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All-BIPOC Speed Project team set to race virtually

The Air Up There Run Crew will be racing the virtual ultramarathon which would normally take runners from L.A. to Vegas

Photo by: Josh Tenn-Yuk

Hamilton’s Air Up There Run Crew will be represented by six runners at this year’s edition of The Speed Project ultramarathon relay. In normal years, the 550K race is held between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, but due to COVID-19, it’s taking the virtual route for 2020. Air Up There co-founder Moe Bsat says it can be difficult to register for The Speed Project race, but since it’s virtual this year, his team was able to enter without any issues. Competing in this race would be noteworthy enough, but Bsat and his crew added another level to their story, forming an all-BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Colour) team to run the relay. The team will start their race on the morning of September 5 on Toronto’s Lakeshore Boulevard.

Members of the Air Up There Run Crew. Photo: Josh Tenn-Yuk

Emphasis on inclusion 

Bsat moved to Hamilton — where he now works as a lawyer at the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic — two years ago and created the Air Up There Run Crew with co-founder Brad Cole. He says the crew has a core of 12 runners, but many others cycle through and join workouts every now and then. The crew is open to all athletes, but there are some workouts with restrictions. 

“We do open runs of around 5K to 7K on Saturdays,” Bsat says. “And we have a BIPOC-exclusive run on Wednesday nights. That’s 5K, and there’s also a 3K run-walk option.” When he decided to enter a team in The Speed Project, he made the ultimate call regarding the team’s makeup. 

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“You don’t often see BIPOC folks coming together to make relay teams,” he says. “So I made it a point to create an all-BIPOC team.” He adds that the reason he put this team together was to “normalize BIPOC people running and to create more visibility for BIPOC runners.” 

Air Up There runners huddle up before a workout. Photo: Josh Tenn-Yuk

The Speed Project 

Bsat started running 11 years ago, and since then, he has challenged himself at a variety of distances, from 10Ks to marathons and even a couple of ultras. He says he expects to run anywhere from 60K up to 90K in The Speed Project relay, which will last 31 hours and 15 minutes (the existing Speed Project record). As a team, the six athletes hope to run 300K. Athletes can compete from all over the world, and each team’s mileage will be tracked on Strava. After the 31 hours, the team that has travelled the farthest wins.  

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There are several race categories in The Speed Project: “OG” teams (two women and four men), women-only teams and “freestyle” teams (meaning a team can feature as many runners as they like). There is also a solo option. The Air Up There crew will be competing in the OG category, and Bsat will be joined by his teammates Kahle RichardsonVince Kuber, Aaron Anupol, Fatma Ramadan and Ekua Cudjoe. Cole, Bsat’s crew co-founder, will be present on the day, but he won’t be racing. Instead, he will be supporting the six runners and helping them get through the lengthy event. 

The crew hangs out after a run. Photo: Josh Tenn-Yuk

Bsat notes that while the team roster is set, it would be great to receive support from the local running community, specifically in the form of pacers. “We’d love to attract more BIPOC people, but it’s open to anybody,” he says. “The more community support we can get through pacers, I think it’ll really help each of these individuals to accomplish their goals.” 

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Bsat says he hopes that, after participating in the virtual event format, he will be able to register a team for the 2021 in-person relay. “I would love for this BIPOC team to get a shot to do this physical race in the future.” To find out more about the Air Up There Run Crew’s plans for The Speed Project, check out the club’s Instagram page. The team will start at 10 a.m. on September 5 in High Park, and they’ll continue until the following afternoon. Anyone interested in tagging along, pacing and showing their support is welcome.