- Running All Streets
- Long Dumb Shit
Running All Streets
Done and dusted. I achieved this goal on 18 Oct 2022, being the first person to complete Brussels, as far as I can tell. After that was completed, I still spent some time cleaning up the map. Sometimes CityStrides marks a street as complete despite you not having run properly through it. This involved checking the map and looking for gaps in streets. I think I got everything significant.
Once that was done, I also ended up turning on CityStrides’ “hard mode”. It sounds fancier than it is. When trying to complete a street, it tends to offer you some respite from shitty GPS by counting a street completed as long as you ran by 90% of the nodes in the street. Hard mode turns that off and requires 100% of nodes. Flipping the switch forced me to redo about 1-2% of streets in Brussels. This was done in Feb-Mar 2023.
At some point after Brussels, I decided to start running the streets of Kraainem. This city is right up against Brussels (and, I imagine, would be part of Brussels in many other countries). All runs for it involved starting from my work, running about 6 km in one direction, doing some streets, and running the 6 km back. Kraainem is pretty small, so this was honestly finished relatively quickly. Compared to what I was used to from Brussels anyway. :)
What City Next?
I have been a bit lost in deciding what to do next. Everything requires rather dull out and backs. The distances to get anywhere get larger and larger too. Almost all the cities right up against Brussels also extend quite a distance away from Brussels. Their far sides require a straight out and back long run to reach.
Instead I have been chipping away at the closer parts of all of them. Just get my completion percentages up, try to move up in the rankings of each.
For recovery runs on days I have some time to waste, I end up biking about 11 km to Machelen. This smaller city next to Brussels provides an easier completion target — once I get there by other means.
With long enough runs from work, I can reach Drogenbos and Linkebeek. These two “cities” are tiny, so also an easy target if I can reach them.
Long Dumb Shit
At first the trips I had to make to get anywhere with these goals felt a little over the top and like a bit of a time sink. But with a clear goal in mind, i.e., making my heatmap cross Belgium, I justified their existence. At some point in the last 18 months, however, I got sort of addicted to them. Take the train somewhere, go for a run in a different environment, optional city sightseeing, take the train back.
I now lovingly call them my “Long Dumb Shit” Adventures, since I tend to only justify the effort for long runs.
To be clear, the goal here is not completing streets, just to make my heatmap look nicer and achieve silly goals in the process.
Cross Belgium: North-West to South-East
This goal was the first to spark my interest. I wanted to run across Belgium. One could do this more easily just going north to south, the shortest route. That felt a bit boring, so instead I wanted to connect the north-western point to the south-eastern point. That’s the Belgian-Dutch coastal border on the one hand and the Belgian-French-Luxembourgish tricountry point on the other.
The work on this started in earnest around March 2022 and became a real focus by September. The north-western side was relatively easy, the furthest I had to go by train was about an hour. The south-eastern side was more of a time sink. For the furthest parts the train takes around three hours. Those trips were a bit much. The final connection was eventually made on 26 November 2022.
I used the train for all of these, running between stations. It helped that one of the main lines in Belgium reaches from the coast through Brussels all the way to Arlon (actually even to Luxembourg, capital of Luxembourg!) in the south-east of Belgium. Once in the south-eastern side of Belgium though, I did need some regional trains too as the distances between stations got a bit far for what I wanted to run.
The Belgian Coast
After the main goal, I snuck in an easy one. Running the Belgian coast might sound like a feat if you do not know the geography, but it is only 65-70 km in length. I had already done some parts of it too, needing just another two runs to finish it. This was accomplished on 10 December 2022. I quite like how it looks, but it was not much work, so it is hard to really call it an achievement. Quite some sand running was involved, which is not the most pleasant.
Cross Belgium: North to South
When I came back to my Long Dumb Shit in February, I decided to make that north-south connection after all, realising I needed just four long runs. Guess how many weekends February has? Completed that goal by the end of the month. It felt more like a little extra to keep busy, never a real goal. Yes, by this point my weekend shenanigans had become the norm.
I went through Lier and Antwerpen just to connect runs there to my heatmap blob.
When I was nearing the end of my north-west to south-east connection, a colleague said the logical next step was to do all the other corners of Belgium. To sum them all up:
- Belgium-Netherlands-Coast: the north-west point I did.
- Belgium-France-Coast: other end of the coast, finished when running the Belgian coast.
- Belgium-France-Luxembourg: the south-east tricountry point I did.
- Belgium-Germany-Netherlands: north-eastern point, relatively easy to reach with a main train line from Brussels.
- Belgium-Germany-Luxembourg: eastern side of Belgium, northern tip of Luxembourg, bit harder to reach by public transport.
It’s that second to last one I eventually decided to focus on, though my mind was not really into it. At first anyway.
First weekend of May I did a first stage of this goal. A shorter forest route connecting Verviers to Eupen, adding a little sightseeing walking around in Eupen afterwards.
I then ran from Huy back to Namur, 30k of running along a river. Not ideal for shade, but a lot better than I had expected. Also something I accidentally did right that day: run on the side of the river where the sun is coming from, otherwise I think you also get the reflection of the sun on the water beaming against you.
Next another long run to connect Verviers to Liège. Ran out of energy and/or dehydrated on this one, not sure which, leaning towards the latter. The last few km were a struggle. A decent amount of it was in nature if I recall, so should have been shaded enough, but my body just did not take it well that day. A water fountain along the way that I was hoping to use was also not operational. I think I might not have had enough water before leaving home, so I started the run a bit dehydrated, making the water I had brought insufficient.
After that came running from Eupen to Aachen, which I talked about before. Remember how I said I was not into this goal? Well, by this point I was adding a weekend trip to make the connecting more pleasant.
All of the previous happened in May 2023. Then I took a little break from it until the end of June when I finally got around to connecting the final part: Huy to Liège. I had been dreading it a bit because it was also along the river and I was not expecting much shade. Summer had started in earnest so that was promising to not be pleasant. In the end the heat turned out alright, I must have gotten somewhat used to things. However, I did smash the big toe of my right foot on a rock that was jutting out and took a tumble. Some scrapes and the toe started looking purple and blue, but ended up alright for running. Either way, another connection made!
This final tricountry point one might be a goal for fall 2023. There is a train line that goes down from Liège that should get me close. I have not quite figured out how to go from the end of following that line to the actual tricountry point, but I will tackle that problem when I get to it. Let’s see what my motivation is by then.
- As mentioned, when it comes to city completion I am a bit all over the place for now. Just doing streets that are in reach. Try finishing the smaller “cities” when I have the time to reach them. This is likely to remain my approach.
- The last tricountry point is a goal now. How easily I will get there remains to be seen.
- When looking at it on a country scale, the map feels a bit empty. I have a mind of filling in the gaps with my long runs when I am not in the mood to travel half across the country. Just take public transport to somewhere closer by, do a loop, colouring in the map as I do so. Of course I have to ensure everything remains connected to the main blob in the process. I have started some of this near Dendermonde and Lokeren, as you can see on the final July 2023 map above.
- Related to the previous, I also want to get at least one finished street in all cities near Brussels. The definition of “near” will grow larger as I make progress with that goal.
- If at all possible, I want to connect every bit of heatmap I have to the main blob. That will be more something for when an opportunity to connect it arises.