New track where athletes run in darkness and silence to improve performance

The track was developed in collaboration with sports scientists and top coaches to remove all distractions and encourage runners to focus on synchronising the mind and body

Astrid Hall
Monday 11 June 2018 15:30 BST
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The training technique of removing all distractions is used by long distance runners
The training technique of removing all distractions is used by long distance runners (Getty Images)

Keen runners have been trialling the first race track which trains the mind – in complete darkness.

It is a custom-built course in London and the circuit – one lap is 150m – is dark apart from one spotlight trailing the athlete.

The track’s absence of sound, technology, scenery and even a finish line means runners can focus their mind on each step.

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.

Researchers included Professor Samuele Marcora, the director of research at the University of Kent’s School of Sport and Exercise Sciences, and Dr Jo Corbett, leader of the Human Performance and Health Research Group at the University of Portsmouth.

In addition, ASICS ambassadors Chevy Rough, a mind coach who works with leading athletes, and Jan Erik Kruse, a lead ASICS frontrunner, also helped to shape the various experiences on the track.

Three runners, with a range of athletic abilities, completed 66 laps in near darkness as part of a 10km “mental marathon” – pacing the track without any of their usual running comforts.

Olympic medallist and marathon record holder Deena Kastor (USA) ran the fastest time in just 37 minutes and 16 seconds.

Deena 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.”

Adventurer Danny Bent (UK) who has previously cycled 9,000 miles from London to India and has also done a coast-to-coast relay in the USA, ran the track in 44 minutes and 7 seconds.

After trying out the race track, Danny 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.”

This training technique of removing all distractions is used by long-distance runners, and can improve performance with regular practice.

However, this track is designed to challenge runners in the moment, in a battle against themselves.

The overall project and track, which has been in development for more than six months, is designed to help assist with pace judgement, and has been successfully used by Japanese marathon runners.

Located in Printworks, a 119,200 sq ft industrial space in Rotherhithe, south east London, it was one of the few places big enough to house the bespoke circuit and create the types of conditions required.

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.

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