Fifty Shades of Pavement, Toby Silver’s project
Many people run in San Francisco.
Toby Silver is running the entire city of San Francisco, all 1260 miles and 2612 streets.
There are 36 neighborhoods, over 50 hills and nearly endless vistas.
It’s an ambitious, symbolic and perhaps slightly insane project he began to turn over in his mind five years ago.
“It was born out of love for the city and love for running,” says Silver.
“I was training for a long-distance race and my running commutes home from work would take through the financial district up and over Chinatown, Russian Hill, up over Pacific Heights, back through the Presidio district and home.”
As Toby, a tall, outgoing 50 year old, tells it, he started to wander off that beaten path.
One discovery lead to another, one adventure fueled the next and eventually he realized he was on a mission.
“I’m running five to seven days a week with new routes. On weekends, I’m up at 5:30, out of the house, doing a 10 to 15 mile run.
Mostly it’s solo or I get somebody to do the crazy with me. It takes some organization,” says Silver.
There’s a heat map on his Strava account, the red lines fanning out in every direction, up and down hills,
a visual display of streets checked out and territory still to explore.
“I’m seeing every nook and cranny of the city. It’s a tactile connection to the earth and the city.
It’s beautiful and there’s this buzz about being in every part of it.”
The streets connect Silver to the city both present day and past-tense.
“There’s that familiarity and revisiting places I haven’t seen in twenty years. It connects me with my memories,” says Silver.
“I share that with people and they tell me what they know of the city. That makes the routes deeper.”
It’s no surprise that this relationship with the city becomes a kind of mirror.
“There’s a correlation between the city being resilient, the city having gone through changes, and what I can see in myself.
That I can endure,” says Silver. There aren’t any limits to what I can do when I’m healthy.”
Silver already has more than half the city finished and Strava-catalogued. “I’m 60% there.
The Richmond district is done, the West side is done.
Market street kinda divides the city in two — still plenty to explore,” he says, looking over his map.
Just when he’ll cross off that last street is anyone’s guess. Silver imposes no timetable or obsessive end date.
“My goals for the year are run 1500 miles and do over 100,000 feet of climbing. I don’t know how many of those miles are city streets.
I don’t want to be too methodical about it.”
There’s probably a story for every one of those 2612 streets in San Francisco.
“It’s a metaphor for life — there’s always a chance for adventure and a chance for failure. It feels good to feel uncomfortable,” says Silver.
You face your fears or face your own ignorance. You might find something different out there. I’m blown away by what I see.”
Written by: Matthew Walsh
Follow Toby’s project on Instagram here: