Jumping over another piece of a tattered rubber tire along the edge of a freeway in the middle of the California desert at 2:30 a.m., the woosh and rush of semi-trucks lifting and pushing my body, again and again, I couldn’t help but smile and wonder if I might die at the same time, which basically sums up The Speed Project.
The Speed Project is a grueling, 340-mile relay race that starts at the Santa Monica pier and ends at the Las Vegas sign. It’s an unsanctioned endurance event that draws runners from across the globe, who can do the entire trek solo, with an “OG” team of six members, or with as many smelly people as they can squeeze into an RV. The only rule in this absurd, “no rules” race is to get to Vegas on foot as fast as you can. That means running in narrow tunnels as cars speed past, on overpasses, along winding canyon roads, past active train tracks and airport graveyards, over steep, sandy trails, and eventually through Death Valley, at all hours. Anything can happen and a lot can go wrong, like your RV breaking down, getting chased by dogs, or making a wrong turn and not realizing it until hours later (all of which have happened). Teams can also take shortcuts, piling runners onto the back of ATVs or in Jeeps as they bump along 40 miles of dirt road, praying that they don’t get stuck and need to be towed (which has also happened). Sometimes, you get lost out there, which is how I ended up hustling along the 15 freeway completely alone after my teammate had to scramble under a barbed wire fence because he couldn’t find the dirt side road on which we were supposed to run, so we decided, “F*** it," and quickly improvised.