ASICS unveils the world’s first running track to train the mind

ASICS has unveiled the world’s first running track to train the mind: a custom-built 150-metre course in London, which is cloaked in darkness with no tech, no music, no scenery, no comforts and no finish line.

The ‘ASICS Blackout Track’ was developed in collaboration with sports scientists and top coaches to remove all distractions and encourage runners to truly focus on synchronising the mind and body.

Olympic medallist and Marathon record holder Deena Kastor (USA), adventurer Danny Bent (UK) and actor and physics graduate Aarif Lee (Hong Kong) were the first to run the track as part of a 10k ‘mental marathon’. Each ran 66 laps in near darkness without any of the usual comforts.

ASICS unveils the world’s first running track to train the mind

Kastor ran the fastest time, just 37 minutes and 16 seconds. She said: “For me, the track was a reminder of the simple joy that running offers; a rush of endorphins, or a quiet place to find ourselves in. Whether you’re a pro athlete or an everyday runner, mental restraints can limit us, but we all have the power to think our way to success.”

Bent, who has cycled 9,000 miles from London to India and done a coast to coast relay in the USA, ran the track in 44 minutes and 7 seconds, said: “That felt like a marathon – were they playing tricks on us? It was a great reminder of the need to push through the voices in our heads that hold us back.”

Lee, who ran in 53 minutes 30 seconds, said: “I found this daunting but incredibly rewarding. When you take away all the things in your comfort zone, you may actually surprise yourself and do better than expected.”
Today, Global Running Day (June 6), the track will play host to a scientific experiment to show that mental strength is as important to athletic success as physical fitness.

Ten runners will race for 5k on the track in normal conditions – lights on, music playing, crowds cheering – then race 5k again in the darkness, with white noise to muffle sound, no motivation, feedback or technology.
How will the positive effects of crowd cheering affect athletes like Iwan Thomas, Dewi Griffiths and Susie Chan? Stripped of tech, what pacing decisions will they make? Full results from the experiment will be shared late June.

Devised by Professor Samuele Marcora (Director of Research at the University of Kent’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences) and Dr Jo Corbett (Human Performance and Health Research Group at The University of Portsmouth), the experiment will be assessed by tracking data such as the performance times and heart rates.

Participants will also complete the NASA Task Load Index, a widely used assessment tool to help assess the perceived physical and mental workload of a task, to help show how the mind can affect performance even when the physical capacity of the runners is the same.

“This is a mental challenge with a great message: the importance of a fit mind to re-evaluate what’s possible and reach your own goals in fitness as well as life. It’s not only the strongest legs that go the distance, but also the strongest mind”, said Paul Miles, Chief Marketing Officer, ASICS Corporation.

Finally, 20 additional runners will be testing the track on June 7 and 8 as part of a series of test runs.

The ASICS Blackout Track is the ideal test pad for the 25th iteration of ASICS industry-benchmark running shoe, GEL-KAYANO 25; the first ever shoe to feature FlyteFoam Lyte and FlyteFoam Propel technologies. In the dark, runners will feel the difference as the technologies work together to help absorb impact and propel them forward whilst providing the ultimate comfort and stability to go the distance.

To give runners everywhere a taste of the track, Human Performance Coach Chevy Rough has shared tips on getting the most out of running performance on the ASICS website.

ASICS is also extending the challenge to the Runkeeper app which features a new ‘ASICS Move Your Mind Challenge’. Runners can compare their regular runs to ones without any audio cues and notifications on.

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