First FNC Attempt 30-07-22

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First FNC Attempt 30-07-22

Post by Ally »

TL;DR failed to complete. Two fires, one at Queen's Park and another at Camden Town, set us back almost 90 mins in total, ruining our chances. 252 in around 17hrs. Very proud of our planning and effort, but foiled by extremely bad luck and a lack of flexibility on dates.

The full report:

After a stay in the Rickmansworth Premier Inn, our team of 3 started on the 0600 from Chesham. I realised that it was more efficient to start on the second train rather than the first and it was a LOT easier to get to. We'd planned a Labyrinth route with only small modifications, attempting on the weekend because it was the only time we were all free.

The first few hours were steady but not perfect. Our train was running 2 mins late into Watford and we had to watch our double-back connection leave as we pulled in. Same at Preston Road but that time it was the return train that departed a minute early.

A 4-minute delay at Preston didn't seem like much at the time but it snowballed into a 40-min setback. We sprinted from Northwick Park to Kenton but narrowly missed our Bakerloo connection to H&W. Since the Overground was struck out we resorted to Plan B: run to H&W. All of us are fast runners so this was our tactic for most tricky connections as you'll see. We made it in 9 mins but again missed a train by a minute or two (+15 mins). The next two Bakerloo departures were cancelled (+15) and delayed (+5) then held at Willesden Junction because of a fire on the line (+8). My favourite quote from a driver on the day, to the whole train: "I'm afraid you can't get a bus as there aren't any; you can't get the Overground because of the strikes; and a taxi will cost a fortune since we're nowhere near central London... so you're pretty much stuck here."

Over an hour behind our "perfect run" we were determined to catch up some time. We chose to back our pace from Borough to Southwark, stairs and all, triumphantly beating the London Bridge connection by one train. We booked it through West Ham, making a few enemies and a c2c with seconds to spare.

In high spirits, we remained on sub-17hr pace for some time after this. Highlights include
  • a 14-min connection on foot from Brixton to Battersea (keeping things simple),
  • flawless lunch delivery at Clapham North,
  • visiting my first tram stop but having to run the whole Morden-Wimbledon interchange due to tram delays (+2 mins),
  • making our target Wimbledon train anyway with a slightly shorter toilet break (-2 mins!),
  • first time at Ken O!
  • and a perfect Hainault loop after some last-minute train switching (<1 min at both Hainault and Woodford).
Fatigue and heat were starting to take their toll, though. The Snaresbrook-Walthamstow run was a few mins slower than planned. When it came to our next OSI at Edgeware we opted to fill up our water bottles (thanks to the helpful station staff) and wait for a Stanmore bus (+10 mins). Our hopes of sub-17 were slipping away but sub-18 was still up for grabs. Back into Zone 1 and out again to Finchley Central before the killer blow struck.

We got on a late Mill Hill East train and sat for another 10 mins before the driver informed us that there was a second fire, this time at Camden Town, and the entire High Barnet branch was shutting down. He couldn't go on because the train parked on the single platform at MHE had nowhere to go.

So we ran. Again.

Knowing that 18hrs was also now under threat, we forged ahead on foot. Firstly to meet that parked train where we chatted to an equally-frustrated driver ready to go any... minute... now, then across to West Finchley once we realised that he wasn't going anywhere soon. Finally we got word of trains moving again and got a short rest before tackling the Cockfosters interchange. We quickly realised there were no buses coming to our rescue. Along with smaller delays here and there due to a burst water bottle, a wrong turn worth 1.5km of hills and consultations with the Guinness rule book (did I mention we were trying for an official record?) we ended up running over 10km and ticking off only 6 stations in 90 minutes.

At Cockfosters we got wind of further delays and trains only every 15 mins. When one finally arrived we knew we were screwed - it was too late to complete. Our remaining support crew and witnesses were already arriving at Acton Town for the final leg. It wasn't a difficult decision to stay on the train and keep them from waiting any longer. To their massive credit, some of the group travelled up the Piccadilly to meet us earlier and persuaded us to continue to Heathrow.

We had to laugh when our train to T4 was cancelled.

Total distance run: ~40km / 25 miles
Total water consumed: 5 litres each
Max temperature: 32°C
GoPro overheated 6 times

Loved almost every second of it and learned a lot. We fully intend to try again.

Please share any feedback if you have it. Was it stupid/naïve of us not to take the first Chesham train? Did the NR strikes doom us from the start? Were we exceptionally unlucky or do these delays happen on FNCs all the time? What about the validity of weekend attempts now that the record has been reset?
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Re: First FNC Attempt 30-07-22

Post by al »

Great write up. Your enthusiasm for running makes this particular challenger quite envious! You're not exceptionally unlucky, just averagely so. That first train out of Chesham has awful connections so I never consider it for a time sensitive attempt. Losing out on Overground trains does obviously hamper you potentially at Kenton, as you found out, but I wouldn't say it was an absolute no, especially if it was that day or not for ages. As someone with over twenty attempts under their belt, I look forward to hearing about your next go :)
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Re: First FNC Attempt 30-07-22

Post by jrparkin »

Are you allowed to suspend your challenge at any point and resume the next day? I'm surprised Guinness let you do it on a Saturday I thought they didn't allow it because it was 'too easy'
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Re: First FNC Attempt 30-07-22

Post by Ally »

jrparkin wrote: 01 Aug 2022, 11:47 Are you allowed to suspend your challenge at any point and resume the next day?
There's nothing stopping us from going back now and ticking off the remaining stations (so long as we don't use private transport during the break), but the clock would have to keep running and I personally have no interest in a 24hr+ completion time.
jrparkin wrote: 01 Aug 2022, 11:47 I'm surprised Guinness let you do it on a Saturday I thought they didn't allow it because it was 'too easy'
You're absolutely right - they've disqualified weekend attempts before. However that was partially because the existing record at the time was done on a weekday and it was an unfair advantage (but is it really?). With the record reset, they seemed not to have an issue with us attempting on a Saturday. This might be the new standard going forward.
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Re: First FNC Attempt 30-07-22

Post by RJSRdg »

Provided you can find a weekend with no engineering works, I think there is (or was?) an advantage to doing the Challenge on a Saturday, as the Olympis service is/was every 20 minutes as opposed to 4x a day.
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Re: First FNC Attempt 30-07-22

Post by Golf »

RJSRdg wrote: 01 Aug 2022, 18:45 Provided you can find a weekend with no engineering works, I think there is (or was?) an advantage to doing the Challenge on a Saturday, as the Olympis service is/was every 20 minutes as opposed to 4x a day.
i think ur find its 9 times a day?
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Re: First FNC Attempt 30-07-22

Post by Lunaticonthegrass »

Not taking the first train of the day will reduce your chances of completing, however I believe it's a common trick to start on a slightly later train if you want a really good time. I don't think it was a stupid idea.

National Rail strikes might have had some effect, but since the vast majority of trains used in an FNC are not National Rail I wouldn't say it was doomed from the start. Ideally don't attempt when there are strikes but you mention that you were limited with your choice of dates.

Delays happen in almost every FNC, however 2 fires in 1 day strikes me as particularly unfortunate.

I'm not going to start the discussion about validity of an attempt on a weekend.

A really enjoyable read. Good luck with your next attempt!
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