Mass Transit Racers

When I moved to NYC I knew the subway would be a big part of my life. But I had no clue  the system would soon become my biggest running foe.....

I stumbled upon the Mass Transit Racers by chance when I was searching for elite athletes to photograph for some personal work. The concept was mind bogglingly awesome. Runners, in the city I now call home, were challenging subway trains and taxis to epic showdowns in the streets and tunnels of NYC. As a photographer I had to shoot this, as a runner I had to be a part of it.

I contacted the two creators and my NYC experience instantly changed. Soon I found myself photographing their events and working to spread the word on the amazing concept that is MTR.  I've been shooting MTR events for a few months now so I figured it was time to share some of the results.

But first let me try to explain the concept of MTR. Their website explains it best:

Everyone is a Mass Transit Racer. The concept of beating public transportation is easy, it’s the execution that’s the hard part:

  • Step 1: Find an opponent. This can be a cab, bus, or train. Have a race official get on that vessel.
  • Step 2: Set the start and finish line. You’ll be an MTR winner if you can beat the race official, who will stay in the vehicle to the finish line.
  • Step 3: Race. As soon as the cab, bus, or train gets going, you do too. Run as fast as you can because transit doesn’t sleep. Knowledge of the city, its streets and shortcuts is crucial.
  • Step 4: Win. If you beat the race official to the finish line, then you’re a winner. Celebrate and get ready to do it again.

I've now raced multiple cabs and subway trains. My favorite race was taking on the 4/5 train from City Hall in Manhattan to Borough Hall in Brooklyn. The races are usually only about a half mile, but this race was almost 1.8 miles or 3k. To start we warmed up by running the course, which includes crossing the over populated and touristy Brooklyn Bridge. Once we finished the warmup we got on the train and took it to a stop before our start line. We then got on a train going the right direction, in a car that we had determined to be closest to the subway exit at our starting point. When the doors opened another racer and I sprinted out and embarked on our odyssey. A third racer acted as an official and stayed on the train. When the train completed its journey he would sprint up the stairs. Whoever got to the top of the stairs first would be the victor.

During the race its always good to not "Terry Tate" anyone to the ground. It's like racing on a track filled with hundreds of tourists taking cell phone pics.  The bridge was almost as big a foe as the train. It's a hill, and a large one at that. I tried not to push too hard on the half mile uphill, and instead hoped that I would have enough in the tank to crush the remainder of the course. After dodging my share of bike commuters and Instagrammers I arrived at the finish line. The other racer had beat me by 15 seconds, but we had both beat the train. It's a pretty cool feeling to beat public transportation. I definitely suggest trying it. Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy the photos.