The Speed Project is an ultra relay like no other. Since 2013, runners from around the world have been assembling teams of six to tackle 340 miles (547 km) from Los Angeles to Las Vegas with no set route, no specific rules, and only one goal–to get to Sin City first.
TSP is an unsanctioned endurance event that draws runners from around the world across three days, starting on March 25. (There is also a solo ultra, which started Monday.) OG (original) teams can be two women and four men or four women and two men; there are also women-only teams and “freestyle” teams (which can have any number of runners). The goal for all is to run across the Mojave Desert and Death Valley to reach the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign at the south end of the strip, for the ultimate post-race celebration.
Three Canadian teams from Toronto and Montreal will be making the trip down to California.
Pace & Mind – Toronto
Team captain: Carolyn Buchanan, 27
Team size: Six (four men, two women)
This team of runners out of Toronto’s west end are more than just hobby joggers. This hard-working group of young marathoners with experience at Boston, New York and Chicago are committed to their craft, and it shows in their results.
Last year, this team ran TSP virtually, but once they found out it was taking place in person this year, they entered a team. “This relay is the perfect time for many of us coming off a large volume of winter training,” says Buchanan.
“We want to be competitive,” Buchanan says. “But our team is also structured around good vibes and longtime friends. We know this journey isn’t going to be easy, but hope our recent hill training will help pull us through.”
Buchanan participated in the virtual TSP in 2020 and 2021. Her love for ultra relays began in the summer of 2019, when she ran Reebok’s Ragnar Relay from Toronto to Niagara Falls. “What I learned from my previous experience is that you have to take advantage of all the time you have between each leg,” she says. “Getting your body back to speed after you finish running is essential for your team’s success.”
Pace & Mind will be bringing along four crew members from their Toronto-based run club to help with recovery, support and driving. “We plan to adjust on the go, as we know the challenges that the Mojave Desert will bring,” says Buchanan.
The Runway – Toronto
Team captain: Darren Weldrick, 50
Team size: Six (two men, four women)
Weldrick comes into TSP with a vast amount of experience, previously finishing as the fourth overall team in 2017. This time around, he plans on relying on his course knowledge to position the legs around his team’s strengths. “Every team goes to TSP wanting to be competitive,” Weldrick says. “This year will be a learning experience for a few of us.” His team is comprised of four ultra-relay veterans and two runners who will be competing in their first ultra relay.
The Runway club is the oldest of the three competing at TSP, starting in the early-2000s, running out of Toronto’s east-end and Don Valley area. “One thing I’ve learned from the 12 ultra relays I’ve done is that it’s better to have people on your team who you enjoy spending time with,” Weldrick says. “If you have fast runners and you don’t get along, you won’t succeed.”
Although the Runway team has experienced a few setbacks leading up to this year’s TSP, they are eager, experienced and know what to expect on the course. Weldrick offers his version of TSP called: Run to MTL, which takes place annually in October to connect the Toronto and Montreal running communities.
Weldrick is most excited about experiencing Death Valley again at TSP. “It’s one of the most stunning places on Earth,” he says. “You get to experience the heat and the cold, which can be tough for many first-time runners.” His team will not have a support crew coming down with them, therefore runners will have to take turns driving in between legs.
Yamajo RC – Montreal
Team captain: David Joseph, 37
Team size: Six (four men, two women)
Joseph returns to TSP following his 2019 debut with his Montreal Yamajo Run Crew. Joseph’s Yamajo crew meets twice weekly to run together, but for him, it’s about so much more than that – his run crew has become his family, running the same streets he grew up on, in Montreal’s Little Burgundy area.
Joseph, an Under Armour athlete, took an interest in running from entering Spartan races after he graduated university. In 2014, he launched Yamajo Run Crew as a social run group built around energy, good times and enthusiasm.
Similar to the Runway and Pace & Mind, Joseph picked his team to be competitive, but also to have runners he gets along well with and who motivate one another to perform well.
Joseph says his experience at TSP in 2019 was “unforgettable,” and his Yamajo crew is looking to improve on their performance from two years ago, when they finished 14th out of 41 teams.
The Speed Project starts on Friday at 5:00 a.m. local time from the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles. Readers can follow the race here.