MADE TO BE BROKEN.
AS A TEAM.
story told by Nikolas Zeigert and Eugen Fink
Pictures by Max Menning if not stated otherwise
Header pic by Christian Brecheis
Our race from Berlin to Hamburg was an inspiration from a relay run from 2014. Back then six crazy Runners decided to run from Los Angeles to Las Vegas – as fast as possible. They called it The Speed Project (TSP).
After our comparable small relay here in Germany we tagged the TSP's Instagram handle (@thespeedproject) in one of our posts and next thing you know: we're invited to LA. Invited to run The Speed Project 3.0 which would be happening for the third time in March 2017.
As Berlin to Hamburg (280 kilometre) was fun and in order to do something crazy again we accepted the invitation, obviously. Only difference: the distance (550km), the temperature (>30°C), the organisational hustle (USA) and – as always – the monetary invest as we had to pay for that whole trip by ourselves.
It was mid-December when we booked cheap-ass flights for 380€ (hand luggage only and NO meals on the plane!) and sat together to start planning everything what was necessary for the trip.
After every year's Christmas feasts we set our new year's resolutions and started our training in January. Goal: get ready for the biggest challenge in our lives. Running from LA to Vegas meant going 550km through pain, insomnia and a distance we couldn't even imagine. But we wanted to accept the challenge and do it as a team, as always.
To get fit for those distances, we followed a boot camp plan from Blue Benadum (Nike+ Run Club Head Coach in LA) and Falko Zauber (Nike+ Run Club Coach in Berlin). Those combined meant that training was tough. Like… REALLY tough!
Imagine running 6-9 times per week. Sundays even twice or three times a day with breaks in between. And adding a normal life's week to that (full-time jobs, hobbies, parties, …) and a cold Berlin Winter didn't really help. So, guess what: some of us already got sick multiple times, days and weeks before the actual race.
As we planned to race with a group of eight KRAFT Runners, we encouraged each other during those hard weeks of training. We set up competitions, we made bets, we skipped lunch breaks in order to make those trainings work and to motivate each other. Every Sunday was a meet-up at Cafe Kraft to run, plan, eat, run, plan, drink, run and then, after 3x 10k that day some of us even added another leg home at night, at temperatures bellow zero.
Meanwhile, we ordered an Airbnb apartment in Venice, right next to Muscle Beach. We created social media content and set up a plan when to post what. We payed for the hotel rooms in Vegas. We rented a huge RV (and added that full insurance, THANK GOD) and were even lucky enough to get a Mini Countryman as a support vehicle for free (thanks Luke for making that happen!). Everything for almost 40 hours of pure adventure, nature, heat and against our inner daemons. And pain. Definitely for pain.
We took that cheap-ass flight and headed to California seven days prior to the race to acclimatise and get rid of our jet lag. We enjoyed a bunch of time at the beach. And we did photo shootings for our career to become a beach boy like David Hasselhoff. Ahh... nice! (Still no career, though.)
The vibe and excitement went higher and higher. But we didn't focus on the race. We actually enjoyed a week together, as a crew, as friends. A week of talking, exercising (not running! We don't want to look too skinny, you know) and coffee drinking; you should definitely check out Menotti's once in Venice!
As a student starts to study for exams only days before the actual exam, we started to get ready for the race only a day prior. We did the groceries (we bought waaaaaaaaaaaay too much food*), planned the running order (it didn't work out as planned) and packed our bags as we had to leave the Airbnb apartment.
*way too much means: 8 banana breads, 5 melons (haha), 4kg of noodles, 3kg of rice, tons of snacks, … not enough drinks which we had to restock on the way and (get ready for this) NO BEERS because this would have been unfair for the other crews competing. ;)
So the night before the race we gave each other good-night kisses (without tongue!) and went to bed as soon as we finished preparing ourselves at 1 a.m.
Wake-up call Friday morning at 3 a.m. With two hours of sleep that was the worst idea to physically prepare ourselves for a race of that length. But adrenaline and group vibe was high so we were READY once at the starting line: the Santa Monica Pier.
Our rules: Runner A does 10k. Than the Mini awaits at the changing zone with Runner B inside. Once Runner A arrives, Runner B starts and so on… After all eight Runners do their leg one after each other, we start from the beginning, with Runner A. Meaning everybody has to do about 7 legs of 10 kilometres each, in less than two days. (Does that make sense? If not, check out the video at the very bottom of that article.)
So race started and quickly the sun came out. After everybody's first leg, we only had 80k in the pocket and still had to go 470k until Las Vegas. Nice side effect, though: in an RV of that size, we enjoyed each other's company that much that we got to know each other even better than before. Making that whole race about more than just running. It was also about taking care (and making fun) of each other.
Eugen: "Manu, can I have some banana bread?"
Manu: "Sorry! But I baked every bread just for myself."
Eugen, laughing and reaching for banana bread.
Manu: "Really? I JUST told you that all 5 banana breads are for myself!"
makes it special for everyone. Even after we ran 60k each and almost didn't sleep, we felt great and motivated af! During the TSP we learnt what that good vibe good people slogan really means. Now, we try to live by that slogan at our weekly Tuesday sessions and in our everyday life.
DURING THE RACE
You know already that we weren't in our best shape because some of us were already sick or even had a big injury while training. Additionally, two of us got injured and were struggling a lot. One who had an injury in his hamstrings. The other who already started the race with an injury at his ankle.
Imagine when you go for a 10k run! Now imagine that you do a couple of those and injure yourself. It was not only physical pain they felt but an emotional one as well. We all felt it but it didn't change the goal we all aimed for: arriving in Vegas, together!
Two out of eight Runners injured, meaning more milage for the other already exhausted ones. But as we were running in a team, this had to be anticipated. Instead of being angry about it, we took things as they came: we rearranged the running order and kept on going. Everybody helping each other out. Every second we weren't running, our bodies were screaming for some recovery. Mobile black rolls, tablets of salt and a lot of hydration were all actions of provision we did because of our friend and team doc Paul Schmidt who spontaneously joined our adventure to give medical support.
Running as a team sport
During marathons you have thousands of people around you. People that motivate you, maybe you even find a group with your exact pace you want to run. But still, running isn't common as a team sport. Although, we were running alone and uphill, alone and at night, alone with temperatures above 30°C – we always knew that as soon as we finish that leg there will be the rest of the crew waiting.
So this race – or, better said, this type of races – indeed IS a team sport! Because nobody can do it by himself. And the better you work together as a team, the easier and with more shenanigans you can achieve the goal you set.
We aimed for an average pace of 4:30 min/km. This equals a finish time of 41:15:00 hours.
Despite loosing an RV door in the desert in the middle of night (story coming soon), two injuries and too much food, we arrived in Las Vegas after 39 hours, 29 minutes and 1 second.
Would we ever do it again? HELL YEAH!
What exactly is The Speed Project?