We are on the eve of a special weekend.
Tomorrow, six of New York City’s strongest female runners will begin their 340-mile race from Los Angeles’ Santa Monica Pier to Las Vegas. The BANG BANG GIRL GANG takes on the Speed Project 5.0.
If you’re not familiar with the race, it’s more than just an Instagram goldmine for participants. It’s a grueling trek through the California desert before being greeted by the bright lights and debauchery of Sin City. We’re heading into the fifth edition of the unsanctioned race and there are still no rules, no support, no website, no application process and no details on how to enter.
Captained by Kimmie Skafsgaard, a Denmark native who ran 3:17 at last year’s New York City Marathon, the Bang Bang Girl Gang has its eyes on the all-women’s record which would require them to finish the race in under 44 hours, 27 minutes and 11 seconds.
“This isn’t a race about me,” Kimmie says. “This is something where I know that my team is counting on me. That’s what makes it special.”
While it would be easy to trounce out a squad of professional runners to essentially run a 6 x 10K workout, what makes this group of women special is the fact that they all balance full-time jobs with their sub-elite running.
Caedryn Schrunk is a self-described workaholic. She grew up in Iowa, competed for Northern Iowa, moved to Los Angeles after college and stayed there for five years before she accepted the challenge, constant hustle, people, inspiration and toughness that comes with New York. She currently works in brand marketing for Nike, which involves working with the city’s athletes, coaches, crew leaders, creators, designers, photographers, filmmakers and many more people.
“I think the challenge of the Speed Project – with its mileage, terrain, weather and the sheer grit – is attractive to me,” Caedryn says. “Being able to test your limits, find your limits and then have to mentally and physically push past your perceived limits is something that this race offers. Mentally and physically it is incredibly tough, and the entire team has to be willing to dig deep, especially on a team of six to finish.”
Marta Fenollosa accepts the challenge as well. The Barcelona native moved to New York because it’s one of the best places in the world to be an architect and project manager. She works with a design firm in Soho and just recently finished a new building for Brown University. Marta most recently clocked a personal best of 1:27:17 at the NYC Half and somehow thinks that the Speed Project is the perfect tune-up for Boston in less than three weeks. She survived last year’s maelstrom so there’s no questioning her toughness.
“I’m pretty sure this is going to be a really powerful experience,” Marta says. “I’m willing to push my limits and see what I’m capable of with such an incredible group of women.”
View this post on Instagram
Don’t let that smile fool you, this race was the hardest thing I’ve ever done! But all that pain went away every time I saw a familiar face cheering. Thanks dear friends. You made this epic day unforgettable (I won’t lie, the weather might also play an important role in my memory…) #bostonmarathon2018 #bostonstrong #brooklyntrackclub #streets101nyc #nikenyc #squad #runningfam #maurten_official 📸: @jcal14
The team also features three 2020 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials qualifiers in Jeanne Mack, Leigh Anne Sharek and Caitlin Phillips.
(If you’ve listened to the Runners of New York City Podcast, you’ll be familiar with all three women)
Caitlin is one of the most-seasoned marathoners of the team. She has finished top 20 in the Berlin Marathon twice and in the Boston Marathon once. She boasts a personal best of 2:37:48 for 26.2 but that shouldn’t come as much of a shock since the signs of success have been there since she won a SEC 5,000 meter title while at Kentucky. Running some of the early morning legs of the Speed Project should be no problem for her since she tends to run around 5 a.m. before heading to work as an executive producer for Mac Cosmetics, where she oversees all video and photo production from social media to global advertising campaigns.
Leigh Anne, a full-time criminalist in the Office of Chief Medical Examiner Of New York, returns to the Speed Project for her second consecutive year. Since running 2:42:02 at December’s California International Marathon, she’s had March 29th circled on her calendar. In the past 12 months, she’s checked off her goals of breaking five minutes for the mile, qualifying for the Trials and winning New York Road Runners Runner of the Year. Nabbing a record at the Speed Project is next on her list.
View this post on Instagram
This time next week we will be cruising through the desert with @thespeedproject! I can’t wait to tackle 340 miles with @kimmieskafsgaard @cschrunk @jmmackattack @caitlinphillips and @mfenollosa!! 🔥🌵 • 📸: @eyewitnesssed • #tsp #thespeedproject #miles #womenrunning #bangbanggirlgang #fbf #running #strongwomen #girlgang #womensrunningcommunity #brooklyntrackclub #nikerunning #nikewomen #strongertogether #latovegas #training #marathontraining #letsgo #staylost #norules
Lastly, if you’ve followed CITIUS MAG since the beginning, you probably know Jeanne. She’s a writer, a co-host of the Runners of NYC Podcast and the owner of a 2:39:04 personal best from last year’s Chicago Marathon. Jeanne would be the first to say that she’s passionate about ice cream, reading hybrid literature, yoga, nail polish colors, podcasts and most HBO miniseries. But what she’s looking forward to in the next few days is California’s climate, landscape and the unique opportunity to make her body adhere to a certain set of limitations in order to push its limits. Lots of fun contradictions.
View this post on Instagram
Did it all for the slippers (see pic 8) ————————— My Dad told me “second time’s a charm” the night before the @chimarathon and I didn’t even notice that wasn’t the real saying so I went out and got that #otq on the second try. Which means I need to say thank you to my parents for sometimes lying to me in the nicest way, to @paulopolooza for literally carrying me many times, to @stephenkersh for coaching/photography/voice of reason, to @tracksmithrunning for all their support, to @cieleathletics for shielding my occasionally scowling face in the ~*~wEaThEr~*~, to @nikenyc for the well wishes, to @kcaputo12 for being an incredible trackmomfriend, to @alainamurphy for the rain warrior braids, to @ryan_sterner for being himself, and to @chris_j_chavez for losing his voice. AND SRSLY thank you to all of the truly amazing people who reached out before, during, and after this buildup y’all were on my mind during those 26.2 miles. ______________________ @isthatsol official webmaster of the @thejbac summed up my precise feelings on yesterday nicely with: “Running can be a real treat sometimes :)” . Photos by @rabbitwolfcreative (@ryan_sterner and @stephenkersh ) and @zhetrick (and @kcaputo12 and a stranger) <333
“I have been running underground and unsanctioned races in New York City for a couple years now, and this takes that to the next level,” Leigh Anne says. “It’s just some badass people killing themselves across 340 miles in the desert. I like that it’s crazy. I like when people are shocked that we are doing this. It’s like, ‘Yeah thats right. We are getting six incredibly tough fast women together and we are going to crush this thing.'”
We’ll be providing updates on the team on our Instagram page throughout the weekend. Follow, subscribe, turn on push notifications. You will not want to miss this.
Special thanks to Zach Hetrick for the lead image.