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Pac Tom report #1 (29 Apr 2007 at 19:19)
Pac Tom report #1


logoPac Tom project:
site · all · map
Most of my local friends know about this because I talk about it a lot, but I haven't really blogged about it yet (except for some oblique references that probably came across as jokes), but I am really doing it and I wanted to update you on my progress: I am trying to run every street in Pittsburgh. I call this "Pac Tom" because it's like Pacman on a larger map without any ghosts or Power Pills. "Every street" comes with a few caveats for this project:
  • By Pittsburgh I mean (for now) "continental Pittsburgh", which is what I call the part between the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers (roughly half the official area of the city, which is 53 mi).
  • I'm not running on most interstates or state roads without any kind of reasonably safe pedestrian access. (I'd estimate there are only about 15 miles of such roads.)
  • I'm not requiring myself to run any of the dozens of staircases that are officially marked as streets (!) although sometimes they are good shortcuts.
Other than that i'm really trying to cover everything, using on-line maps and my GPS device. Up above I've posted a map of my progress so far, with my tracks in red—click for a closer view. The colors are the various neighborhoods. I do insist that I'm running whenever I'm moving (no walking!) but usually rest a couple times during each trip. It's difficult to gauge how much I've done (since you can't really see the streets in that map) but I'd estimate that I'm about half way done. So far I've run about 530 miles (many of these miles overlap) in about 74 total hours. If you're curious about the specifics, part of the process of getting these tracks into Google Earth is uploading them to Motionbased so you can check out that list, at least as much as they'll show you for a non-paying user like myself.

I think this is a really fun and worthwhile project. Occasionally it can suck: injuring myself when 6 miles away from home can be a problem, or not being able to find any water (now I carry a little bit of cash so that I can ride a bus or buy some gatorade in a pinch), or running a grid of streets and then noticing that my watch froze twenty minutes ago and all the work was lost (grr!), or running miles down a road to find that there's really no way for a pedestrian to continue, and having to turn back. But it is vastly more interesting than running the same streets every day, and I've found so many cool things that I never saw before in my 9 years in this city, and never would have seen otherwise. I've also really improved my sense of direction in the city—I almost feel like you could drop me off in any place randomly here and I could find a short path back home. (But don't do that.) Pittsburgh has a lot of features that make it particularly fun: its topology in terms of roads (grids are rare) and elevation (it is very hilly) make exploring interesting. But when I end up eventually getting a job and moving, I'm pretty sure I'll do it again for whatever city that happens to be.
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Graue (90.242.8.67.cfl.res.rr.com) – 04.29.07 23:02:08
That's so cool! I kinda wish I lived in a city so I could do this. In northern Virginia, it would be really boring (long stretches of basically nothing to look at).

Or am I just making excuses that don't stand up to scrutiny? Scrutinize my excuse, please.
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Genug (dsl093-172-164.pit1.dsl.speakeasy.net) – 04.30.07 00:11:16
I approve and fully support you in this endeavor. Comments:

"I'm not requiring myself to run any of the dozens of staircases that are officially marked as streets."

Aw, seems like that could be the funnest part!

"I almost feel like you could drop me off in any place randomly here and I could find a short path back home. (But don't do that.)"

This seems like a terrific idea. If you want to do this sometime, I volunteer throw a dart at a map and then blindfold you and drive you to that place.
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Tom 7 (h-66-167-91-171.phlapafg.dynamic.covad.net) – 04.30.07 01:23:57
Graue: Well, I tried it a bit in CT where my parents live... it's a very different experience, since the road density is so much lower. I do think you could do it, but you'd probably finish after a hundred miles or so, and you'd end up running the same few main streets near your starting point so many times you'd probably be driven nuts. But less populated areas are pleasant too, because there are fewer traffic hazards and you can do longer stretches without thinking about turns and such. Perhaps you can invent your own running project appropriate to your geography? =)

Genug: Staircases are fun, but I don't have a good map of them, and they are so steep that once I get six miles out it's hard to get excited about huffin' up 'em...
And let's wait until I've covered a bit more ground before blindfold dropoffs. ;)
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Tom 7 (h-66-167-91-171.phlapafg.dynamic.covad.net) – 04.30.07 01:24:28
It should say 53 miles squared above. I don't know what happened to the superscript 2.
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cdinwood (pool-68-162-171-5.pitt.east.verizon.net) – 05.02.07 20:47:47
I can get you a good map of most things you may want in the city. Most staircases aren't really places you're going (a huge number are in the southside slopes).

Actually . . . I'll probably end up doing approximately what you're doing, but with less running, and less intent to cover every street ever. Although I don't have the option to avoid the other parts of the city.
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Tom 7 (h-72-244-70-36.phlapafg.dynamic.covad.net) – 05.02.07 23:27:36
Is that for a research project? I'd love street/etc. data for Pittsburgh because I'd like to write some of my own software.

It's true that most of the staircases are outside continental Pittsburgh (according to my thumbing through that Staircases of Pittsburgh book on display at B&N) but there are still an awful lot of them in conteniental Pgh too. I just saw a couple of them in "the run" (that little neighborhood on the way to the Eliza Furnace trail from campus) today even.
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Landon (cpe-65-189-145-126.columbus.res.rr.com) – 05.03.07 04:59:29
Your Pittsburgh running mission is truly awesome in scope and I applaud you.

I know you ran the Cleveland Half-Marathon last year; any thoughts about a full one? Looking at your running stats I'd say you could do it if you wanted.
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Tom 7 (gs82.sp.cs.cmu.edu) – 05.03.07 11:32:47
Thanks! Yeah, I do want to do a marathon. Currently I think the only issue is that after 10 miles or so my right knee consistently starts to hurt. I'm trying not to increase my distance too much so that I can strengthen it without injuring myself. But that is a goal for the next year or two (probably in some place less hilly than Pittsburgh!).
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Toast (dsl-112-241-rb.jax.centurytel.net) – 05.06.07 03:05:48
hey that's a great project!
I just wanted to stop by and say thanks for the fonts
I was reading one of the "read me" parts of a font, stoped by, and realized that most of my fav. fonts I've gathered from random places in the past couple years are yours!!
anyway...thanks
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Tom 7 (c-24-131-65-110.hsd1.pa.comcast.net) – 05.06.07 23:16:10
Thanks toast!
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Anonymous (c-69-180-195-67.hsd1.tn.comcast.net) – 05.07.07 01:28:25
An excellent project, Tom7 -- thumbs up. Many moons ago I undertook a similar objective, to bike everywhere in the city. But I wasn't quite as disciplined as you and didn't have the neato software to accompany my efforts; in the end I only completed about 2/3 of the city (but I included "overseas Pittsburgh," not just the Continent).

Omitting running all the staircases is certainly understandable, but you should walk on several of them, as they're interesting entities by themselves; take your camera. Speaking of the staircases, would you mind supplying a reference to the book you alluded to above? I'd be keen to learn more about it, and a cursory web search yielded nothing. (I no longer live in Pgh, alas, so cannot just go check it out at B&N myself.)

Good luck with your mission, and I look forward to future updates on the subject.

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Tom 7 (h-66-167-91-68.phlapafg.dynamic.covad.net) – 05.07.07 18:58:31
Yes, certainly... I love the staircases! I've walked or ran many. I'm just not counting them as streets. =)

The book is: "The Steps of Pittsburgh: Portrait of a City" by Bob Regan, photos by Tim Fabian, published by The Local History Company, Pittsburgh, ISBN 0-9711835-6-2
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light up sign beer (71-10-48-143.dhcp.bycy.mi.charter.com) – 08.11.07 06:48:33
The change of our climate is, is not natural
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homer simpsons dad (host28.201-252-92.telecom.net.ar) – 08.21.07 15:15:32
Males should be allowed to go shirtless at home only - Or vary with places for another persuasive speech topic
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