300 Miles and Counting
By Mario Salguero
It was a chilly, dark Friday morning in late March. Nervous energy charged the air as runners from all walks of life milled about waiting for the 4 a.m. start of The Speed Project 2023 — an anything-goes team relay race that starts in Santa Monica, California, and ends at Nevada’s “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign on Las Vegas Boulevard, 341 miles away.
Patiently waiting just outside the Los Angeles metro area was Northrop Grumman employee Randy Casey. He would be part of the 47 hour and 40-minute charge across California’s Mojave Desert, over the state border, and onto the strip in Las Vegas.
“That morning I was feeling a mixture of emotions,” said Randy. “I was mentally preparing myself to perform well and not let my team down.”
One Step at a Time
Running has been a part of Randy’s life since competing in high school cross country and, later, during his 10 years with the U.S. Navy as a chief petty officer.
“Running became my outlet to relieve the stress of being away from family and loved ones,” said Randy, who joined Northrop Grumman as a director of general manufacturing in Palmdale, California, a year after retiring from the Navy in 2014. "Running gives you the control to determine what works best for you and test your limits."
After returning from his last deployment to the Persian Gulf and North Arabian Sea, Randy was approached by the High Desert Runners, a local running club comprised of people of all backgrounds and walks of life, with the opportunity to join them in running a race unlike any other: The Speed Project.
The goal is straightforward — each relay team is responsible for getting to the “Welcome to Las Vegas“ sign by noon on Sunday — but nothing else about the race is.
“There is no official course, relay handoff points or aid stations along the way. Each team and their support crews must plan and prepare for the course type, weather, segment lengths and fuel necessities for both the vehicles and teammates,” said Randy. “Communication is key to making sure our team is fully supported and safe.”
Randy’s six-person team — positioned on the outskirts of California’s Antelope Valley — was responsible for running one of the biggest altitude changes in the course, and Randy, who has run many times in a desert climate, was ready.
The High Desert Runners quickly found themselves several hours ahead of schedule and Randy’s section of the relay team zoomed into position, finding the handoff point just in time to take over for the preceding relay team.
“Day one was a big success, and I remember everyone was thrilled and pumped up to keep going,” said Randy. “But day two struck with a vengeance.”
The miles had stacked up, fatigue and sleep deprivation whittling away at the physical and mental performance of each runner and crew member. Then, a group text went out:
“Need help ASAP.”
The intense terrain was proving to be more physically challenging than anticipated, and the team decided that the planned multi-mile segments would be better attacked one mile at a time.
Randy’s team was tasked with yet another climb.
“This particular climb was extremely steep, and a single mile seemed like a marathon, but we were determined to help our teammates,” said Randy. “It was amazing to see team members who were supposed to be resting volunteer to run an extra mile.”
Those challenging moments were the ones that spoke to Randy the most and made reaching the finish line so meaningful.
“This was truly a rewarding experience that taught me that with planning, training and a team with a shared mindset, anything is possible,” Randy said.
The correlation between racing and our work at Northrop Grumman is clear, said Randy.
“Answer the call, lean forward to support and provide help and own the moment to ensure we are able to meet our common goal,” said Randy.