DON AND MATT COULD BE TOURISTS ON THE SUBWAY: TWO GUYS IN THEIR MID 20's, WEARING KHAKI SHORTS AND BACKPACKS, STARING INTENTLY AT MAPS IN THEIR HANDS.
IN SOME WAY THEY ARE--THEY'RE NOT FROM NEW YORK, THOUGH MATT NOW LIVES HERE. THEY MET IN COLLEGE IN VIRGINIA, AND DON'S IN LAW SCHOOL IN MICHIGAN. BUT THEY PROBABLY KNOW MORE ABOUT THE NEW YORK CITY SUBWAY SYSTEM THAN ANY NEW YORKER--468 STATIONS AND 660 MILES OF TRACKS: THEY'RE GOING TO GO THROUGH THEM ALL.
HOW DID THEY COME UP WITH THIS IDEA?
Don: We read stuff on Wikipedia a lot. And I guess one day I was going into stuff about the subway, lines in particular, and the idea came out of that. You know, I don't know, ideas sometimes pop in my head. SE: how did you get Matt to go along? Don: I suggested it! He thought it was the worst idea he'd ever heard, and he immediately agreed.
Matt: You know, its not totally out of left field for us. A couple of years ago we had a taco eating contest, where we each at 16 tacos Don: and a couple of other guys Matt: yeah, and a couple of other guys. And in order to break the tie there since we all ate the same amount, we went outside and took our shoes off and ran a mile race barefoot in the winter.
THEY STARTED OUT AT 6 AM IN ROCKAWAY, QUEENS. IT'S AT THE END OF THE "A" LINE, BY JFK AIRPORT--ALMOST AS FAR AS YOU CAN GO, AND STILL BE IN NEW YORK CITY. AT THAT HOUR, THE SUBWAY WAS DESERTED:
Matt: We got in a car and there was no one in the car and a Don just took a seat. And this guy came walking in the car. This guy comes walking on and he was wearing sunglasses, but only one lens in the sunglasses. And he walks up to Don and says 'excuse me that's my seat'. So Don gets up and lets him sit down. And no more than a minute passes before he gets up and walks back off the car. He's probably the weirdest guy, other than us, that we've come across so far.
I MET UP WITH MATT AND DON A LITTLE MORE THAN TWO-THIRDS OF THE WAY THROUGH THEIR RACE, AT A BROOKLYN STATION, AROUND 10 PM.
> subway sounds
THEIR TRAIN PULLED INTO THE STATION, AND THEY SPRINTED OUT, DOWN THE STAIRS, AND THEN BACK UP TO THE PLATFORM WHERE I WAS STANDING
Sarah: How are you guys doing? Matt: Good. Just got to do a little bookkeeping here.
MATT WRITES DOWN WHAT TIME IT IS IN A LOG BOOK: PART OF THE RULES OF THE RACE REQUIRE THEM TO RECORD THE DETAILS OF THEIR JOURNEY.
THEY'VE BEEN PLANNING FOR SEVERAL MONTHS--CAREFULLY STUDYING THE MAP AND FIGURING OUT THE FASTEST ROUTE. THEY EVEN TRAVELED TO ALL THE TRANSFER STATIONS TO SCOUT OUT WHAT TRAIN CARS TO BE IN TO BE CLOSER TO THE EXITS.
Matt: We went around to all the transfer stations. There's actually one we're coming up at that was a late addition to our route that we had to add in because of a service advisory. So that one we're not going to be sure about so we're just going to get in the middle car, jump out and take as quick a look as we can and start running.
THEY RUN AT ALL THE TRANSFERRED, BECAUSE EVERY MINUTE COUNTS... RIGHT NOW THEY'RE ABOUT HALF AN HOUR BEHIND THEIR SCHEDULE, WHICH HIS PLANNED OUT TO THE MINUTE:
Matt: We had delays on the 1 train up to Van Corltand park. When we got to the Franklin Avenue shuttle, we sprinted up the staircase only to have the doors close in front of our faces, and that cost us about 10 minutes. And in the schedule... We have about 70 minutes of wiggle room. Hopefully it will work out.
Ambi: That's the M, so we're getting on it. Yeah, good call!
Matt: I think deep down on some kind of subconscious level people do have a love for the subway- and that's really shown itself- I mean, no one today has thought we were total idiots. I mean, they thought we were kind of weird, and wondering why we were doing this, but others were like, oh, I thought of doing that myself sometime.
WE PASS OVER THE WILLIAMSBURG BRIDGE, TOWARDS MANHATTAN. WE CAUGHT A LIT-UP PANORAMIC VIEW OF THE NEW YORK SKYLINE
Don: There's the empire state building, Met life, chrystler building
THAT'S WHERE I LEFT THEM, AROUND MIDNIGHT. THEY WERE STILL RUNNING BEHIND SCHEDULE. I WENT HOME TO TAKE A NAP, AND GOT UP AT 5:30 TO MEET THEM IN THE BRONX AS THEY ENDED THE RACE.
> sound of 6 train [last stop on the line]
Don: Hey! How's it going! Funny seeing you here
DON'S A LITTLE DELIRIOUS AFTER 24 HOURS OF NO SLEEP. HE SAYS THAT A FEW HOURS BEFORE THE END, THINGS GOT A BIT SURREAL:
Don: just looping around in subways in Brooklyn like- No one's in the train, it was just very strange
SO, DID THEY BREAK THE RECORD?
Don: We made it, yea ... took us 24 hours and 2 minutes.
I SAID GOODBYE, AS THEY TURNED TO FACE A MINI MOB SCENE OF TV CAMERAS AND REPORTERS
Reporter: Hey Don, what did you learn about the subway system Don: It takes 24 hours and 2 minutes to ride it in its entirety. Reporter: and how are you feeling right now? Don: I'm very tired.
IN NEW YORK, I'M SARAH ELZAS
This piece appeared as a web special on the on August 26, 2006, edition of Weekend America
Producer: Sarah Elzas
Recorded in New York, NY
Editor: Bob Melisso