The Subway Challenge is a race to complete the entire journey of 665 miles of MTA track across 472 stations and it has been around for years. Many have tried to grab the record, but few have succeeded. It’s a fun–and to some, frivolous–challenge but one that requires the planning strategies of a field marshal trying to win a battle. How to predict delays? Interrupted lines? Work at stations? Weather events that disrupt schedules?
The current champion, New Yorker-turned-Swiss Kate Jones, took nearly a decade to give it a second try to break the previous record time of 21 hours, 28 minutes and 14 seconds, held by Matthew Ahn.
On April 17, 2023, Jones made a record time of 22 hours, 14 minutes and 10 seconds. That may seem like it’s around an hour longer than Ahn’s 2016 record, but that’s because the MTA has since added three new Second Avenue stations on the UES, explained Gothamist.
Why did Jones do it? “I wanted a problem to solve that would be interesting for my brain, but also like something that would get me moving physically,” she told Gothamist. The planning was no easy task, and it took her months to work out how she could complete the challenge with the fastest time and the least number of repetitions.
And though Jones still holds the record, a newcomer has already tried to give her a run for her money. Daniel Wells, a resident of Queens, set out to take the title from Jones on Wednesday, May 17th, just a month after it was set.
However, after running into some delays, Wells wasn’t able to surpass Jones’ record. He ended up finishing with a time of 23 hours, 27 minutes and 9 seconds. “In the end, the MTA is gonna MTA, it’s New York, it’s crazy, weird things happen,” Wells said in a statement to Gothamist. “A lot of it’s just luck.”
When Gothamist spoke to the previous record holder, Ahn said: “I’m glad that folks are still interested in the record! I really believe in the fundamental frivolousness of it, in a good way,” said Ahn. “And I think that’s maximized when there are lots of folks interested in trying to break it.”