Asics Ryan Hall Treadmill Challenge

The ING New York City Marathon is this Sunday, Nov 3rd. My friends and I will be spectating between Mile 14 and 15 in Queens, NY. We’re excited to cheer for our other friends and racers as they run through the five boroughs of New York City. I’m catching marathon fever as I read blog posts and tweets about my friends’ excitement and nerves about running the marathon.

Yesterday I caught a tweet from Runner’s World about people trying to run Ryan Hall’s marathon pace on a treadmill. Ryan Hall’s 2011 Boston marathon time of 2:04:58 is the fastest marathon by an American runner. Asics, his sponsor, created a treadmill that could go at Hall’s speed (12.6 mph) and went all over New York City to test New Yorkers. I saw this video of people attempting to see how long they can last at Hall’s speed. The video is great and it looked like so much fun. I immediately wanted to join in the challenge. I googled to see where they were. Incredibly fortunately for us, last night the treadmill could be found at the Time Warner Center on 60th St. and Broadway. Ben and I were going to be in that area anyway to see Ethan Hawke in MacBeth at the Lincoln Center Theater. We made last minute plans to meet up by the treadmill just after 6 pm so that we could do the challenge before seeing our show.

Asics has the treadmill on a giant flatbed truck. There’s a small computer screen in front of the treadmill that displays how long you’ve been on the treadmill. There’s a harness over the treadmill for the participants. The harness is for safety reasons, so when the participants stopped (or rather were flung off the treadmill), the harness would prevent you from flying off. There was a huge crowd of people around, but not too many people signed up for the challenge. Although we weren’t appropriately dressed for running (Ben wore a suit and I wore a blouse and skirt — we were dressed for attending theater), we were quite eager to run. Asics had several pairs of running shoes for participants to borrow (the shoes were sprayed down with disinfectant after each person wore them). I love Asics running shoes. I own a pair of Asics Hyper-Rocketgirl and do all my races in them.

After they set you up in a harness, they go over instructions and safety. Next you’re allowed to run at a leisurely pace to warm up for as long as you would like. Once you’re ready, the treadmill stops and there’s a countdown. Finally you’re off and your legs are flying! It takes about 18 seconds for the treadmill to reach full speed. We watched several people (all guys) try the treadmill challenge. At best, they lasted for two minutes, but many didn’t even last that long.

Ben wondered if he should run with or without his suit jacket and I convinced him that it would be funnier if he ran with his suit jacket. After about a half hour wait, it was Ben’s turn. The crowd yelled at him to take his suit jacket off, but I yelled back, “He can’t! It’s his super power!!!!” One of the guys working the crowd really loved the fact that Ben was wearing his suit, so he called Ben “Suit” the entire time. He then took over/under bets with the crowd. He thought Ben would only last about 1:15 on the treadmill. Challenge was on!

The crowd went crazy over Ben’s look. At the 1 minute 15 second mark, Ben pointed to the guy who said that Ben wouldn’t last that long. Ben and I both wanted Ben to last 2 minutes. At the 2 minute mark, Ben was still going strong. The suit jacket was starting to slip off a bit. I could tell from Ben’s grimace (and his classic tongue sticking out pose) that he was in pain. At 2:30, the jacket was off his shoulders, not that Ben noticed because he was holding on to make it up onto the leader board. I screamed and cheered Ben on. Seconds ticked past and Ben was still running on. The crowd roared with approval. “Suit! Suit! Suit! Suit!” Then like that! It was all over. Ben stopped at 2:51. That was good enough for 3rd place on the leader board. The crowd cheered like they were hailing a conquering hero.

Ben’s movie of the last 27 seconds of his epic run.

Now it was my turn. I was concerned mostly for my attire. I was wearing a skirt and I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to show more than I intended. Fortunately I was wearing black tights underneath, so even if the skirt completely flipped up, no one was going to actually see anything. The guy working the treadmill was terrific. He let me fuss with my skirt and the harness as long as I liked. Ben also really liked the guy working the harness and treadmill. While Ben was running, the guy spoke to Ben and coached him the entire time. In a deep gentle methodical voice, he told Ben, “You’re doing good. That’s right. Keep breathing. You’re relaxed. That’s good.” Every once in a while he let Ben know how much time had passed. When I was finally satisfied, then the Asics treadmill guy started the treadmill. I warmed up for a bit and then I indicated that I was ready.

My goal was to last a minute. Although it takes several seconds for the treadmill to reach full speed, it never feels slow. Immediately my legs were flying and my first thought was, “Oh, shoot. I’m going really fast and I know it’s not even at full speed yet. How am I going to do this?” After 30 seconds passed, I thought, “Oh my goodness, I’m doing this!” At 40 seconds, I thought, “Oh my goodness, I’m going really fast!” At 50 seconds, I thought, “Okay, okay, okay! I can last 10 more seconds until 1 minute.” Then a couple seconds later, I thought, “Oh shoot! I’m losing my footing!” Then I went, “Gah!” I’m hanging in my harness. I lasted 56 seconds. I got 2nd place on the leader board for women.

My movie of the last 17 seconds of my run

The speed of the turnover necessary was my downfall. Ben had to stop because he was suffocating. He just couldn’t get enough air in while running that fast. He was in absolute sheer agony while running the last minute. For me, I was never in agony. I was working hard and breathing hard, but it was never painful. I just couldn’t move my feet fast enough. If you watch my clip, you see in the last couple of seconds that there’s a hitch in my steps. That was the first slip of my feet. I was able to catch myself and keep going for another couple steps. Then I lost my footing and the harness caught me as the treadmill flung me off. I simply couldn’t keep moving fast enough any longer.

We both had a fantastic time at the treadmill challenge. I was on a complete high and kept on babbling about it at the theater. (By the way, the staging of this production of MacBeth is quite novel and very interesting. I liked it very much. Anne-Marie Duff as Lady MacBeth was incredible. I loved her (and her costumes). All the seats in the theater were small and uncomfortable. They make airplane seats looks spacious and luxurious by comparison.)

The Asics Ryan Hall Treadmill Challenge is still going on today and tomorrow. Go here to find out where they are. If you’re in Manhattan, you should check it out.

10 thoughts on “Asics Ryan Hall Treadmill Challenge

    • Thanks. It was super fun. Two years ago, you could “race” Hall. They had a short film of him running projected onto a wall and you could see if you could beat him over a short distance. I can’t wait to see what Asics and Ryan Hall do in the future.

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