Most people take Metro to get from somewhere to somewhere else. But what if the goal were to take it . . . everywhere? That’s the idea behind the Metro Challenge, an informal game played by a loose cluster of Washingtonians who strive, for reasons that remain fuzzy, to hit all 91 of the system’s stations in one trip.
A whole day traversing the Metro? That sounded difficult and pointless. Naturally, I decided to give it a try. First, I called up Riley Dosh, a Washington data consultant who believes she holds the record for the fastest completed challenge. The whole trip takes about eight hours, she told me, at least if you follow the route she worked out using her “math nerd” skills. Dosh also filled me in on the most crucial detail: There are publicly accessible restrooms tucked away in some stations.
Thus fortified with insider advice, I headed to the Shady Grove station—the end of the Red Line—and boarded a Glenmont-bound train. It was 7:45 am, and commuters were heading downtown. I had the unpleasant realization that if everything went according to plan, I’d still be sitting in a Metro car when some of them were traveling home.
What were the many ensuing hours like? They were, if I had to sum it up, boring. Dosh’s route was pretty much flawless, so all I had to do was make sure I didn’t space out and miss my connections to other lines.
Eventually, I started to lose track of time and space. The eerie fluorescent lighting, the hypnotically regular acceleration and deceleration, the maddening sameness of those endless announcements—it all added up to something surreal and increasingly unbearable.
Finally I arrived at the East Falls Church station, where I needed to transfer to the Silver Line and hit the final five stops. The next train was already on the platform when I arrived. I ran toward it and . . . the doors closed on my face. A string of profanities arose from a dark, primal place I didn’t know I had within me. Reader, I will admit it: I opened my Uber app.
But somehow I pushed through the pain, and eventually those glorious round lights along the track started to blink. I stepped aboard another Metro car and took my seat. Then, finally, I emerged at Wiehle–Reston East, victorious. My time: eight hours and nine minutes, just ten minutes slower than Dosh’s. The total cost? Three dollars and 85 cents.
This article appears in the February 2020 issue of Washingtonian.