American ultrarunner Jen Golbeck is in the middle of a giant challenge: run every road in the Florida Keys. She’s been at it throughout 2020, but most of her runs have come in the last two months, and she’s over 450K into the project. The Florida Keys are an archipelago off the southern coast of Florida, and although Golbeck doesn’t specify how many miles she’ll have to run to complete this challenge, the Keys consist of about 1,700 separate islands with 356 square kilometres of land. There aren’t roads on every piece of land, but it’s still one heck of a challenge.
Golbeck’s challenge is similar to that completed by Rickey Gates, a fellow American ultrarunner who ran every street in San Fransisco in 2018 for a grand total of 2,085K. The Keys are connected via the Overseas Highway (which, funnily enough, passes through a city named Marathon), which is 170K long from its start in Key Largo to where it ends in Key West. There’s more land north of Key Largo, and all in all, the Keys stretch about 193K.
Almost 500K into her run, Golbeck has completed a lot of running, and she still has a long way to go. Since the start of the pandemic, she’s competed in several virtual races, and she’s used these events as chances to get out and run more streets in the Keys. She’s currently running the Great Virtual Race Across Tennessee 1,000K, and she’s about halfway finished, with 423.7K under her belt.
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Today I’m running the 8 Hours of Hell ultra marathon. It’s virtual race this month, of course, but it’s a series that runs all summer that I will hopefully get to do in person for the next few months. I’m up on big Pine key today and will be posting lots of updates in the Instagram story and on Twitter!
Golbeck has documented her journey on social media (she uses the hashtag #JenRunsEveryRoadInTheKeys) and on Strava, where she’s published some great (although inadvertent) Strava art. Sure, she didn’t go out and run the shape of someone’s face or of a reindeer, but her art has more of an abstract look to it. The great thing about abstract art is that it makes people think, “I could do that.” And you can—just go and run every street in your town or city.
Golbeck did have a few exceptions for roads she won’t cover in her challenge, so if you look through her Strava files, those will likely explain any roads that she didn’t cover. She outlined the exceptions on her challenge web page. Firstly, she doesn’t run on any private roads, roads marked “no trespassing,” or roads that are really driveways. She also notes that she avoids roads “with signs that say I will be shot if I go on them,” which, believe it or not, she says she’s seen on a few occasions. She also avoids “internal roads” in trailer parks or at resorts, as well as parking lots. Everything else is fair game, and in due time, she’ll have covered them all.