Running With Speed: An Introduction to Speedrunning

For years, speedrunning remained a niche hobby that no one believed could ever reach the mainstream. This film aims to break that stereotype.


Good Deed Entertainment

The official artwork for the Running With Speed Documentary, posted on Good Deed Entertainment’s site.

Sunny Li, Staff Writer

For years, speedrunning remained as a relatively niche form of competitive gaming that has been largely cut off from mainstream media. However, on January 6th, 2023, Good Deed Entertainment released Running With Speed, a documentary that introduces the world of speedrunning to the public.

Directed by Patrick Lope and Nicholas Mross, Running With Speed introduces audiences to a group of elite gamers known as speedrunners, who all work to push their respective games to the absolute limit, with speed as their top priority.

The documentary is narrated by none other than Summoning Salt, a speedrunning historian–and speedrunner himself–who specializes in creating YouTube videos documenting the world record history of a variety of different games. 

“I’ve tried to keep a low profile on showing myself. It’s honestly just ‘cause that’s how I’ve always been; I’ve always tried to stay under the radar,” Salt explains. “In addition to holding the Punch-Out world record, I’m also pretty well-known for a YouTube series I create where I talk about the world record history and progression of various video games.”

Salt’s expertise in narration and description becomes quickly apparent, immediately drawing his audience in by connecting the art of speedrunning and the world’s inherent fascination with the concept of speed.

“We’ve always been fascinated with speed; There’s something about the visceral experience of witnessing speed that is instantly gratifying,” Salt states. “The human spirit keeps finding ways to push things further–it’s an ongoing pursuit for perfection. The same, believe it or not, holds true in speedrunning.”

While Salt drives the documentary forward, it’s the various speedrunning icons and pioneers that truly make up the heart and soul of the documentary. A representative of almost all classic speedrunning games is present, and each respective speedrunner plays a crucial role in building up the credibility and success of speedrunning for the documentary. 

For the original Super Mario Bros, Andrew Gardikis, better known as AndrewG, outlines his experience as the pioneer of one of the oldest and most iconic speedrunning games of all time.

“2007 was the year I got the first five-minute Mario–five minutes flat–and that was a huge deal,” Gardikis recounts. “[By 2015], it was a real race between me and Darbian…and then you had Kosmic come along, who was also at the same level. The three of us were all neck and neck, going for the world record every night, and you never knew when a new record was gonna pop up, but you knew it was gonna happen.”

For Super Mario Bros. 3, Mitch Fowler, better known as MitchFlowerPower, describes his successes as a modern speedrunning icon, proving speedrunning as a worthwhile and sustainable career to the rest of the world.

“I’ve been in the Guinness Book of World Records…I’ve been on national television–Late Night with Stephen Colbert; that’s the most nervous I’ve ever been in my life, because it’s one of the biggest opportunities I could have possibly been given,” Fowler describes. “I think that was the exact point in time where my family and friends and my parents finally understood that what I was doing was something.”

Years later in 2019, Fowler would be a homeowner, happily engaged, and fully sustainable thanks to his streaming career on Twitch.

“If people like my content, they can subscribe to me, just like anyone would subscribe to their local paper,” Fowler explains. “If you like my content, you pay $4.99–I get a portion of that every month.”

For the world of Super Mario Bros. Kaizo ROM Hacks, GlitchCat7 further emphasizes speedrunning as a legitimate career choice.

“My [previous] job was to stand in front of a machine that folds laundry and feed it laundry to be folded all day. That was it. That was my job…and that was boring and stupid,” GlitchCat7 recounts. “I don’t wanna fit into that world where I just have a job and I just go in and do that; I wanna…play my games for people and teach them tricks and stuff. It’s honestly everything I could’ve ever wanted.”

David Hunt, better known as GrandPooBear, demonstrates the extent of the success that speedrunning can bring.

“A speedrunner named GrandPooBear recently got siged by Red Bull,” Summoning Salt states. “He’s the first speedrunner to achieve this level of mainstream sponsorship.”

Beyond his success with the Red Bull sponsorship, Hunt has made major efforts to expand speedrunning to a wider audience. 

“I do a speedrun tour now called GrandPooBear Speedrun Sessions, where we go to different barcades–which is like an arcade inside a bar–and we do speedrun demos and those have been going incredibly well,” Hunt reports. “The number of people that said this was their first time seeing live speedrunning…that’s what I wanna do. I wanna bring speedrunning to everybody.”

For Super Mario 64, Allan Alvarez, better known as Cheese, and Devin Blair, better known as Puncayshun, display the intensity and rigor of a speedrunning competition can match–and arguably even surpass–the stress of other “traditional” forms of competition. 

The commentator, known as Simply, says it best: “They know they can win. But they both said that when they’re racing against each other, the nerves are like no other race.” 

For Super Metroid, Zoast describes just how tight competition for a certain speedrunning game can be, as he is only one of five people to hold the world record for the game. 

“Getting the Any% world record in Super Metroid is definitely one of the biggest achievements anybody could hope to achieve in speedrunning,” Zoast says. “Since, like, 2008,there’s only been five people since Hotarubi that have gotten this record.”

Additionally, the aforementioned Hotarubi–one of the greatest pioneers who has remained anonymous for so long–makes his grand debut. 

Hotarubi says, “I tried to absorb the beautiful play that was done by TAS [Tool Assisted Speedrun], and kept training in order to achieve faster timing.” 

For The Legend Of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Narcissa Wright proves the publicity and extraordinary experiences speedrunning can bring, earning her a ticket to the 2015 Nintendo World Championships, and even an opportunity to meet Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of Super Mario and The Legend of Zelda.

“It was really amazing to be able to meet him briefly…,” Wright describes. “I’m really happy I was a part of it.”

However, Wright also brings the documentary back down to earth, displaying how passion for speedrunning–just like any other form of competition–can slowly trickle out, and how sometimes, life can get in the way. 

“I could kind of see the void; As you pour more time in you get diminishing returns. “You start asking yourself, why am I doing this?” Wright describes. “…I feel like over the last couple of years, I’ve been able to get past the harder parts of everything. I kind of stopped being interested in speedrunning, and started developing interests in other things.”

Lastly, For Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!!, Sinister1 and Zallard1 push the art of speedrunning to its absolute limit, playing through their entire game while sharing just a single controller, and while BLINDFOLDED. While appearing to be a near impossible task, it is important to realize the skill levels of the aforementioned players–elite.

Sinister1 recounts his experience playing the game in his childhood: “I was the only kid that could beat Mike Tyson.”

Zallard1 describes his success as a top-level speedrunner of the game: “I’ve held the record in every Punch-Out!! Game at least once.”

Putting these speedrunners in the spotlight is what makes Running With Speed such an effective ambassador for the art of speedrunning; it isn’t just a hobby for “those weird gamers,” it’s a sustainable career that is just as legitimate as any other job in the arts or sports industry. 

However, success of the individual speedrunners only tells half the story; ever since 2010, speedrunners have been using their talent as a way to give back to the people most in need. 

Running With Speed documents the tenth anniversary of Games Done Quick, a biannual speedrunning event where speedrunners show off some of the most impressive techniques for their respective games. 

“It’s our Super Bowl,” Hunt describes. “There’s really no other way to put it. It’s our Super Bowl…twice a year.”

However, the main purpose of the GDQ events is to raise money for charity. The events are streamed live, and viewers are able to donate money that will ultimately go to one of two charity organizations, the Prevent Cancer Foundation and Doctors Without Borders

Running With Speed is the perfect introduction for a group of dedicated and talented gamers who have been overlooked for years. The accomplishments they’ve made, the entertainment they’ve provided, and the good they’ve done for the world are all nicely wrapped into this two-and-a-half-hour documentary. 

Summoning Salt sums it up best: “If records are made to be broken, then hopefully, there will always be a tight knit, curiously determined group working to get underneath games in ways no one thought possible.”