When we dream of adventure, we typically imagine locations far away from home: deserts, jungles, and everything in between. Rarely do we think of the streets just outside our front door. Unless you’re Rickey Gates, that is. After running across the United States in 2017 Rickey decided to keep it local in 2018. 46 days, 1,303 miles and approximately 147,000ft later — the equivalent of running up Mt Everest roughly five times — Rickey had run every single street in his home city of San Francisco. We caught up with Rickey a few days after he completed the final few streets to hear his thoughts.
What was the original idea behind the project?
The idea behind this project came as a natural progression from my 2017 run across the country which I dubbed TransAmericana. It had occurred to me following that five month journey that I had really only seen one side of the States – a very rural side. Having spent most of my life in rural places, the idea of getting to know a city (and not just any city, but one of the most fascinating cities in the world and one that I’ve called home off and on for years) became immediately intriguing. “As a person who studied social sciences in college, I have a natural curiosity for exploring the various ways in which the environment of a city makes us both different and the same as everyone else living there. Running, I have found, provides me with the perfect vehicle to answer so many of these questions about people and place.
What new things did you learn about the city?
I learned that we can never entirely “know” a place. Even having run over 1300 miles during this latest adventure, I had to acknowledge that, especially in a multidimensional place such as a city, I was only getting to know street level. There are basements, and skyscrapers, gated communities and superfund sites (Hunters Point… which actually I snuck in to and it was AMAZING!). Communities and neighborhoods have one feel on a Tuesday at lunch and a completely different feel on a Saturday evening.
I learned a lot about the social composition of neighborhoods and what seems to be working and what definitely isn’t working.
I learned where to find the best tacos (La Laguna on 3rd in India Basin) the best Chinese food (Old Mandarin in the Sunset) and the cheapest drinks (the Castro).
I learned that mapping my way through the city (with efficiency) is way more challenging than finding my way to the top of a mountain.
This isn’t your first unusual endurance project. What draws you to these unique adventures?
I’m not totally sure why I’m drawn to these types of adventures. Mostly it’s out of curiosity. I think in part, it’s the same part of me that will sooner buy a postcard of Yosemite than try to take that same photo, if that makes sense. I have a deep need to do things differently… and so often I find it amazing that you really don’t have to go that far to do so.
What lessons did you learn that other runners might be able to carry into their running?
Though it wasn’t my intention, I found that this type of running is a really great way to get in shape and stay motivated for other adventures. It was no accident that I did this project during something of an “off season.” A time when the light is short and the trails are muddy. Sure you could get on a plane and head to Mexico or get on the treadmill or slosh around in the winter mud, but this is right out the front door. Why not!?
You’ve already run across the United States and covered every single street in San Francisco, so what’s next?
Ha! Good question. With that said about Mexico and trails and all that, I’m really excited to return to the trails. I’m not going to say too much about it right now, but it’s going to be expansive.
Follow Rickey on Strava to see more of his adventures.