What would prompt two men to attempt to ride 45 buses in 18 hours, interspersed with 20 miles of hard running? Insanity? Perhaps. Bragging rights? Possibly. Charitable causes? Yes, although that came later. Ultimately, it all came down to beer.
One evening, Chris Dunn and Neil Gregory were chatting over a pint (The Tourmalet on Iona Street, for the record) when they got to pondering whether it would be possible to ride every single Lothian Bus route in the city. Hard mode: the buses would have to be ridden in reverse chronological order. God-tier mode: to get between buses, they would have to run for up to four miles at a time.
Most men would have had a bit of fun debating the challenge, gone to bed and forgotten all about it. But then most men aren’t like Chris Dunn and Neil Gregory. Six months later, the self-styled bus geeks embarked on their audacious challenge. When their bus-hopping began, in the early hours of Thursday morning, they were two blokes with a plan, a charitable cause and a couple of hundred Twitter followers curiously monitoring their progress.
18 hours later, and their Twitter following had swelled to over 1,000 as the city avidly followed their antics, tweeted messages of support and sent in donations. By the end of the day, the pair had ridden on 45 buses, raised over £2,000 for cancer charity It’s Good To Give, made headlines and gotten the #edinbusgeek hashtag trending across the capital. Today, Ed Uncovered caught up with Chris and Neil to elicit their thoughts on their bodacious adventure.
How it all began
It was about six months ago that we came up with the idea. Back then it wasn’t a challenge, but more of a question pondered over a pint.
We didn’t feel pressured as we knew we could only do what we could do. We had started the day thinking of it as a trial, so when it evolved into something else it was more surreal than pressured. I think the support we had online certainly helped to push us harder, but there wasn’t fear of a backlash if we failed.
The JuiceCube (emergency smartphone charger) was a great device to keep our phones topped up; it was a Christmas present from Ria (Chris’ girlfriend) though it was never bought with our challenge in mind. Ria did have to meet us for a while to recharge the JuiceCube from a laptop, so next time it might be better to take two.
Favourite/most scenic route
The 16 from Hunters Tryst to Elm Row. It was our longest journey and gave us a chance to warm up and eat like Pacmen! We’d had to run four miles uphill to reach Fairmilehead just prior and there was a bit of drama trying to find the right bus stop; we were both cold and tired by then. The number 1, obviously was special, as friends waved us off and welcomed us at the end with whisky. The most scenic had to be the 40 going through Lasswade towards Dalkeith; the first time for either of us on this bus. Before embarking on our challenge, there were buses in the city we’d never been on; yesterday we essentially crammed in a tour of Wester Hailes. In most cities people don’t visit a large proportion of the local area, and yesterday we realised we had been guilty of that too.
We don’t yet know the exact distance we ran as we’re waiting for the GPS data to be downloaded. A very kind Twitter follower met us at the first stop of the day and handed over their phone so we could track the entire day. We’re both very grateful to them and are looking forward to seeing the map!
Funniest/most surreal moment
I think people cheering as we got onto the 22 showed it had transcended from a personal activity between two friends to something a lot of people were following. It was also very surreal when drivers recognised us and welcomed us onto the bus.
Easy question. The run from Queensferry Street to Fairmilehead. It was the evening and very cold, not a good mix when we were both already pretty tired.
Home at last
I was starving so had leftovers of chicken curry, while Neil weirdly wasn’t and had a cup of vegetable stock to replace salts that were lost and to warm up. We also enjoyed a little bottle of Champagne donated by Neil’s colleague Eve who met us as we were waiting for the 4. It was a lovely surprise to see her and even more lovely to enjoy the bottle a few hours later.
The morning after
We’re both feeling rather sore and stiff today, as to be expected, but we think tomorrow will be worse. We’re also suffering from windburnt faces. Unfortunately Neil had to be up early to get his boiler repaired; luckily I managed a nice lie-in to catch up on sleep. Emotionally, it all still seems rather bizarre – did yesterday really happen?! A complimentary lunch from Hula Juice Bar in the Grassmarket has certainly helped our recovery.
We’re going to prepare a ‘lessons learnt’ because we’ve hopefully inspired other people to do the same challenge or maybe a different one within their town or city. I think that we might have benefited from more running training. Although we both packed in a few miles over Christmas and we have completed half marathons before, the number of shorter runs and sprints over the course of 18 hours was quite punishing. More clothes are definitely required for a January challenge. Neil was grateful to a friend who met us while waiting for the 12 at the foot of Leith Walk armed with a fleece and jog pants.
I think we’re both up for future challenges, whether physical, creative or musical; we enjoy having a project on the go. However, as with the Lothian Bus challenge, their beginnings will be born out of a random conversation over a pint or coffee.
All bussed out?
We both had to use the bus this morning to get into town. Normally we would walk, but muscles are a little stiff for that. Like many Burgh residents we use the buses everyday and possibly take for granted what is a very good service.
Trams? What trams? There’s still time to donate to the bus geeks’ chosen charity. Click here to get involved
Edinburgh Spotlight feature on the bus geeks