Why we're headed back to The Speed Project
By now, you’ve probably heard of The Speed Project. A 340 mile race from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. Get up and out of LA, and then keep going through the desert and various towns you wouldn’t want to stop in even if you weren’t locked in a 40 team battle for bragging rights. Finish at the famous ‘Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas’ sign, then douse yourself in beer and glory.
It’s a great event, and more than that it’s a pretty unique experience. From the type of training it requires, to the camaraderie and the teamwork, to the pinch-yourself feels of running through Death Valley (spoiler alert: it’s hot, dry, and generally uncomfortable). Finally, there’s nothing like that sense of satisfaction you feel at the end of the race; completely buckled and fatigued, but with the knowledge you were never truly alone.
In past years, TSP has featured a cross section of the running world - some teams going all out for the win (evidenced by the epic head-to-head battle between Tracksmith and Sunchasers in 2018), while others are there to look cool on the Internet (didn’t Ben Franklin once say something like ‘those who would sacrifice their splits for their Instagram deserve neither’?). The race has the sort of popularity that allows its creators, Nils Arend and Blue Benadum, to hand-pick who takes part; there’s no website, no application page. You’re either invited to race or you aren’t.
TSP is fucking hard, but races are supposed to be. Will it change your life? Maybe, maybe not. But if you’re going in to it expecting it to follow a narrative you’ve built up in your mind, think again. To paraphrase Peter Bromka - TSP doesn’t owe you shit.
After our 2018 experience, I remember going for a run with Nils in Venice when he asked if we planned to come back for 2019. My response was that we wouldn’t do it the same way - that first experience was so good, and so pure, that it wouldn’t feel right to try and chase it or replicate it. We would however come back if we could do something different. I didn’t think much of it until later in the year when Nils and his crew got in touch.
With that, I’m excited to announce that TEMPO are sending a women’s team to TSP this year. Why? It just feels right. We’re lucky to have some incredible athletes and role models in our network who are committed to pushing and redefining their limits, and we’re proud to have them racing under the TEMPO name at the end of March.
Captain of our team is elite marathoner Lydia O’Donnell. Lydia, from New Zealand, ran her most recent marathon in New York, where she logged a 2:40:52, good for 20th overall. More recently, Lyds took out the national 5,000m title to go with a couple of national 10,000m titles.
"TSP is a race I can’t miss because it brings a whole different perspective to running for me. The team vibe and relay element makes you realize you are running for so much more than just yourself."
Also from New Zealand is Dr. Hannah Wells, a professional triathlete from the Bay of Plenty. Hannah most recently won the Challenge Wanaka ½ Ironman event by over a minute, her run leg arguably the strongest part of her race. For Hannah, who is used to relying on herself alone in gruelling endurance events, having a team around her will be a new experience.
“This is a unique opportunity for me; to get the chance to race in a team environment with 5 other kick arse girls. No doubt it will be an experience of a lifetime where we will be relying on each other for support and motivation to tackle the brutal challenges of TSP, and I can’t wait!”
We had to get a bit of local knowledge for the race, and that’s where Cassidy Benadum and Molly Paterno step in. Cassidy is co-founder of Run with the Lab, a marathon coaching business she shares with her husband and co-creator of TSP, Blue Benadum. Cassidy is a juggler; athlete, parent, and business owner, and from what we can tell she excels at all of them.
"My first experience with TSP was back in 2013 - the very first time it was done. As one of the crew, I witnessed firsthand how gritty and raw the race was - I was so inspired."
While Cass has the inside knowledge on how to train for something like TSP, Molly is a race veteran, having done it so many times she said we can throw away the map this year. Molly doesn't know it yet but she might cop the section with the wild dogs.
"I couldn’t be more excited to be on a team with five other women on our journey to set the “all-female” record and go for the win. Vegas, here we come!"
Finally, being an Australian based publication, we had to get a couple of Aussies in the team. Bec Wilcock is a runner and coach living in LA, after moving there a couple of years ago from Sydney. When she’s not helping a group of women get ready for a marathon or raising her 2 year old son Beau, she’s out ripping on the trails (she once competed in the Barkley Marathons – races don’t get much more extreme than that).
Last but not least, our other Aussie is also a trail runner. Michaela McDonald only joined our team a month ago; if anything TSP has just interrupted her normal high volume of training. Mic recently came 6th at what is arguably Australia’s most competitive trail marathon, The Six Foot Track Marathon. When she’s not running ultra’s, Michaela leads weekly run clubs around Sydney and works for local running specialty store Pace Athletic.
“As an ultra runner, I’m most looking forward to running through the infamous Death Valley. One of the biggest ultra marathons (Badwater) travels through the desert and I’ve heard how soul crushing that place can be - I can’t wait!”.
Each of the women chosen to represent TEMPO have been chosen not just for their running ability. Speed comes and goes; these women were chosen because they are pillars of their respective communities.
Whether it’s a mental health based run club in Auckland (Lydia co-created and runs One Step – a program rolling out internationally that gives people a safe space to exercise and connect with people who might be struggling with mental health issues), helping other women realise their potential through coaching and mentoring, or just taking female group runs along Sydney’s beaches, our women stand for more than just their own athletic pursuits.
We're ready to launch into the desert, and excited to rub shoulders with anyone else who's going full send.
Stay tuned to our social channels to see how it all goes down on the road.