Health & Fitness | October 5, 2020 11:37 am

How Many Miles Can a Team of Six Runners Crank Out in 31 Hours?

Our friends at Tracksmith recently won the latest, virtual version of The Speed Project

speed project virtual race
One of Tracksmith's competitors cranking out another 5:00 mile at the witching hour.

The Speed Project is a seven-year-old, underground relay race from Santa Monica Pier to Las Vegas. Competitors run in teams of six (generally four men and two women), and cover over 340 miles in a matter of days. A good chunk of those miles are through the heart of Death Valley, and to prevent heat exhaustion, teams have to carefully assign shifts — in distance and expected pace — throughout the day.

It’s possibly the foremost example of two trends that have swept the running community over the last decade: extreme distance and amateur exposure. The fastest any team has covered the distance is 31 hours and 15 minutes.

That mark set the standard for a new contest from The Speed Project last month: TSP DIY. Instead of congregating in California per usual, TSP tapped into the thriving virtual run craze — which we’ve covered at length here at InsideHook — and created an at-home event based on its infamous desert scramble. The challenge: run as many miles as possible, with a team of your choosing, in 31 hours and 15 minutes.

A ton of runners signed up. TSP reported athletes participating from 36 different countries, and hundreds of different teams, which had the choice to sign up as “OG” (six runners — four men, two women) or “freestyle” (any number of runners allowed in order to complete the challenge). The “OG,” teams, though, were part of the official leaderboard, and were unofficially vying to dethrone the 31:15:00 time for 340 miles. Two six-person teams actually did it; a French team named Secret Race Series ran 342 miles, and our friends at Tracksmith actually won the whole thing, crossing with 348 total miles.

To quote an Outside Online feature from 2018, “Welcome to the brave new world of sportswear marketing.” Tracksmith assembled a team of employees and training partners and ran from 6:30 a.m. on September 5 until 2:15 p.m. on September 6. They predominantly ran along a 1.2 stretch along Charles River and a beloved 0.75 circle called the Harvard Tempo Loop, with two sub-teams of three running two-hour shifts. The guys aimed for 5:15 miles each time they answered the call; the gals aimed for 6:30s. By the end of it all, they’d run 348.3 miles at 5:09 pace and edged out the French, plus teams from Bombay and Berlin, for first place in the competition.

The whole thing was utterly insane — in a piece on Tracksmith’s site, you can find photos and audio clips that show how the team beat the world — and included tons of Gatorade, a run-in with sprinklers, then the cops, and 90-minute breaks to watch TV while wearing NormaTec sleeves. But at its core, TSP DIY is a testament to the way runners have adapted to, and even taken advantage of, a year full of postponements and cancellations. Not to mention, it raised almost $100,000 to fight systemic racism in America, which is a very, very good thing.

Oh, and in case you ever needed more reason to trust Tracksmith’s gear, all six runners were only wearing the Hare’s shirts and shorts … for 60 miles apiece. Treat yourself.