Every Street Burlington: The Ultimate Pandemic Project
Madalyn (Maddy) Pfeifer moved to Burlington in the midst of a rising pandemic to complete her final year studing at the University of Vermont for her Doctor in Physical Therapy degree. Prior to attending UVM, she was living in Colorado and had originally moved to Bolton when she began school. When she relocated to be closer to UVM, the entire town was shutting it's doors and everyone went into quarantine. Pretty quickly, Maddy decided she would run every street in the city to learn her new home.
It took six months to run 389 streets, roughly 500 miles, and with it came a new found love for Burlington, along with a few lessons. We hopped on Zoom with Maddy and asked her about her experience.
1. What went well? What didn’t?
"I’d say that most aspects of the project were positive. Running every street in the city gave me an intimate perspective of the place I call home. I used the website CityStrides to track my progress which kept things moving along in an efficient manner.
As for negatives… I got lost a lot! But getting lost brought some adventure into the project so I would probably consider it a positive. I tried to run off of memory but there were a few times that I had to stop and pull out my phone to figure out where I was or how to get where I wanted to go."
2. How did you feel about Burlington before you moved? How do you feel post-challenge?
"I didn’t know a lot about Burlington before the project. I moved to Vermont in May of 2019 to work on my DPT at UVM. My first year here I lived up at Bolton Valley and then moved to Burlington in May 2020. Moving in the midst of the pandemic the city was eerily quiet when I arrived.
I love Burlington now! It feels like home! Just from running I have learned so much about the diversity and the ethos of the city. My academic program ends in a few months, but I am definitely interested in staying in the area post-graduation. In the future I’d like to help advocate for increasing the accessibility to physical activity opportunities throughout the city."
3. Did you find a favorite route?
"Rather than a favorite route I loved the variety that this project brought. I loved studying maps and setting out to discover new streets and areas of town."
4. How did having this goal in mind help through the pandemic?
"Working on this project has helped with my mental health through the pandemic. I strive off of structure and chasing goals which historically has led to me pursuing races. Having a non-competitive project like Every Street Burlington allowed me to have some structure and goals in my training while keeping the pressure to perform low."
5. What do you think your longest run was?
"I was doing some long ones this Fall. Probably like 18-20 miles. I would go explore and text my roomate with a dropped pin so I could get a ride home when I was finished."
6. What is your next running goal? (If you have one)
"So many goals! With the return of in-person races on the horizon I am definitely interested in getting into a more structured training regimen. I’m hoping to run sub-3hrs at Vermont City Marathon in October!
I loved the opportunity to adventure and explore locally that Every Street Burlington enabled. I have the idea of Every Trail Chittenden County, but I have a lot of logistics that still need to be ironed out."
Maddy with her trail running buddy Rena
While Maddy's challenge was mostly a solo expedition, she isn't alone in tackling every street in Burlington. In the early 2000's, RunVermont's Director of Race Operations Joe Connelly bestowed a similar running project upon himself. GPS watches weren't yet invented so a tiny map in his pocket helped keep him on track. His runs were not as long as Maddy's, more in the 5-8 mile range with a couple 10 milers peppered in. After 20 years of mapping out races for Burlington, and many, many years of running the streets himself, one question still remains: how many miles of streets and trails does Burlington actually have? Is it 150? Is it 400?
For Maddy, her motivation partly came from watching Ricky Gates run "Every Street of San Francisco". She didn't plan to run every street initially but as her GPS watch map got closer and closer to covering the town, she persisted.
Big thanks to Maddy for sharing her story and a congratulations to her for completing this incredible challenge!