San Francisco-based ultrarunner Rickey Gates. Courtesy of Rickey Gates
San Francisco-based ultrarunner Rickey Gates. (Courtesy of Rickey Gates )

This Guy Just Ran Every Single Street in San Francisco

This Guy Just Ran Every Single Street in San Francisco

12 min

Days: 46. Miles: 1,303.

Those are the (intimidating) numbers behind ultrarunner Rickey Gates' latest project, "Every Single Street," which, well, is almost exactly what it sounds like: Starting at the beginning of November, he ran every single street in San Francisco.

"It feels really good to be done," Gates said on Sunday just after his final run through Twin Peaks.

If running every street of San Francisco sounds like a ridiculous idea to you, Gates agrees. "I'm kind of a master of ridiculous projects," he said.

And he's no stranger to ambitious runs. Last year, Gates ran from South Carolina to California — about 4,000 miles in all — over the course of five months.

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"The goal of that trip was to get to know my country a bit better," he said. And he did — not just the landscapes, but also the people he met along the way. But Gates said he mostly got to know rural areas on that trip, and something about applying the same idea to a city excited him.

"And then I was sitting here in San Francisco ... kind of looking at this massive population below me," he said. "It came to me that without really knowing a city, you can't really know a country. And that's where the idea began."

His first run started on the Golden Gate Bridge, and from there the project took him just about everywhere else you can go in the city — including up a lot of grueling hills.

If his calculations are correct, Gates did about 147,000 feet of climbing over the course of the project. For reference, that's about five times up Mount Everest.

Gates said the project has given him a unique understanding of the city by "chatting with as many people as I can and listening to the birds."

San Francisco-based ultrarunner Rickey Gates at the end of his 'Every Single Street' project where he ran all of San Francisco's streets in 46 days.
San Francisco-based ultrarunner Rickey Gates at the end of his 'Every Single Street' project, where he ran all of San Francisco's streets in 46 days. (Dean Leslie/The Wandering Fever)

That experience, the perspective running gives him on a place, is Gates' primary focus, not the running itself. "It just really requires being out there all day, every day for an extended period of time to really get a sense of it," he said.

Similar projects have been done before. San Francisco resident Tom Graham completed a walk of every street in the city eight years ago. It took him more than 500 hours during a seven-year period. Graham wrote about his experience for the San Francisco Chronicle in 2010:

I chased my shadow all over San Francisco. Watched it cast down hillsides on sunny days ... against the gray concrete sidewalk, the asphalt street, stucco and brick houses, on the sands of Ocean, China and Baker beaches.

Gates' project took a lot less time than Graham's walk, but he also concedes that he might have missed a couple of areas here and there. "I think there's probably 2 or 3 miles of little blocks that I missed," he said.

In the grand scheme of more than 1,300 miles, one or two missed is almost nothing, but Gates said he plans to go back over the next couple of days and try to fill in the blanks.

"I don't think anybody really cares about that except for myself," he said. "You come up with this project called 'Every Single Street,' and that has a little asterisk for me until I'm able to click off those last little blocks there."

As for what's next, Gates said he plans to get some much needed rest, but he'll likely be off on another ambitious expedition sometime soon.

After 1,300 miles in San Francisco, Gates said he's looking beyond the city limits. "I'm a trail runner at heart," he said. "My next project will likely take me back to the trails."

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To listen to KQED's full interview with Rickey Gates, press the red play button at the top of this post.

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