the guinness record strategist

so here’s something i’d never imagine would happen: i helped plan a guinness world record route through the berlin u-bahn!

backtrack to 2014, our last year in berlin. i’d been toying with the idea of having a go at visiting all the ubahn stations in one day, inspired in our friend’s matt race of the shanghai metro. matt, of course, had all the experience of building an interactive map of the metro there. me, on the other hand, had some time on my hands and my monthly pass. so i made a plan that sounded doable and posted about it on a british tube-enthusiasts forum asking for advice. and then one day, adham replied… and things got serious.

adham is one of the most motivated people i’ve ever met — ever. he’s single-minded in his obsession of racing the metro systems of the world, and this has earned him 3 guinness records for cruising a city’s metro network in the least amount of time, using only public transportation. he had had his eyes set on berlin for a while, so one day in september, we met, went over the plans, refined the route, and gave it a go.

turns out, i was great at planning, but crap at actually doing the thing… which surprised no one, and was fine with me. adham though, much more enthusiastic and serious about it, patiently beared with my attempt and then gave it a go at full speed the next day. he broke the previous record by a short bit, after a harrowing last few minutes in which the train inexplicably stopped before the station, dragging itself and our nerves on its way. but it was glorious!

the guinness people weren’t very sympathetic though, and demanded (for the first time in the history of these records) a full video record of the whole 7-hour endeavour… on top of photos, witness statements, independent time trackers and meticulous timetables.

well, that was a bummer, i thought. but did that stop adham? of course not! fast forward to a few months ago, when he laced his shoelaces again and, after rewriting the route, spent the day redoing the whole thing, this time with a camera strapped to himself. the result was a remarkable 6:53:24 lap — a good bit short of our first attempt! hurray!

this happened more or less when we were in finland earlier this year, and i wasn’t paying much attention to the proceedings. so imagine my surprise when we randomly noticed this news bit on the berlin metro last august, completely by accident:

“oh look, that’s adham, he did it!!”, said paulo. and then “oh, and he mentions you!!”

whoa! we were so caught by surprise that i made paulo ride the metro a few more stops back and forth just so we could catch the news clip again. :D and because we were going to london after berlin, we caught up with adham for the tales of this adventure. we chatted for a while at a starbucks, and adham showed us the record which he had brought along, which was pretty cool.

hurray! congratulations adham!

as unlikely as it was, i’m glad this happened and that i went along with it. i feel that sometimes the best adventures are the ones where we go off through uncertain paths and dare to explore beyond your comfort zone. and hurray for public transportation as well — it’s still one of the things i miss the most from berlin.

ps – adham’s latest adventure on the london buses.

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