How long would it take to go via every single one of the 270 stations on the London Tube map? Most of us would shrug at the question, having no desire whatsoever to even consider spending enough time within the claustrophobic, sweaty confines of the Underground to find out. Geoff Marshall, however, is not like most of us, and his subterranean hobby has turned into an epic and competitive World Record breaking challenge.
Marshall’s show is entertaining and refreshing.
Marshall first broke the Tube Challenge Guinness World Record in May of 2004 and has been determined to hold the title ever since. Overall, he has attempted it 26 times. Despite having been beaten by other eager competitors over the years, he has made his way back to the top and is the current champion, having completed the challenge in 16 hours, 20 minutes and 27 seconds in August of 2013. Despite a PowerPoint stretched across so many screens that it’s barely legible, Marshall’s blend of anecdote, information and video clips proves a pleasant hour on a topic you might otherwise never look into.
Bringing the most obscure of hobbies into the spotlight, Marshall gives an interesting and funny account of the trials and tribulations that the Tube Challenge presents. This does not just involve getting on each line and sitting on it until it reaches the end: Tube Challengers run between the end stations of different lines to save as much time as possible. Nothing is left down to chance. Everything is calculated, from what exit to take to get out of the station quickest, to how to sidestep the time-consuming act of going to the toilet.
Marshall goes beyond mere anecdotes of the challenge, revealing how his hobby morphed into a web forum, a radio appearance, a BBC program and an undesired invitation to join the Big Brother household. He explores the viciousness of social media and how it has distorted his initially harmless intentions. This addition to the simple storytelling of his experiences is a nice touch, although at times he tries to add too much of a moralising undertone to his story, as though it is not strong enough in itself to hold its own. Marshall is overly self-deprecatory, perhaps a little too convinced of the triviality of what you might call his own personal life-mission. He underestimates our interest in what he does by unnecessarily branding himself a ‘train geek’ that struggles with sociability.
Marshall’s show is entertaining and refreshing. And although he won’t reveal all of his time-saving secrets, he might give Londoners a few welcome tips on how to shave a few precious minutes off their daily commute.