On Friday, July 25th at 11:00 AM, Runkeeper and The Boston Calendar will be holding the “Outrun the Green Line” event, wherein three of my esteemed Runkeeper colleagues will attempt to beat a Boston B-line train in a 4.1-mile race from Boston College to Blandford Station. Many of you might be wondering, “How could these people possibly win a race against a train?”, while others—particularly anyone who has actually ridden on the B line—might be wondering, “How could they not win?”
So who is really the favorite, and who is the underdog? Before anyone starts putting money on this thing, I thought it might be helpful to take a look at some of the stats for our contenders.
The Champion: The MBTA Green Line (B Line Branch)
The undisputed champion of hauling Boston University students into town and Boston College students out of it, the Green Line has gained a reputation for being the slowest and most infuriating form of transport since the invention of the mule. Among its four branches, the most infamous by far is the B-line, boasting about 40% more stops than any of the others.
Unfortunately, good statistics on the Green Line are hard to come by. Unlike the other branches, there are no GPS records available, so we have no way of knowing exactly how dismal the Green Line’s day-to-day performance really is.
As with so many things in our lives, let’s take Google’s word for it. As of 11:00 AM today, Google Maps estimates that traveling the Green Line along the race route should take about 26 minutes. Thus, for 18 stops (counting endpoints), the train has to average about 90 seconds between stops. Considering that for each stop the train must navigate a gauntlet of stop lights, angry Boston drivers, confused pedestrians, and passengers searching for lost cards or subway fare, this estimate seems fairly optimistic. However, let’s take it as our baseline and turn our attention to the challengers.
The Challengers: Team Runkeeper (Connaughton, Wilson, and Sullivan)
If the B line does make it downtown in 26 minutes (i.e. at a pace of 6:20 minutes per mile) , what are the chances our team will keep up? Below are histograms of the average paces for all the 3-5 mile runs that our contenders have logged with Runkeeper in 2014.
It looks like even though a 6:20 pace is fast for Connaughton and Wilson, it’s definitely achievable. To get there, they would have to run at least as well as they did for their fastest 9% and 5% of runs this year (respectively). Sullivan, on the other hand, may have to dig deep if he wants to come out on top.
Advantage: Team Runkeeper
Obviously I’m biased (not only as an employee/user/fan of Runkeeper, but also as a lifelong member of humankind), but I think we have to call this one in favor of the humans. Although the numbers are close, the Green Line will have to deal with way more unknowns than a runner, and there’s a limit to how much ground it can make up if it gets behind. Most importantly, when it’s time to step up we humans will always try harder, and my own personal experiences with the B line lead me to believe that on race day, the train most definitely will not.