Picture this: You’re in the middle of Death Valley and there’s nothing but sand and dust around you. You’re staring at the never-ending asphalt carpet rolling into the distance. With the afternoon sun beating down on your neck and beads of sweat dripping down your face, you ask yourself a question: “Why am I running from LA to Vegas right now?”
“Are you crazy?”
People are hardwired to push boundaries. The hunger for new challenges, the drive to test our limits and the appetite for change has taken us to new frontiers; we’re always looking to make a difference by doing something “crazy”.
Six years ago, a group of six runners set out to do just that when they decided to bridge the distance between Los Angeles and Las Vegas… on foot. Since then, they’ve created what is now known as the Speed Project – a team relay race starting from the Santa Monica Pier and ending at the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign.
This year, 40 teams will be embarking on this journey. Among this group, myself and five other runners will be taking on this grueling challenge together as a team. Team Heart & Sole Runners is aiming to reach Sin City in less than 44 hours. That’s 550 kilometers in less than two days. Why are we doing this? We want to show that sport can be a vehicle for change – for the individual, their network and the wider community. And what better way to prove that than to run non-stop through the desert?
Just from its name alone, Death Valley doesn’t sound like the friendliest place. Especially if you don’t do the groundwork. Extreme conditions during the race means we need to push ourselves to the limit both physically and mentally.
During training, we’re continuously challenging ourselves physically by running as much as we can, but also running in different ways: multiple times a day, at odd hours and on unusual terrain. But we’re also pushing ourselves mentally. A disciplined mindset is crucial for making sure we stay on track. Preparation for the Speed Project has made us reassess the way we usually train and think, ultimately resulting in a change of our physical and mental state by becoming stronger than we were before.
Running isn’t usually seen as a team sport, but rather as a test of individual endurance that isn’t necessarily connected to other people. But more than ever before, it’s now seen as something you do as part of a community.
The Speed Project isn’t a journey you can take alone; you need to know that people will have your back. This experience has changed our perception of teamwork – we realized that it’s not just about working well together, but it’s also about being vulnerable with one another and being confident that the others will pull through when you need them to. The Speed Project made us understand that to come out on the other side of this experience as a team we would need to have full trust in each other no matter what happens.
When we decided to do the Speed Project, we agreed that it would be the perfect opportunity to drive positive change as well. With that, we chose to support Lames de Joie, a charity that sources carbon plates for child amputees to give them a chance to participate and stay in sport throughout their lives.
Like us, the charity believes that sport should be accessible for everyone. Through social media, we’re calling on people to support them and aid their efforts with monetary contributions. We realized that being able to run from LA to Vegas is a privilege that some people simply don’t have and, by giving back to the community, we want to show that our race can represent something bigger than just ourselves.
“Yes, we’re crazy. Any other questions?”
To some, running is just running. But for us, running is something that can bring about change. The Speed Project is an opportunity for our team to prove that; it’s a chance to show that sport can make a difference.
Some of you might still think we’re insane. And we might be. But long after we cross that finish line, I know that we’ll all look back on our journey and have no regrets about daring to do something so “crazy”.
Have you ever done something crazy as a team? What did you learn from it? Share your personal story in the comments below!