Home News The Speed Project: The secret ‘Fight Club’-style race between Los Angeles and Las Vegas

The Speed Project: The secret ‘Fight Club’-style race between Los Angeles and Las Vegas

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Nils Arend, an avid runner from London, sheds light on the clandestine race known as The Speed Project (TSP), which resembles a “Fight Club” for ultra-runners. Arend emphasizes the importance of maintaining a friendly and cooperative attitude when encountering law enforcement during the race. To evade suspicion, participants simply claim to be a group of friends embarking on a run to Las Vegas, revealing no further details. TSP is an unsanctioned, unsupported 350-mile race from Los Angeles to Las Vegas via Death Valley, devoid of an official website, formal registration process, set rules, defined route, or spectators. The race’s enigmatic founder, Arend, draws inspiration from his unconventional background, having organized a rave night in Hamburg’s red-light district before transitioning to marathon running in Los Angeles.

Despite its underground status, The Speed Project attracts elite athletes and prominent brands. The event’s allure has surged, even without the typical trappings of high-profile races. Notable running brands, including Nike, Tracksmith, New Balance, and On Running, enthusiastically participate in TSP. The race commences in the early hours at Santa Monica Pier, marking the start of an extraordinary journey.

TSP initially involved relay teams, with Arend and five friends completing the route in 2013. Over time, the race expanded to include three other categories, notably the solo class, which British ultra-runner James Poole has triumphed in for the past two years. Poole, who completed the 2023 race in just under 119 hours, finds fulfillment in pursuing a purist approach to running, untouched by the accumulation of medals or meaningless t-shirts.

Arend shares Poole’s unconventional spirit and disapproval of conventional competitive distance running. TSP offers a safe space for participants to express their individuality authentically, which conventional marathons often lack. The race motivates individuals to excel in their performance or use the platform to amplify their personal missions and causes, provided they align with the community’s values.

With numerous prominent running brands eager to be associated with TSP, the race celebrated its 10th anniversary in style. However, TSP maintains a delicate balance, both seeking and shunning publicity. Poole, who experienced this paradox firsthand, ran the event unsupported this year, opting for complete self-reliance—a decision even Arend deemed audacious.

TSP’s route, while seemingly featureless, holds a unique allure. Poole describes stretches like the 75-mile-long Yermo Road, where runners progress without making a single turn for hours on end. Immersed in the present moment, participants discover the beauty within the stark landscape, appreciating the old Americana ghost towns and wide-open spaces that British runners rarely encounter. Sleeping in derelict buildings, Poole occasionally confronts the fearsome reality of his surroundings, yet embraces the adventure.

Arend’s transition from organizing underground raves in Hamburg to spearheading an ultra-endurance race in Los Angeles may appear unlikely. However, he perceives a connection between the two endeavors. Both activities attract individuals seeking endurance challenges, often individuals who have distanced themselves from the nightlife scene or overcome personal struggles. Arend endeavors to create an environment where participants feel understood and welcomed.

Poole concurs with Arend, perceiving TSP as a reset from societal norms—a mindful desert retreat contrasting the monotony of everyday life. The race offers a profound sense of joy in self-sufficiency, where participants must fend for themselves without relying on modern conveniences. In a world defined by ease and convenience, TSP stands as the antithesis—requiring runners to find resources independently and adapt to unforeseen circumstances.

During this year’s race, Poole endured long stretches without access to food or water, a testament to the race’s challenging nature. Arend, always eager to push the boundaries of physical endurance, hints at even more extreme ventures, including a rumored race across Chile’s Atacama Desert. Such an endeavor would demand unprecedented self-sufficiency, with teams traversing the harshest terrains, devoid of resupply options.

While Arend remains elusive about future plans, he confirms a continued pursuit of new adventures to share with the TSP community. Poole’s resolve remains steadfast—if Arend organizes a race in the Atacama, he would eagerly join the endeavor, irrespective of the risks involved. For Poole, the allure lies in breaking free from the repetitive pursuit of minor improvements in traditional marathons, embracing the excitement and challenge of extraordinary endeavors. Ultimately, he believes that if one possesses the ability, why not embark on a remarkable journey like TSP?

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RunningEnthusiast87 June 8, 2023 - 6:42 am

This article is so cool, like seriously! The Speed Project sounds like a wild and secretive race that’s not for the faint-hearted. I mean, who needs official rules and a set route when you can just run from LA to Vegas with a bunch of friends? And the fact that they keep it underground adds to the whole allure. Running through the desert, sleeping in abandoned buildings, and relying on yourself for everything? That’s some next-level adventure right there!

MarathonJunkie June 8, 2023 - 6:42 am

Wow, I never knew about The Speed Project until now, and it’s blowing my mind! As someone who’s done the London Marathon a bunch of times, I can totally understand why some runners crave something more exciting and offbeat. The idea of running across vast stretches of road without any turns sounds both exhilarating and mentally challenging. And hey, kudos to James Poole for going solo and unsupported in the race. That takes some serious grit and determination!

OutdoorsyExplorer June 8, 2023 - 6:42 am

The description of the route in this article is incredible. Running through the Atacama Desert? Count me in! Sure, it sounds tough as nails, but there’s something so captivating about the idea of exploring such a harsh and beautiful environment on foot. It’s like a true test of human endurance. I admire Nils Arend for pushing the boundaries and organizing races that go beyond the usual marathon format. It’s all about embracing the adventure and finding joy in the present moment. Can’t wait to see what other crazy races they come up with!


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