Unplug & Recharge//

Why This Olympic Medalist Swears by Working Out in Total Darkness

Ever wonder what it’s like to workout in pure darkness? Meet Deena Kastor, an Olympic medalist and American record holder in the marathon. She ran on the 'ASICS Blackout Track’ and is sharing exactly what is brought to light when you run in the dark.

Ian Gavan / Stringer/Getty Images

Deena Kastor as told to Charlotte Cabot. 

[When I stepped onto the ASICS blackout track in London to run for the first time,] it was pitch black, except for the spotlight on me. I could see maybe three feet in front of me. I had to walk one lap around the track to get my bearings and then as soon as I heard a beep and the white noise go on, I started running. It had straightaways and turns but after what might have been two or three laps, they kind of just went away. 

And it felt like the ultimate meditation.

I was interested and fascinated with what might transpire in ten kilometers around this small track. And I was open to the idea of what would come to my mind. I wondered if it was going to feel fast, like flying. I thought maybe I would count laps or that I would count to 100 slowly, a tool I use in racing to make the time go by faster. I thought maybe I would rely on a mantra that came to me, or feel the privilege of being able to do this.

I think what was surprising to me was that my head wasn’t full of ideas. Because it typically is. I wasn’t trying to run a lap faster or trying to outrun the spotlight. I thought that there might be some competitiveness in me with the gentlemen that went before me. They were saying what their times were and I immediately said, ‘Oh I am going to run faster, now I have a time to beat. I gotta run faster than that.’ There is a competitor in me but none of that was there when I stepped on the track and the lights when out. It was just a really fun run.

I just remember thinking that I had no sense of space or time.

I just remember thinking that I had no sense of space or time. It didn’t really register as running fast or slow. I was just running at this pace that I could have run all day long.

It’s very rare that we don’t have thoughts running through our mind about what we are going to post on social media and what our next project is, or the next thing to check off of our to-do list. Things rage through our minds from the second we wake up and have that first sip of coffee to when we get to put our head down at night. So, I’d like to think that running without distractions [like the blackout track let me do], was really going to give any runner exactly what they needed. We get so fixated on our devices that it really is beautiful to just get out there and run and see what comes to mind.

Every now and then when the training becomes mundane and monotonous, I know that I just need to take my watch off and explore somewhere. So, I find a new trail and venture out on it with no exact time to have to be back to run errands. To me, those are some of my most fun days of running and probably what’s kept me in the sport for so long. That sense of exploration and seeing new things on your own two feet is really rewarding to me.

Running out there [in London], on a blacked out track, was as rewarding as a personal best. Because it gave me so much. It gave me freedom of mind. Even when the white noise stopped and the lights went on, I had no sense of whether I was out there for ten minutes or an hour. I would have never known that it was 37 minutes. I felt rested and energized, instead of feeling like I was depleted or tired from the effort.

It was running at its purest form. It’s the act of moving forward without any distractions. 

It was running at its purest form. It’s the act of moving forward without any distractions. For me, it was a huge learning experience that we need to inject a little simplicity into our days now and then.

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