Runners plunged into darkness

By Ben Hamill - November 04 2018

Runners in darkness Asics

For professional track athletes, a successful career is all about utilising every ounce of ability. That in turn means staying alive to the latest training developments. So how might any runner feel about training their mind and body on a track where, as a means of boosting their potential, all the running is done in complete darkness? That’s exactly what the latest UK facility from one sportswear brand has to offer.

Cutting-edge sports research

A new running track built by sportswear brand ASICS is designed to train both the body and mind of a runner. The most unorthodox and compelling feature of this new, 150-metre London race track is that athletes run around the circuit in darkness. There is no technology, no visible scenery, no sound or music, no training comforts of any kind – and the arena even lacks a designated finishing line. So just imagine what it would be like playing casino online with nothing but the sounds to guide you.

ASICS have built their ‘ASICS Blackout Track’ while working in close collaboration with a team of top coaches and sports scientists. The main aim of the project has been to create a sports environment which removes every kind of distraction and actively encourages the runner to develop a full-focus synchronisation of mind and body.

Academic researchers who have contributed to the ASICS Blackout project include Dr Jo Corbett, leader of the University of Portsmouth’s Human Performance and Health Research Group, and Professor Samuele Marcora, Director of Research at the University of Kent’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences.

Blackout training in action

Located in Printworks, an industrial space of 119,200 sq. ft in Rotherhithe, East London, the track has already hosted some events designed to provide evidence that, though good athletes do need strong legs, they actually need a strong mind even more.

One experiment which has been completed – a 10-kilometre ‘mental marathon’ – featured athletes with a range of different backgrounds and abilities: Among the starters were Deena Kastor (USA), an Olympic medallist and record holder in the Marathon; Danny Bent, an adventurer from the UK who has completed a US coast-to-coast relay and cycled from London to India; and Aarif Lee, an actor and physics graduate from Hong Kong.

Mind-building outcomes

Predictably, Deena Kastor from the US ran the best time of 37 minutes and 16 seconds. Speaking of her impressions of the experiment, Deena Kastor, who believes ‘we all have the power to think our way to success’, 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.”

Meanwhile, having experienced the blackout track for himself and run the distance in a creditable 44 minutes and 7 seconds, Danny Bent commented: “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.”

Discussing the impact of the project, Fiona Berwick, Strategic Planner, ASICS Global Marketing, said: “By exposing how easily the mind can be influenced, the campaign is designed to remind athletes of any ability about the importance of training both the mind and body, to reach their goals in sport and life.”