A Conversation for The Ultimate Guide to the London Underground - mark II

"The 50% dash"

Post 1


One of the few things that happens as regularly as trains arrive is "the 50% dash". This is the common practice that can be attempted at any station where more than one platform is served by just one escalator/set of stairs (both of the stations I use - Stockwell on the way in and Kings Cross going home - are particularly well suited to it). The escalator/stairs should be long enough to require effort to skip down a fair way, but just short enough so that the noise made by an arriving train is loud enough to be heard from the top. The non-functioning of the escalator makes the game even more fun.

Basically, you approach the top of the escalator. You hear a train arriving. It could be going north, it could be going south; if it's an interchange station (as in Stockwell), it could be a northbound Victoria Line train, it could be a northbound Northern Line one (particularly fun for the added mysterious element of which branch??). You think: "Can I make this train?" Initially, you think yes, given the time it takes to scale the length of the flight and the time taken between the train arriving and its doors closing. So you skip down, past briefcases, suitcases, foreigners. Then you think: "no, probably not going to make it," and so slow down accordingly. But by now you're almost at the bottom, and the train's still there. So you start to run again. Repeat this at least three times. Eventually, there are two possibilities.

1) You make the train you wanted, the effort all worth it.
2) You glimpse the platform and embarrasingly the train is "about to depart", or the train was going from the other platform. Which leaves the embarrassment of having people you almost knocked over down the escalator, and who you looked completely to, sauntering up alongside you, having used much less effort and shame. It's almost like tripping in the street; happens all the time, but very funny to watch.

There's usually more chance of missing your train than catching it, but since there are two possibilities it should be called "the 50% dash".

If you see a slightly out-of-breath, red-faced (in more ways than one), person nonchalantly strolling towards the Victoria Line at Stockwell, having just bounded down the escalator past you, be sure to point and giggle; I do it all the time.

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"The 50% dash"

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