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Subway Delays Thwart Team's Attempt at a Guinness Record

By Gwynne Hogan | June 5, 2015 4:34pm | Updated on June 8, 2015 8:51am
 Two Englishmen called their Subway Challenge attempt off after three delays made a win impossible. 
Two Englishmen called their Subway Challenge attempt off after three delays made a win impossible. 
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Photo Courtesy of Marc Gawley

NEW YORK CITY — Subway delays have claimed another casualty.

Two Englishmen hoping to earn the Guinness World Record for riding the entire New York City subway in the shortest amount of time called it quits around noon when three combined service changes and delays made victory impossible.

Marc Gawley, 37, and Martin East, 53, began riding the subway in Far Rockaway at 3 a.m. Friday morning but were derailed at the 1,2, 3 Chambers Street stop on Friday afternoon making their effort little more than a token gesture.

“Three things went wrong,” Gawley said. “It all added up and you just can’t recover from it.”

In order to gain the record for what has come to be called the Subway Challenge, riders must stop at every station in the system and have the doors open and close (a.k.a. no express trains), in as little time as possible.

Their plan, which Gawley jokingly described as “massively top secret,” had been carefully plotted months in advance using MTA timetables, but that went out the window about 9 a.m. when the M train started making unscheduled express stops starting at Queensboro Plaza, then the J train got delayed leaving Jamaica Center.

"We waited an eternity before it left," Gawley said. "We could just feel the minutes slipping away."

Finally, at Chambers Street, while waiting for the 2 trains, they found out that their train had been rerouted to the 5 train line.

Gawley and his partner planned to reschedule their attempt for a later date; East has to jet back to England on Monday, and weekend service changes make achieving a record breaking time impossible.

Gawley’s fiancee, Kate Jones, 35, will arrive in the city on Friday night, and plans to stage her own attempt at the record next week, Gawley said.

“I’ll carry her water bottle and make sure she goes in the right direction,” he said.

Gawley and East, both seasoned mass transit riders, once held the Tube Challenge record for fastest ride through all stops in the London subway system for several months in 2011 before other challengers beat their time of 16 hour 44 minutes 16 seconds record.

After the conceding defeat Friday, Gawley admitted “newfound respect” for the current record holder Matthew Ahn, 24, a recent NYU Law grad, who broke the record this January in 21 hours 49 minutes 35 seconds.

“He did it all by himself...that is very difficult to be on the subway for 21, 22 hours,” he said. “He’s a legend.”

Ahn, who was patiently awaiting the outcome of Gawley’s Subway Challenge attempt, reacted calmly at the news of the team’s failure.

“It took me four times, so I’m not surprised,” Ahn said. “I guess I live to fight another day.”

A spokesman for the MTA declined to comment on Friday's service changes.