Experiment: Running With Your Eyes Closed

Running With Your Eyes Closed

Photo courtesy auspices

Before you say, “this one’s got disaster written all over it“, it‘s actually quite fun (and scary, but did I mention fun?). However, YMMV. I got a taste of running on trails without seeing much when I ran the Night Sweats Trail Marathon. With the headlamp on (and I turned it off completely for a few seconds every now and then) the world around me disappeared. Especially on the uphills, I couldn’t actually tell how far up I was heading. This had the most wonderful feedback loop in that I immediately stopped thinking about making it to the top of the hill.

Instead, I found a rhythm and a pace and just took the natural time to get to the summits.

Running With Your Eyes Closed

I also recently read somewhere that Kilian Jornet apparently memorizes the trails on the way up and then runs down eyes closed. He does this in order to increase proprioception and not having the conscious mind think about the footfalls. Dunno how true this story is, but you have to admit that it’s kinda epic. I was doing hill repeats at the Stanford Dish (see my Strava activity) yesterday and I was on my 3rd lap and figured, what the heck. YOLO and all that and I decided to give the ‘running with your eyes closed’ experiment a try.

If you haven’t run the Dish, it’s a paved path, but there’s a narrow dirt trail that hugs the asphalt. I was running in the middle of the asphalt on the way up and I closed my eyes ever so briefly. It lasted one stride before my eyes opened involuntarily. Suddenly I felt vulnerable and yet the entire focus came back to my posture, the pitter-patter, feeling the path ahead of me and listening to the sounds around me. I could feel the slightest camber on the trails, while going uphill. Pretty neat. The intense focus also completely zapped my brain from thinking about the steep climb. I slowly tried two strides and then three and by the 5th lap, I was able to get to about 7 strides before I would freak out. Seriously though? It was a neat experiment and definitely made the hill repeats go by quicker.

BTW, I just learned that there’s actually a Blindfold Run 10K in UK which also acts as a fundraiser.

Have you ever tried running with your eyes closed? How far did you make it?