Many of us are driven by the quest for fitness and speed—the very competitive drive that helped found and fuel Strava. Yet for others, the drive doesn't come from competition but exploration: the desire to see new places, hike unfamiliar trails, and ski new mountain peaks. Unfortunately, the demands of day-to-day life have a tendency of getting in the way. We can't all spend our lives roaming the planet, seeking out new adventures every single day.
However, many of us underestimate the potential for exploration that exists right from our front doors. Too often, we denigrate our own town and our own region, instead thinking that we need to fly halfway around the world to have an adventure. But if we take the time to discover our own backyards, we might be incredibly surprised by what we find.
One intriguing way to discover your own city is to complete an "Every Single Street" challenge. On the surface, the concept is simple: head out and explore every single street in your city.
Ultra runner Rickey Gates coined the term "Every Single Street" with his inaugural project: running every single street in San Francisco (over 1,100 miles of streets). He's since completed many parts of Mexico City (Condessa, Roma, Polanco, UNAM, Juarez, Parque Hundido, Centro Historico, and Insurjentes) and is currently over halfway through Santa Fe. While you could choose to run every street like Gates, you could also choose to walk or cycle every street instead—but more on that below.
Above and beyond the adventure of it all, Gates views this challenge as a unique opportunity to get to know your neighbors in an intimate way. "This project creates a pathway towards empathy," he writes. "Knowing how other people live - whether that be what we perceive as the wrong side of the railroad tracks or the right side - is a first hand (foot) approach towards popping the bubbles we live in and appreciating our differences for what they are."
Ready to get started on your own challenge? Here are some tips on doing exactly that:
1. Define the boundaries of your city
In the case of San Francisco, the city is clearly bounded by water on three sides and a well-defined county line to the south. Many other cities aren't nearly as well-defined. Whether you're going to focus on the designated city limits or include outlying neighborhoods as well, begin by sketching the rough exterior boundary of your city on a map.
2. Choose your sport(s)
While you could try to run every single street just like Gates, there's no reason that you can't opt for your own preferred sport of choice. Personally, I spend a lot of time simply walking around my hometown, and there's no reason you couldn't aim to walk every street. Every single street challenges are also becoming popular with cyclists too, thanks to the rise of apps that connect to Strava and make it easier to check which streets you've completed (more on this below). Finally, you could even choose to combine multiple sports—it's up to you.
3. Set the timeframe
How quickly would you like to complete this project? While Rickey Gates covered 1,303 miles of running with over 147,000 vertical feet of elevation gain in 46 days, there's no reason you can't stretch your project out over a year or more and allow it to serve as an ongoing motivation to simply get out and explore new areas of your hometown.
4. Track every run or ride on Strava
While Rickey Gates relied heavily on paper maps for navigation and logging his streets, he also made sure to record every run on Strava so that he had a comprehensive record of the GPS coordinates covering of every single street in the city!
5. Use the Strava Heatmap to see where you've gone
Personally, Strava's heatmap feature is the #1 reason that I signed up for Strava's pro membership before I became an employee. The ongoing improvements to the heatmap feature have made this tool radically more useful and nuanced than when Gates completed his San Francisco challenge. It's now easier than ever to see which streets you've covered and which streets you have yet to visit.
Pro tip: try toggling the different background maps and heat colors to find a combination that gives you good visibility of which streets have been covered and which you have left to do. I personally prefer using the light map as the background and a hot red or orange heat on the map.
6. Use your personal heatmap on your phone to easily see the streets that you need to cover
You can now see your personal heatmap right in the mobile app! To do so, tap the maps tab, then open the layers, and toggle on "My Heatmap." Be sure to turn off route recommendations so you can clearly see your heat, and set the map to "Standard" so you can easily see the streets. I also prefer orange heat for ease of visualization on the phone.
With this map turned on, you can then start recording your run or ride via the record screen and then easily see the blue line of your current activity. With the orange lines of past recordings and the white streets that haven't been covered yet, you can easily see on-the-fly where you need to go to hit your next new street.
This feature combination is an absolute game changer for ease of on-the-fly navigation and knowing what you still need to cover. These features didn't exist when Gates did his San Francisco challenge and might have made his project much easier!
I've personally been using my heatmap to go back and explore streets that I've missed in my old hometown of Salida, even after years of walking, riding, and running through the city streets. It's fascinating to see the corners of town and the out-of-the-way neighborhoods that I've never been through, even after years of living in Salida. The heatmap makes it easy to identify and explore those missing corners.
While it's still highly useful to form a game plan or a route in advance, you can also choose to use these features to make it up as you go.
7. Use Strava's route builder tool to plan in advance
While pen and paper will never let you down, Strava and FATMAP offer plenty of route planning tools to allow you to create a custom route plan, save it, and either navigate it on your phone or export the GPX file to your wearable GPS device for on-the-fly navigation. Similar to the phone-based features mentioned above, Strava's route builder allows you to toggle on your personal heatmap so that you can draw a custom route for roads that you need to cover.
While you can build routes on either your phone or your computer, the desktop-based version offers more features for detailed planning.
8. Consider using a helpful plugin like Wandrer.earth
A third-party service called Wandrer.earth can access your Strava data via our API, creating a useful standalone service that will help you complete every single street. Wandrer takes a ton of the guesswork out of the process by highlighting streets that you haven't yet completed, letting you know exactly which sections you need to cover.
The service compares your Strava data against OpenStreetMap's street data, as well as their designations for cities, towns, counties, states, and even countries, letting you know when you've hit key milestones, such as 25%, 50%, 75%, 90%, and even 99% of your city (or area).
While Wandrer was originally built for cyclists, it also now supports foot-based sports, too. The unique maps, statistics, and analysis that they provide can help give you a leg up when it comes time to complete your next every single street project!
See Also: CityStrides.com
9. Keep your senses engaged
Finally, when you're out there exploring every single street in your city, don't check out or zone out—keep your senses engaged. "The most important thing that I could do on a daily basis was just to pay attention as close as I could," said Rickey Gates in a Salomon documentary on the project. "I didn't listen to music, I didn't listen to podcasts, in large part just because I needed to be paying attention to traffic and people at all times, but also [because the] sounds and smells and all of these things are so rich and so dense in a city that you just really wouldn't want to miss any of that by closing off any of your senses."
So don't listen to music, but do take pictures of the wacky sights you see. Take the time to talk to interesting people that you cross paths with. Pause to appreciate unique art and architecture. The point, after all, is to truly experience the city that you live in and to get to know the people around you.