Running Every Street

At some point in early 2020, I learned that there was a group of people who were dedicated to running every single street in the city in which they lived. The person who started this movement was Ricky Gates. Ricky ran every street in San Francisco in less than two months in late 2018.
In doing so, he championed the simple beauty and benefits of experiencing your local area in such a methodical way. Not just viewing a city from the window of a car, but truly seeing a city, street by street, mile after mile, on your own two feet.
It had been less than a year since I had moved to my latest apartment and the thought of getting to know my new home in this immersive way was appealing. Also, I recognized it would combine two of my favorite things: maps and being outside.
So I decided to run every single street in the city I called home: Elm Grove, Wisconsin. Calling Elm Grove a city is a gross overstatement. It is in fact a village, with a total area of 3.29 square miles. In short, a manageable place in which to run lots of streets.
Map of Elm Grove, Wisconsin. Four main roads create the boundaries of the city.
As I began to start researching how to make this happen, I came across CityStrides, the brainchild of James Chevalier that allows you to track running progress street by street across any city.
Getting it set-up required a simple connection to my favorite running app (Strava) and just like that I was able go out and run confident in the fact that I knew how many streets I had to run and exactly which ones remained as my running progressed.
Turns out, there are 143 streets in Elm Grove. Like I said, totally manageable.
My adventure started on March 17th.
The CityStrides forum had lots of posts and discussion around how to effectively run city streets whilst repeating as few streets as possible. There was math involved. It was too complex for me. So instead, each day I opened up CityStrides and Runkeeper and plotted a route that would knock off a few more streets. All said and done I probably ran way more than I needed to, but it felt more organic to me this way.
86 days later, I ran the last street in Elm Grove. In total, it was somewhere around 150 miles of running. With the exception of three runs, where I drove to a starting spot, every run began and ended from the front door of my apartment.
My 100% completed map of Elm Grove as seen on CityStrides
Now, if you are doing the math, this only averages out to 1.7 miles per day. To be clear, I did not run every day. The actual miles per logged run was 2.7. Regardless, this was not exactly an impressive physical feat. Especially compared to the city runs that Ricky and others have completed.
But I have to say, these were some of those most enjoyable runs I’ve ever been on.
More than the simple joy of being outdoors and exercising, I felt connected to the local area in a way that I’ve never experienced before. The people and the places they work, play and live became less abstract as time went on. The city itself felt tangible, alive. And with each street I ran, I felt I was a real part of it.
The charming little downtown stretch of Elm Grove
The School Sisters of Notre Dame Main Building
Elm Grove Village Park from the top of the sledding hill
Underwood Creek runs north to south through the heart of Elm Grove
Some of the houses in Elm Grove look castle-esque
My favorite little subdivision that borders the small pond on the left

Things I learned from this quest

There are numerous things I learned from this experience. Here is what I want to remember most.

  • Exploring a place on foot is so much more immersive than driving around in a car.
  • Every street has a different pulse. Sometimes that pulse is immediately obvious and other times it takes multiple trips to uncover it.
  • Sidewalks are underrated.
  • If you don’t see a street sign, chances are it’s a private driveway.
  • I would rather run slow with a curious mind than run fast with indifference. You only see what’s around you when you allow yourself to see.

A big thank you to Shannon, my running partner, who joined me on the vast majority of these runs and allowed me to share this experience with my favorite person ♥️

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