The RunTheMetro Project

During our weekly hash run tonight, a fellow hasher asked me if I was documenting what I was doing over the winter, specifically my quest to visit each and every 38 Metro Link stations in the St. Louis metro region. Even more specifically, running from my house in Dogtown to every station. I’ve been posting my runs on Strava, as well as faithfully taking a selfie as soon as I arrive at each station. But I hadn’t spent much time reflecting on this very dumb mission until now.

I guess I had this idea sometime in the fall, I can’t recall when I first thought of doing it. But as a kid growing up in North County, when the Metro Link opened on July 31, 1993, I am pretty sure Dad took us for a ride on the train the first day it was open. I took many rides from our home in Country Club Hills to my high school (SLUH). UMSL South to Central West End was a route I got to know well. In the many years since then, I’ve ridden the train on many occasions, down to the Cards game, a trip home from the airport and whatnot. But like many people, I rely on my car to get around. I really forgot about this fantastic asset we have here. And what better time than coming up on the 30th anniversary!

There are 38 stations spread across the metro area, from Lambert Airport at its furthest West, all the way to Shiloh-Scott in the East. There are two main lines, the red which runs between the airport and Shiloh. Then the blue line from Shrewsbury to Fairview Heights. When I first planned this, I sat down with a spreadsheet, put every station in a list, then google mapped in walking mode the route from my home to each station and marked down the distance. The closest station is Skinker at 1.7 miles from home – my home station for this pursuit. The furthest is Shiloh at just over 30. In between is a pretty good progression of stations, a gradual increase that looked to me like a pretty damn good training plan for a…marathon?

I saw that the St. Louis GO! Marathon was happening April 2nd, and so I thought I’d go ahead and register for it as a big old carrot floating out in front of me keeping me motivated to do this. So here we are. I did my first run on November 1st, heading down to Shrewsbury, a modest 2.8 mile run from home. I did my 24th run yesterday, 10.3 miles to Terminal 2 of the airport. (Longest run so far is 16.4 miles to Fairview Heights.) I am not going in any particular order, mixing in shorter stations with longer ones when I have some extra time. For the most part, I run to the station, take a selfie, then get back on the train back to Skinker station, where it’s a relaxing 1.7 mile walk back home on the edge of Forest Park. (It’s not mandatory to take the train home, I’ve planned routes to a station then get alternate transport home, like going to a SLU basketball game or attending other events nearby.)

14 stations remain. Among them are the five I dread the most – Memorial Hospital, Swansea, Belleville, College and Shiloh-Scott. All of these are between 20 and 30 miles from home, and I pretty much have to follow the same route to get to all of them. It will be boring for sure, but I am kind of excited that from Fairview Heights station, already completed, there is a dedicated running/bike path that parallels the Metro line most of the way to the rest of the stations. St. Clair and Madison Counties have some pretty amazing trail systems! The goal is to finish all the stations by the marathon happening on April 2nd, but if that’s too ambitious, I’m not against getting in a run or two after that.

Massive knock on wood, but the closest call I had in terms of unwanted contact with motor vehicles was two blocks from home and a small SUV turning a corner without stopping and just missing me, but other than that, no incidents, no harassment or otherwise harrowing experiences. I am almost always in sight of at least one, many times multiple security personnel both on the trains and on the platforms. For tickets on the train, I downloaded the Transit app, bought a handful of tickets that require validation at the time of boarding. But admittedly, I haven’t validated a ticket after my first few runs and I haven’t been asked to show a ticket once in all my rides. I don’t have a good sense of how many people actually pay for rides or ride for free, who’s to say? There has got to be a better way of ticket enforcement than the prospective 57 million dollars planned to install turnstiles/gates at every station that’s under consideration. One of the awesome and unique things about our train system is the open platform/boarding style. I don’t know about all that, that’s for smarter people than myself to figure out.

Anyway, since I’ve started this, many days when I’d normally hop in the car to drive downtown, central west end, SLU or other places, I just take 20 minutes to walk to Skinker and hop on the train instead. Both driving and leaving a car unattended in St. Louis has unfortunately gotten pretty risky lately, and I find riding the train a pretty safe and reliable alternative. And hey, sounds like we’ll have a new North/South line running up and down Jefferson in the coming years. Guess I’ll have to pick up the Metro Link challenge again when it opens.

Here’s to 14 more!


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