A Group of Runners Beat a Green Line Train During a Race Along the Tracks

Their progress was live-streamed, and the winner took home bragging rights.

Image via RunKeeper

Image via RunKeeper


It’s official: in some cases it’s easier to run through Boston than it is to rely on the Green Line’s B branch.

On Friday, a group of runners from RunKeeper set out on foot to see if they could beat an MBTA trolley traveling between the Boston College and Blandford Street stations.

The result? They won, naturally.

But the race wasn’t a total blowout for the T. According to one of RunKeeper’s employees, who was live-tweeting from the trolley as it traveled down the tracks, the MBTA Green Line vehicle kept a steady lead in some spots, and there were times when some thought—keyword some— the train was going to be crowned champion of the first-ever race.

But, sadly for the MBTA, that was not the case:

The tongue-in-cheek four-mile event was organized by The Boston Calendar and members from RunKeeper.


We already know that Boston Marathon winner Rita Jeptoo can easily outpace a Green Line trolley traveling along the tracks. But RunKeeper and the people who organize event listings on The Boston Calendar website have teamed up to find out if the average runner can do the same.

On July 25, a pair of employees from RunKeeper’s offices will lace up and get ready to race a Green Line train between the Boston College and Blandford Street stops. The event will hopefully put to rest the nagging question that many MBTA riders ponder during their crawling commute toward the city: “Would I be faster on my feet?”

Sean O’Connor, one of the brains behind the event-organizing website The Boston Calendar had that very thought about five years ago. Then, in April, when images and gifs of Jeptoo overtaking a Green Line trolley’s lead along the Boston Marathon course surfaced online, the thought crept back into his head. “It was really the inspiration behind [this race],” said O’Connor, who reached out to RunKeeper to collaborate on the four-mile event. “We kind of just decided to go forward with it. It’s easy to talk about it, but it’s another thing to make it happen.”

During the train-versus-runner matchup, Jim Redding, community manager at RunKeeper, will board an MBTA Green Line trolley at Boston College to map and track his journey to the finish line using RunKeeper Live.

Redding’s transit status will also be live-streamed on YouTube so that people can sit and watch from their offices, rather than stand on the sides of the road. Similarly, the two runners participating in the race will be tracked in real-time, allowing spectators to compare their times with the T’s progress. “Both will be on the screen so people can watch them side-by-side,” said Redding, who will also be live-tweeting the race using the hashtag #OutRuntheT.

Redding said like O’Connor, he has often wondered if racing the train is a better way of getting around, especially along that strip of track. “I have friends who live on the B Line, and getting out there to see them it’s like every five feet the train stops to let people on and off,” he said. “I have thought about getting out and walking or biking because the T has been so slow.”

The race will be filmed with a GoPro, and be available to view online in the days after the event. In terms of the general public participating, O’Connor said they’re trying to keep it limited strictly to the RunKeeper employees who have volunteered to take on the challenge, but they aren’t telling people they can’t tag along. “If people want to show up and run, it’s a free country,” he said.

While the race is meant to be tongue-in-cheek, Redding said the transit agency stands to win a hefty prize if the Green Line train beats the two runners. “We can either come out and say the Green Line is just as bad as everyone thought, or, if the T does win, we can finally give them some credit for once.”

  • anthonyx26

    Assuming the T only slightly beats a human on foot, how would that be any sort of win for the T? That still only proves how slow and sh%tty T service is. It also shows the C line has too many damn stops.

  • Kaz

    Rita was running alongside a C Line train not the B Line. It was also approaching (and stopping) at Saint Mary’s Street stop at the time that she finally overtook it.

    A 5 minute mile is a 12 mph pace. According to a recent MBTA forum on the Green Line: “Kane said that the average speed of the Green Line’s B branch is 7.8 mph, 6.9 for the C, 19.5 on the D branch and 8.1 on the E branch.” ( http://allston.wickedlocal.com/article/20140611/News/140618759 ). Therefore, if the runners are world-class, I expect them to be able to beat all but the D Line.

    In other words, they just need to keep up a 7:42 pace to beat the B Line, an 8:42 pace to beat the C Line, a blistering 3:05 to beat the D Line, and a 7:24 pace to beat the E Line.

    PS – Given the extreme gaps in trains on the B Line at certain times of day like after the morning rush, it’s entirely possible to just miss a train and walk from Washington Street to BU and beat the train without even breaking a sweat. I speak from personal experience on that one.

    • kazknowitall

      yeah, you were wrong, they had to keep up a < 6:30 pace to outrun the T, Kaz.

  • Eric

    Why does the Green line have to take lengthy stops every 400 feet? You could double the speed of the green line just by cutting in half the number of stops it makes to one every 900 feet. That way people have to walk a little further after the stop, but they get to their destination faster. Green line has like 100 stops on it and is for slowbies. 45 minutes to get into boston if you take the entire way.

    Don’t discriminate against retarded train just because it goes slow.

    Plus the track is so screwed up they have to slow down to 5 miles per hour on at least 10 areas or there will be a train wreck.