Most inhabitants of New York strive to spend as little time as possible riding the subway, but for Matthew Ahn, a nearly day-long trip was worth a Guinness World Record.
The 25-year-old lawyer visited each of the city’s 469 subway stations in 21 hours, 28 minutes and 14 seconds, knocking 21 minutes off his time last year despite riding on the summer’s hottest day. Ahn repeated his award-winning feat because the new station 34th Street-Hudson Yards opened after his last run, nullifying his first record.
“The subway is really the one connector in a city that is a lot more segregated than people think. It doesn’t matter if you’re working a minimum-wage job or if you’re making a million dollars a year: we’re all riding in the same subway car” Ahn tells the New York Times, who followed along to document his ride.
He was first inspired to try the challenge after getting a simple email. “I have a bit of a reputation for transit obsession amongst my friends” Ahn explains. “The first time I heard about this was in June 2014, when the previous record holders, a team of six British people, had their record validated. One of my friends emailed me a news link, adding only ‘Beat them.’”
So he set to work, pouring over maps and timetables and creating a spreadsheet to determine the fastest route. “Once I found one” he says, “I figured I might as well test it out at least once, and here we are, five runs later.”
Ahn started and finished the run in Queens — beginning at 2:02am at the Far Rockaway-Mott Avenue station and ending at the Flushing-Main Street station at 11:30pm — and ran about eight miles in between. Afterwards, the once-again Guinness World Record Holder headed for a diner where he ordered an open-face meatloaf sandwich and spanakopita and “ate far more of both than [he’d] care to remember.”
When asked about his favorite subway station, Ahn tells Lonely Planet: “I really appreciate Borough Hall in Brooklyn and Court Square in Queens, not because they’re necessarily convenient or beautiful, but because they are clunky and unwieldy stations that are difficult to navigate and poorly laid out. The NYC subway system used to be three systems before the merger in 1940, and so there were a lot of redundancies in terms of stop coverage that had to be dealt with somehow. As much as transferring at either station can be a hassle, the station complexes as they are laid out are an imperfect solution to an impossible problem.” Spoken from a true subway expert.