If you’re the form of one that’s liable to travel-inspired FOMO, you in all probability shouldn’t comply with ultrarunner Rickey Gates on Instagram. Here’s a random sampling of the locations the place he’s logged miles over the previous few years: the Canary Islands, the Japanese Alps, Uganda, New Zealand, Alaska, Ireland, the South Pole. Globetrotting isn’t a contest, but when it had been, Gates would win.
Recently, although, he’s made a acutely aware effort to maintain his wanderings nearer to house, comparatively talking. Last yr, over the course of 5 months, he crossed the United States on foot—4,000 miles from South Carolina to California. The impetus for the journey wasn’t to set a velocity document, à la Pete “13,000-calories-a-day” Kostelnick, however to take his time and develop into higher acquainted along with his personal nation. “It’s become increasingly popular to get on an airplane and fly halfway around the world for a running experience,” Gates says. “But I would argue that most people don’t know their own backyard all that well.”
For his subsequent undertaking, Gates desires to run every single street in San Francisco—a distance of over 1,200 miles. The tentative timeframe is mid-October to round Thanksgiving. But, true to his freewheeling fashion, Gates isn’t too involved about sticking to a hard and fast schedule. As Gates sees it, working each road of a significant metropolis is a logical follow-up to final yr’s cross-country trek. The spark got here whereas he was recovering from the journey at his girlfriend’s house within the Berkeley Hills a couple of yr in the past. Coming off the good loneliness of the street, he was conscious about being again in a densely populated house, surrounded by thousands and thousands of nameless lives.
“The idea came to me to do a similar journey as my run across the country, but concentrated in a very small area that’s arguably every bit as diverse,” Gates says. “Knowing a very thin line of a vast expansive place is one way to understand a large population, but getting to know where the masses congregate, i.e. cities, is equally as important,” he provides.
From a logistical standpoint, chopping a skinny line throughout the nation may be much less daunting than determining methods to navigate a whole city grid with most effectivity. Since there are a close to infinite variety of methods Gates might go about overlaying all of San Francisco, optimizing his route might doubtlessly save him tons of of miles. For that purpose, he says he’s reached out to a few of his mathematically gifted buddies to assist him along with his planning. Gates cited the Chinese postman problem and the Eulerian path as 2 distinguished examples from graph principle that have interaction with the same problem. (The latter could also be acquainted from these nifty puzzles, the place the target is to hint a given form with out lifting your pen from the paper or drawing the identical line twice.)
Gates isn’t the primary individual to plan a trek like this in San Francisco, but when he succeeds, he’ll actually be the quickest. In 2010, Tom Graham, a former editor and author for The San Francisco Chronicle, documented his personal quest to hike the whole metropolis in an article for the paper. To accomplish the feat, Graham estimates that he walked someplace between 1,500 to 2,000 miles, on and off, over a seven-year span. In another Chronicle article from the identical yr, Graham notes that, to his information, solely 2 different individuals had allegedly finished it earlier than—each of whom took a minimum of 5 years.
As he did on his cross-country run, Gates plans to rigorously doc the journey by taking copious pictures and recording footage, which his sponsor Salomon will become a movie. Overall, the undertaking appears like an train in city anthropology—which is how Gates appears to be approaching it. “I kind of feel like I owe it to the public to share this experience,” he says. “I have this unique ability and opportunity to take on these projects that most people either can’t do for physical, time, or money reasons. I will be taking diligent notes, photographing on a daily basis, and accumulating as many portraits as I can.”
On the 1 hand, it’s smart to be cautious of people who cast their fun adventures as a form of quasi public service. This is particularly true when these persons are skilled recreationalists. But there’s a disarming sincerity in Gates’s pursuits, and an absence of self-importance. Maybe it’s that unobtrusive ultrarunner demeanor, nevertheless it feels plausible when, as an illustration, he says that one of many welcome discoveries of his cross-country journey was to search out that we’re not as inconsolably divided as cable information rage-fests would possibly indicate. Or perhaps it’s that Gates is sufficient of a weirdo that his stunts don’t come off as gimmicky or contrived. An Instagram post of the stranger in Arkansas who gave Gates an unsolicited $160 comes scorching on the heels of a roadkill pic titled, “Armadillo abstract, Highway 64.”
Even when you aren’t seduced by Gates’s inventive imaginative and prescient, it’s simple to understand the impulse to do one thing completely different at a time when so many hardcore endurance feats may gain advantage from slightly creativity. Completing the “Badwater Quad” (working the 135-mile extremely by way of Death Valley 4 instances in a row) is spectacular, however, as an idea, it’s additionally fairly boring. And don’t get me began on the World Marathon Challenge, which involves running seven marathons in seven days on seven continents—and prices contributors $40,000 to participate.
The World Marathon Challenge is essentially the most excessive iteration of motion towards vacation spot working that Gates appears to be subtly pushing again towards—even when his personal current far-flung exploits have contributed to the development. But fairly than being a scold to the jet-setter working crowd, Gates is extra taken with assembly individuals in his native setting and listening to their tales. Running and strolling, it seems, generally is a fairly useful means to that finish.
“When you’re on foot, you’re just assuming a much more humble and vulnerable position,” Gates says. “Sometimes that can be all it takes to really break down a lot of barriers between our fellow humans.”