Pounding the grid’s streets

By David Schout

Inspired by ultrarunner Rickey Gates’ 2000km effort of running every single street of San Francisco, Craig Roberts tried his hand at the Hoddle Grid.

On a sleepy Labour Day Monday morning, as Melbourne recovered from a night of festivities and overindulgence, Roberts set out to criss-cross the CBD.

Training for a sixth marathon, Gates’ adventure instantly struck a chord.

“I thought, that’s pretty cool, that’s an interesting way to bring some variety into your running and training with a purpose,” Mr Roberts said.

His first effort at the #everysinglestreet challenge – now attempted by runners worldwide who share their GPS tracking for legitimacy – was in his local area of Essendon. 

“It was nothing like running 1200 miles through San Francisco like (Gates) did, but it was just something to break up the training. Then I thought the CBD’s nice, it’s self-contained. So I roughly measured it out and it was about 30kms. I’ve lived in Melbourne my whole adult life and there’s no part of Melbourne CBD I haven’t been to, so I thought it was a good mini-goal to set.”

So at about 8am on the quiet Monday morning, Mr Roberts set off from the corner of Flinders and Collins streets.

His theory was to do the longer stretches of the grid first (down Flinders St, back up Flinders Lane, down Collins St, and so on), and then tackle the shorter sides (down Spencer St, back up King St, down William St, etc.).

“There’s a mathematical way to do it. You’re always doubling up a little bit, but I think that was the most efficient way,” he said.

“I think Rickey Gates said you can’t really do better than 120 per cent efficiency – you always have to cover some ground twice. Particularly if I’d have attempted the laneways in between the grid, then I would’ve been doubling up all over the place. So I just tried to keep it simple.”

His 29.4 km effort took him two hours and 43 minutes.

And while the run was another training box ticked, he got more than he bargained for in parts of the CBD.

“To be honest it was fairly gritty. A fair bit of Melbourne looked pretty hungover on the [Labour Day] Monday. We all know that different parts of Melbourne have different feels about them.”

“For instance Spring St and the top end of Collins is very different to the bottom of King St. That was certainly in evidence that morning. There were still people lining up to get into King St nightclubs, while I was running along with my water pack and running shoes – I felt like a bit of an idiot,” he said with a smile.

Mr Roberts said the contrast in people roaming the CBD at that time was quite an insight.

“Basically everybody in the city was either still hungover or drunk from the night before, or they were visitors to Melbourne with their suitcases heading to the train station to head to the airport. There was this real clash of those two different types of people and as a Melburnian I thought we probably weren’t putting on our best show.”

Mr Roberts, a strategy head for Melbourne-based sports business group Gemba, has completed marathons in Melbourne, the Surf Coast, Sydney, Queenstown and Amsterdam.

He now has his sights on the Vancouver marathon in May.

“I’m just trying to get under four hours. I’m not an elite athlete by any stretch. In the five marathons I’ve done so far, two of them I’ve gone under and three I’ve blown out at the end and gone a bit over.”

And despite his at-times bizarre traverse through the CBD on a long-weekend morning, he couldn’t think of a better city to prepare in.

“We’re very lucky here in Melbourne. I often say that to be able to go for a run at lunch time around the Tan or along the river – there’s not many other cities in the world where you can run along such beautiful traffic-free spaces so close to the city.”

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