Run Every Street In Your City: One Guy's 4-Year Running Project

Looking for something other than a race? Try a running project. 

You know, like...

  • Go for a long run and hit every Taco Bell in a 30-mile radius
  • Recreate Dean Karnezes' pizza delivery experience in the middle of a long run
  • Run from point A to point B across your county like Rickey Gates
  • Run across the entire United States, or...
  • Run every street in your city...even if it takes you four years and 3,000+ miles

When self-described "fat guy runner" Robert O'Ferrell decided he was sick of being overweight and out of shape, he knew it was time to make a change.

But he never imagined the journey this tipping point would take him on.

Here's what happened...

Robert O'Farrell reached a tipping point about 7 years ago. After breaking up with his girlfriend, he decided to go for a run for the first time in years.

The tipping point lesson: Fail & keep going

Robert O'Ferrell wasn't in a good place.

He was overweight and out of shape. He didn't feel good. And things weren't getting any better.

"I was dating a bartender, and drinking a lot," says Robert. "Basically, I was hungover every day."

He wanted to make some lifestyle changes, but nothing seemed to stick:

  • He tried a Couch to 5K, quitting and restarting at least four times
  • He tried exercising at night, because he felt embarrassed about being the "fat guy" out running...and got stopped by police a few times while running in a black hoodie at night.
  • He thought about being 75+ pounds overweight A LOT.

And then one day, he just decided..."I'm doing this!"

He set his old-school stopwatch and walked for two minutes, the ran for 30 seconds.

That's how this unlikely journey for Robert began...

"I only know this in retrospect, and it's kind of weird," says Robert. 

"When you're trying to do something different, you usually have to fail so many times, until that new habit starts to sink in."

Inspired by ultrarunner Rickey Gates, Robert ran 57 miles across Multnomah County in Oregon on a hot, summer weekend in 2020.

The 'Run Across Your County' running project

"Hey, man. Where did you come from?"

I was running a 50-mile out-and-back solo run on a hot, summer day in 2020, when a runner wearing a hydration pack showed up running from the east side of Multnomah Falls...miles from anywhere.

"I'm running across the county," Robert said.

"Have you heard of ultrarunner Rickey Gates?" he asked me.

"He does these running projects like running every street in San Francisco. He challenged people to run across their county, so that's what I'm doing."

When Robert O'Farrell ran 57-miles across Multnomah County, he crossed paths with the author.

Robert's 'Run Across the County' route:

  • Day 1: Run from Cascade Locks to Troutdale, Ore.
  • Distance: 32 miles
  • Day 2: Run from Troutdale to the edge of Multnomah County in Portland, Ore.
  • Distance: 25 miles

We ran some miles after Multnomah Falls, and chatted about:

  • Running
  • Races
  • Robert's 'Run Across Your County' Challenge by Rickey Gates
  • COVID-19 craziness

A few miles west of Multnomah Falls, I pulled a stash of snacks and drinks out of the bushes that my wife had dropped earlier in the day, and then we parted ways. (Robert was kind enough to take a picture)

But after an hour-plus and some more miles, we happened to meet again in Parkdale, when I spotted Robert sitting outside a coffee shop.

"The girl who made my coffee was the nicest person," Robert said. "I tipped almost 100 percent. But this turned out to be the worst coffee I've ever had."

We had a good laugh about this kind of running...

  • Without aid stations
  • Without cut-off times
  • Without crew or spectators
  • Without finish-line fanfare

But full of curious things that's you never see or experience in a race or see whizzing by in a car.

And Robert was already chasing the finish line of another big running project...

After four years and 3,000_plus miles, Robert is nearly complete with a major running project: Run every street in Portland, Ore.

The Running Project: Run every street in Portland

When Robert watched the documentary of Solomon-sponsored ultrarunner Rickey Gates "Every Single Street" running every street in San Francisco, Calif., his mind started formulating a plan...

By now, he had already checked off a long list of races including:

  • 5Ks
  • 10Ks
  • Half marathons
  • Marathons
  • Ultramarathons

But it wasn't the same as going solo and exploring some place on foot...up close and personal.

"I started thinking, this could be a cheap and easy way to get some miles in without signing up for a race," Robert said.

"And what an interesting way to see the city of Portland. I've lived here all my life and I've probably only seen 5 percent of the city."

He got this idea in his head to create a running project like Rickey Gates.

  • The goal: Run every street in Portland, no matter how long it takes.

"I started thinking about this all the time," says Robert. "I was obsessed with the idea. I started planning out how to do it and where to start."

"Then I just decided to freelance it, go for a run in Portland, and keep track. It kind of evolved from there."

Robert created the running project 'Run Every Street in Portland," after watching a documentary about ultrarunner Rickey Gates run every street in San Francisco.

'Oh, the places you'll go...'

Back when Robert was overweight and out of shape, he never imagined where that voice inside his head would lead him:

  • You never know until you try
  • Just start, and see where it goes
  • It might suck at first, but who knows where this will lead
  • Give it a shot, you might surprise yourself

"On the very first day I started this, I ran down this alley near the Mississippi Street Fair in Portland," says Robert.

Star Wars alley...

"In the alley, this guy has these full-size Star Wars characters like Darth Vader and Strom Troopers, and they shoot smoke at you."

"I had no idea this even existed, and I thought, 'How many other things in Portland are there like this that I'm not familiar with?'"

Ever since then, he's been on a mission to find out...

He's seen things.

He's taken more than 8,000 photos.

And he's traveled on foot in many places "deemed" unsafe in Portland, only to meet kind, friendly, and generous people.

"I've always liked exploring places on foot," says Robert.

"It's something I've always kind of done, especially when I travel."

"When you walk or run, instead of hopping in a car or taxi, you see so much more. You get an idea of what a place is really like. You meet people, and you experience the sights, sounds and smells of what that place is like."

In a couple of months, Robert will complete the running project to run every street in Portland.

But that hardly means the end to adventuring.

"I've been toying around with running every street in another city," says Robert. 

"Maybe do something that's travel and running related. By August, I'll have a good idea of what running project I'm going to do next."

Robert plans to wrap up running every street in Portland within the next few months. And he's already dreaming of his next running project.

Fun facts about Robert O'Farrell

Strava

Instagram

  • @slipoker. What's the meaning behind the IG handle? It's a combination of his favorite band Slipknot and his former days as a semi-professional poker player. 

Favorite running shoes

Favorite running watch

Hydration pack

Fueling food & drink

  • For long runs, I aim for 150 to 300 calories per hour. I like Spring Energy gels, and real food as much as possible. Potato chips, bread, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, dates, nuts. And I usually drink Tailwind.

Favorite races

  • Elijah Bristow 12 & 24-hour run hosted by Go Beyond Racing. It's a one-mile loop with only like 60 runners. You get to know everyone on the course at some point. And you're always running with someone. It sounds terribly boring, but it's actually pretty cool, especially the aid station. You tell the cook, "I'd like a quesadilla," and it's ready the next time you come around.

Number of photos taken while running every street in Portland

  • Around 8,000

Longest run to date

  • 82.2 miles at the unofficial Ladds 500 in Portland, Ore. "Easily the dumbest thing I've ever done. But God was it fun at the end."

When you look back on running every street in Portland...

  • I get a little emotional. I started out just wanting to lose 20 to 30 pounds. I had no idea there was such a thing as ultramarathons. When I got started, I was struggling to run for more than 30 seconds. And now I've ran almost every street in Portland and done so many other fun project runs. 
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Evan Jensen
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I help RUNNERS reduce injuries, fix running form, run longer & faster by strength training without running ragged. I'm a NASM...

Comments

Michael Young I had a friend a few years ago do something similar, but he walked every street in New York City, as a vacation. He was inspired by a guy from France who has done Paris, London, and at that time a few other cities. It was neat because he posted what he had done each day and you could follow his worm route across NY.

Nick Kilpatrick For anyone interested in trying something similar in their hometown, CityStrides is a great tool to keep track of which streets you have already run: https://citystrides.com/

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