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The Speed Project relay run from the Santa Monica Pier to Las Vegas

Published on June 29, 2020

Each October, teams of runners compete in a 340 mile run across the American Southwest.

The Speed Project was founded by LA-based runners Nils Arend and Blue Benadum who sought to cultivate a raw, anti-marathon running event that pushed the runners as well as people’s perception of what a run event is all about. Each running team is comprised of 6 athletes (min. 2 of each gender), but some teams run with up to 10 runners (the course record is measured on a mixed team). Each runner in theory will cover around 56 miles, including a long stretch through Death Valley. As the event has grown, teams travel to Santa Monica from around the world to participate.

Since its inception in 2014, The Speed Project has become one of the wildest running events in North America. The race from the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles to Las Vegas includes a grueling stretch through one of the hottest deserts in the world, Death Valley. Along the way, Speed Project founders Arend and Benadum can be seen rolling by run teams in a black limousine at random moments along the course documenting their efforts on the race’s Instagram account. There is no official course, no way points, no water stations. To join the race, you must be accepted by the founders: there’s no website, no application form, and no details on how to enter.

The fastest-ever finishing time was run in 2019, when a group of Nike runners completed the trip in only 32 hours. There’s been a route that runners have historically followed, but Toronto-based runner (and two-time Speed Project finisher) Andrew Thuss explains that there are no real rules, so runners can follow whatever route they choose. In an interview with Tempo Magazine, Thuss shared the only rules of the race, “You can’t break the law. There’s a recommended route, that most teams follow, but last year the Nike team shaved about 40 miles off with their new route.” The Nike route was much faster and more dangerous that the original route, which is provided to competing teams. The original route has seen teams finish as fast as 38 hours, but some take as long as 60.

Because of restrictions on travel, events and gatherings in 2020, event organizers developed a new contest: TSP DIY. Instead of congregating in Los Angeles to start the trek, athlete were invited to participate from their homes. The virtual run would be an at-home event based on the infamous desert course. The challenge: run as many miles as possible, with a team of your choosing, in 31 hours and 15 minutes, the record time set in 2019.


Featured image courtesy of @hannamrider