bring extra MetroCards “in case something goes wrong with a swipe.”

He added, “I was stuck at Canal Street for 10 minutes after I allowed the turnstile to turn before I entered it, trying to take the 6.”

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