“When the cops pull you over, be tremendous good,” says Nils Arend.
“I personally have a difficulty with authority, however in The Velocity Mission you are representing all of us in each interplay.
“So be good, be cooperative. And once they ask what you are doing simply say, ‘Oh, we’re only a bunch of associates operating to Vegas’.
“They needn’t know roughly.”
Arend is sitting in a north London bar explaining the bottom guidelines of one of many world’s most sought-after ultra-running races.
Being pleasant, however discreet, within the face of the legislation is a part of the pre-race briefing he provides at The Velocity Mission (TSP), an unsanctioned, unsupported 350-mile race from Los Angeles to Las Vegas through Dying Valley.
It has no web site, no “register right here” button, no guidelines, no official route, no spectators and, till per week earlier than, no official begin date.
It is a “Combat Membership” of the operating world created within the mould of its founder. Earlier than he discovered marathon operating after shifting to Los Angeles within the mid-2000s, Arend organised a rave evening in a borrowed brothel in Hamburg’s red-light district.
Regardless of the race’s underground standing, the beginning line is stuffed with a few of the world’s quickest athletes, and the largest manufacturers.
How do they get there? Properly, that is an extended story, shrouded in secrecy.
Arend first ran the route in 2013 as a relay with 5 associates – three different males and two ladies. Competing in that format is now generally known as the unique (OG) option to race.
Since then, although, three different classes have been added, together with, extremely, a solo class through which British ultra-runner James Poole has competed within the final two years.
“It is tough to not sound holier than thou, preachy, or that everybody else who’s doing their factor is unsuitable,” says Poole who, in between wild tenting in derelict buildings surrounded by used gun cartridges and fuelling himself completely with foods and drinks from roadside gasoline stations, accomplished the 2023 race in slightly below 119 hours.
“However I do assume that after you have bought a field stuffed with medals you do not ever have a look at and a group of T-shirts that do not imply something to you, then going off the grid is a purist manner of doing one thing that you just love.”
Arend shares the identical love of the leftfield. And an outright dislike for the staid method to aggressive distance operating.
“After I moved to LA, I ran a few marathons,” he says. “However I felt so misplaced. I used to be like ‘these aren’t my individuals’.
“So the following iteration of all of it was for me to begin to do my very own issues. We create a secure place for everyone to point out up the best way they’re. No marathon can try this. They might. However they don’t seem to be doing that. They’re simply operating their very own programme prefer it was 25 years in the past.
“There are two fields of motivation as to why persons are interested in TSP.
“One is ‘OK, I wish to go there, carry out and crush it’ and the others are ‘I’m going to make use of TSP and its group to amplify my voice, my mission, the trigger I’m behind’. So long as it aligns with who our group is, then that’s precisely who we’re for.”
Many of the world’s greatest operating manufacturers wish to be a part of Arend’s imaginative and prescient.
The Velocity Mission celebrated its tenth anniversary this yr and the record of manufacturers who’ve despatched groups is a who’s who of the game, from Nike to Tracksmith, New Stability to On Operating.
Their presence on the bottom of low-key begin traces – the race begins at 04:00 at Santa Monica Pier – is certainly one of many paradoxes in an occasion which each courts and shuns publicity on the similar time.
Stripped of all the standard trappings of high-profile operating races, TSP’s desirability to massive manufacturers has truly sky-rocketed.
Poole is aware of extra about that unusual irony than most.
The 47-year-old’s sponsors made a short film about the event in 2022, accompanying him with a campervan to assist with refuelling, sleeping and navigation.
This yr, although, he ran the occasion completely unsupported, the one individual within the subject to take action – a call even Arend thought was “loopy”.
It meant Poole was accountable not just for operating greater than 500km by way of massively variable circumstances – he spent a lot of the 2023 occasion in a padded down jacket and trousers due to unseasonably low temperatures and snowstorms – he was additionally answerable for discovering his manner, his meals, and his sleeping spots.
“I’ve bought a few niggles from TSP however I am certain it’s going to be high quality,” he says.
It is lower than two weeks after his return from Los Angeles, and Poole and I are on a 10k run alongside the Regent’s Canal and his different common operating routes in east London.
After casually dropping into dialog the plan to run a marathon in a number of days’ time, Poole tries to clarify the attract of the 350-mile TSP and a route that, on the face of it, is legendary just for its featurelessness.
A part of his 2023 route took him down the Yermo Street – a 75-mile straight stretch of tarmac with out a single flip.
“You run for six hours and you might be on the identical highway,” he says. “You do six extra and then you definately’re nonetheless on the identical highway.
“Should you’re doing about 75 miles a day as I used to be, then you definately spend the entire day on the identical highway with out a single flip.”
Paula Radcliffe used to rely to 100 in her head on repeat throughout marathons.
“Are you able to think about what number of occasions I might get to 100 if I did that?” Poole laughs. “I believe the vital factor is to only be current. And that’s what’s happening, I believe, with Paula’s counting to 100, you aren’t occupied with the factor sooner or later.
“You have to be having fun with the second as a lot as you may. Should you begin pondering 50 miles in that you have 250 or extra to go, that simply blows your thoughts.”
Poole, who took a digicam with him on the race and captured a few of the photos on this article, continues: “The TSP route is type of stunning in a brutalist sort manner. Magnificence is all over the place. It is simply the best way you see it. The gasoline stations are as ugly as sin however they’re stunning whenever you get there.
“For a British individual, we do not have extensive open areas like that or the previous Americana ghost-towns.
“I might, and did, sleep in derelict buildings, which is sort of arduous to do within the UK.”
Is it not scary? “Yeah, slightly bit,” he says. “If you sleep in buildings with gun shells in there, you assume: ‘How secure is that this?’
“Final yr, I keep in mind seeing a automotive stuffed with bullet holes, nevertheless it had a bench seat within the again. I used to be so drained, I actually thought of sleeping in there it however determined it was a silly concept.
“It was clearly used as capturing apply by individuals – are you able to think about?”
At a look, Arend’s journey from organising underground raves in Hamburg to heading up an ultra-endurance race in Los Angeles may appear an unlikely one.
However he insists there’s a hyperlink between the 2.
“It is the identical, it is an endurance sport of parents, a variety of whom have parted methods with the nightlife,” he says. “A lot of people who had points, alcohol, medication no matter, they discover themselves in that sport and we’re creating an setting the place they really feel understood.”
Poole feels related, insisting that TSP must be understood as a reset from society’s norms. An excessive, but conscious, desert retreat from the monotony of nine-to-five dwelling.
“There is a form of pleasure in being self-sufficient [at TSP], and taking care of your self and never needing anyone,” Poole says.
“Today, the whole lot is fairly straightforward, proper. We reside in a world of comfort, notably within the UK and the US.
“You possibly can have Deliveroo deliver you takeaway. You do not have to go away your home.
“That is like the opposite excessive. No-one brings you something. You do not get it, till you discover it. And if its closed, that is the best way it goes.”
Poole ought to know.
There have been routinely stretches of this yr’s race through which he went eight to 10 hours with out an choice to restock with meals or water.
Arend additionally is aware of, and thrives, on such emotions of escape, and pushing the boundaries of bodily endurance.
In truth, if rumours are to be believed, then going eight to 10 hours with out meals or water choices will probably be a stroll within the park in contrast with what he has deliberate.
Poole lets slip in our dialog that Arend is pondering of making an attempt a Velocity Mission-style race in November in Chile.
Will probably be just like TSP in distance and ethos, however way more excessive given it could ship runners throughout the complete Atacama Desert, one of many world’s harshest environments.
A race throughout the Atacama would have zero resupply choices. Groups would must be completely self-sufficient, carrying all their gear in pick-up vehicles due to the character of the terrain.
Arend is coy concerning the query of what is subsequent? “That is the actually tough query,” he says. “We’re exploring different parts.
“I am at all times going alone adventures and, just like how TSP was born, if I come throughout an journey that I believe is price sharing with the group, I’ll proceed sharing that.”
Poole is much less equivocal.
If Arend brings the race to the Atacama, he’ll be the primary title on the teamsheet, whatever the dangers. Why?
“What I do not perceive is the individuals who do the London Marathon time and again and spend the remainder of their operating profession making an attempt to shave 5 seconds off a time that no-one actually cares about,” he says.
“My reply to that’s to cease chasing this factor that isn’t that vital and go and do one thing that’s thrilling.
“There are many delicate causes for not going to do these form of issues like TSP. However finally the pithy, barely obtuse, reply to why do this stuff is simply because you may. And if you are able to do it, then why not give it a go?”