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British Airways Athletics Club: Street Sentences Event Instructions

Hint: Although this is to be done competitively some people will have natural advantages or disadvantages due to the the streets around their starting locations. For some this event may be a sprint, for others a marathon, and for some it may prove impossible! Please accept your lot with a smile!

This is a fun competitive event that can be run at any time during the period specified.

The objective is for each participant to collect a set of letters based on the initial letters of the streets around where they live and construct an apt or amusing phase or sentence from those letters.

The letters are to be collected during a single exercise activity that could be a 30 minute run or a 50 minute normal walk (or a 40 minute powerwalk, though in our recent mile walk exercise no one other than the author proved capable of such). Letters are collected by visiting the street name signs of local streets - the council maintained signs that identify streets, avenues, roads, paths even in some cases roundabouts but not places (such as "Welcome to Hillingdon") nor commercial signs, building names, school signs, church identifiers etc.. Bus Stops that are named with a particular street are also permitted signs. Each street can only be counted once, no matter how many street name signs have been visited. In the unlikely event that you have two identical street names close to you only one will be counted (probably the one that gets all of the post).

Moved Street SignHint: Roads usually have their street-sign at the two ends of the road or where the road crosses a bigger road. It can be difficult, or impossible, to find a street-sign for some bigger roads!

The preparation time for this event can also be used to check on Street-View where street-signs are located (but note, as in this photo, that the street furniture may have moved or been removed since the street-car visited!)

Participants should get close enough to the street name sign to be able to take a photograph of it without the benefit of zoom. I'm not encouraging zigzagging across busy streets so photographs can be taken from the opposite side of the street. Photographs do not have to be submitted (or even taken, other than as a reminder for yourself). A GPS trail should be submitted with your entry or a list of the streets in the order they were visited plus confirmation of when you got back to your starting position. 

How long you take, and the distance you have travelled, has no impact on the result of this event other than: if you exceed the time limit then for each minute or part minute you are late back you need to remove a letter from those collected. Letters are to be removed from those collected last - so if you got back 2.5 minutes late you would have to remove the last three streets visited. The penalty is the same for those walking the event since they should be able to predict their timely return more accurately.

Each person has to finish at the same location that they started from. This should be either their home address or their work address, with one permitted adjustment - you may start and finish at the nearest street-sign to your front door, or your workplace's front door or gate. Thus anyone who lives at the far end of a long cul-de-sac is not disadvantaged.

In addition to street names you are also allowed to score zebra crossings with each zebra crossing visited being counted as either a "Z" or an "X". No other substitutions are permitted.

Hint: Do some research before your start time. Study the AtoZ or an online map and consider where your nearest letters are. And go for a walk and understand where the street-signs are and whether any paths or short roads have interesting names on signs that weren't to be found on the maps. You could even prepare a physical map to take with you on the run. But do not do a practice run.

Having done the run you then need to construct a phase or sentence from some or all of the letters collected. Each street name letter can be used once except for the vowels (i.e. "A", "E", "I", "O" and "U" but not "Y") which can be used twice each. The winner of the event will be determined by the judge as having come up with the best, funniest or most apt phase or sentence. The judges decision may be hotly contested. You are allowed to use web resources to work out your phase or sentence - such as which can tell you what words can be made from up to 14 letters entered.

Worked example:

Hint: Strategy? You have some time to do this event so you could do a run this week collecting any letters that you come across (making sure you collect any local vowels). Then spend some time trying to construct a phase. As you do so consider what additional letters you need from nearby to make the phase better and plan a second run for next week to collect only the letters you need.

In just over 30 minutes I visited 17 streets with initial letters "BABRTYUIWWBGHOTMT" and also one Zebra Crossing. Because I took over thirty minutes I have to drop the last "T". I therefore have the following letters collected to construct my phase: "ABBBGHIMORTTUWWY" and either an "X" or a "Z". I can use the vowels twice so I have an extra "A", "I", "O" and "U". I don't have an "E" so my Zebra Crossing will probably have to count as a "Z".

I look at the complete set of letters "AABBBGHIIMOORTTUUWWYZ" and decide that "ZOOM" might be a good word to include in an apt phase. After a great deal of head scratching I eventually come up with "Aargh, buy zoom bib twit" which may not make much sense but does use all of the letters other than one "u" and one "w".

Examples of Street Name signs are shown in the image below:

Street Sign Examples

So, just to confirm, you have until the closing date to do your activity, accumulate a set of letters and come up with your phase or sentence. Email your entry to the judge including your activity type (run, walk, powerwalk), the time taken, the GPS map and/or the list of streets claimed and the phase or sentence submitted to be judged.  Towards the end of the period participants are encouraged to post photographs, GPS trace of their route and comments on the letters collected on Facebook. But it is considered unsporting to post a good result early in the event period.

Once all of the results have been verified winners can be announced.

Letter Distribution

Street Spelling Letter DistributionThe chart shows the number of streets in London starting with each letter of the alphabet. This has been estimated from the street index of a copy of the London AtoZ.

Letters marked "*" and "**" are considered rare.

 Letters can be used as follows:

  • A, E, I, O, U can be doubled up for phase construction.
  • X or Z can also be got from a Zebra Crossing
  • All other letters can only be got from Street Name signs and can only be used once per Street.

Any questions? Contact the organiser: Roderick Hoffman



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