Interviews

She’s an Olympic Medalist. He’s a Scientific Brainiac. Together, They’re Unstoppable.

by On Apr 3, 2019

Deena Kastor and Masanori Sakaguchi have lots in common, starting with their shoes! When ASICS needed the perfect pairing of art and science, these two fit the bill perfectly when time came to debut the latest Metaride.

She’s an Olympic Medalist. He’s a Scientific Brainiac. Together, They’re Unstoppable.

When ASICS prepared to launch its Metaride Running Shoe, everyone from company marketers to publications were curious to know how the iconic shoemaker planned to differentiate their hot new shoe from the crowd.

The company’s decision was brilliant: Merge the success story of Kastor, who exploded upon the running scene when she was only 11-years-old. with the scientific findings of Sakaguchi, whose reputation and university degrees are impeccable.

As it turns out, ASICS was intuitive. These two stars make ideal supporters of this innovative new shoe, simply because they represent distinct worlds—both of which are represented in their collaboration when the Metaride introduction was announced.

They’ve both got reputations on the line, so it may not surprise you to learn that they’ll be overseeing late 2019 and 2020 introductions for ASICS. But you won’t understand exactly how efficiently these two fit into the ASICS family until you read their stories. You’re bound to be impressed.

Deena Kastor, ASICS Long Distance Runner

RS: How did you discover your love for running? When was your first attempt in running in a long distance marathon?

Denna: I fell in love with running the very first day my parents took me to a local running club practice when I was only 11 years old. I was raised in Southern California and my first run was on the trails of the Santa Monica Mountains. It was so enjoyable, I continue to run with a similar joy 35 years later. My first marathon wasn’t until 2001. I raced the NYC marathon and loved the community feel, being among so many runners and having such great support by the spectators on the roadside.

She’s an Olympic Medalist. He’s a Scientific Brainiac. Together, They’re Unstoppable.

RS: What are the advices that you will give for a runner if they are looking to prepare for their first marathon, especially an overseas marathon?

Deena: For a new runner looking to run an overseas marathon, I would say to embrace every aspect of the experience. Marathons are always 26.2 miles, but the terrain may be different, so plan accordingly. If it is a hilly course, make sure to incorporate hills into your training. But also do homework on the culture. Learn basic phrases like “thank you” and “good morning”. Find a couple attractions that fit your interest like architecture, food, museums or entertainment. Thorough preparation will ensure you get a broad and wonderful experience.

Also read:  Andy Li Yin Jie Joins Our Elite Club of Loyal Sundown Marathoners at Position #8!

Completing the marathon is already considered an amazing feat for many people, but to stand out from the rest and emerge victorious from the rest of the competition is simply on a different realm of achievement. What do you think are the contributing factors, such as in terms of physical and mental conditionings, that separates yourself from the ordinary and being truly elite?

The experience of being at the front of the pack or winning a marathon is not much different than the rest of the participants. We have good days and bad days, push the limits of our fitness, and have to endure struggle and fatigue near the end. The only difference I see is that it is my profession, and because of that, training, recovery, nutrition and mindset are critical in preparing to race. Running is a job (an enjoyable one) that is not limited to time in training shoes, but expands into the entire scope of the day and night.

RS: Can you describe more about the impact and difference between being positively and negatively minded when it comes to long distance running?

Deena: My long-time sponsor, ASICS, has the key to success in its title. ASICS is a latin acronym, Anima Sana In Corpore Sano, or “A sound mind in a sound body.” If we treat our bodies well, it supports our brain function, and if we control the quality of our thoughts, we can maximize our physical  potential. In harmony, the body and mind can do great things together, not just for the individual, but their family and community too. In the exact same experience, a positive mind opens us to solutions, possibility and growth, whereas a negative mind is steeped in doubt, stagnation and trouble.

RS: What do you think are the potential positive impacts of long distance running? How will you encourage people to get off their couch and start running?

Deena: Running has so many health benefits for the body and mind. The simple act of running releases endorphins and serotonin to make us feel the ecstasy of movement. With those hormones, we can more clearly and positively think through any solution. Running also builds bone density and muscle, strengthens the heart and lungs, and boosts metabolism. The aspirations of ASICS founder Kihachiro Onitsuka was to build up the moral in Japan after World War II through movement and sport. He knew the far reaching benefits long before science proved him right. Running makes us better individuals, but also empowers families and unites communities. There is magic in running.

Also read:  Song Yang Yang Won Not Only at the OSIM Sundown Marathon 2017, But Also Won at Love

Masanori Sakaguchi, Lead Researcher of ASICS

RS: The METARIDE™ shoe is being highly promoted and anticipated as one of the most important innovations in seven decades. Can you share with us some key features/elements of the innovations the METARIDE™ shoe? Such as aspects of the revolutionary GUIDESOLE™ technology?

Masanori: The new METARIDE™ features no less than six proprietary technologies and new knit upper. First, we have the new GUIDESOLE™ technology which provides a curved sole design and a stiff forefoot to increase running efficiency and reduce ankle flex. In addition the 3D GUIDANCE LINE™ offers protection, working by shifting and propelling the body weight forward while maintaining lightweight.

The other technologies work together to optimize efficiency with every stride to deliver the feeling of effortless motion:

  • FLYTEFOAM™: durable lightweight midsole for cushioning and responsiveness
  • FLYTEFOAM™ Propel: midsole foam to enhance responsiveness in toe-off
  • Rearfoot GEL™ technology: cushioning system to improve shock attenuation during heel impact
  • ASICS grip sole: new outsole for traction and durability
  • METACLUTCH™ technology: optimized external heel counter for premium fit and flexibility
  • KNIT UPPER: knit material upper for support and breathability and new eyelet structure to optimize shoelace tension and fit
She’s an Olympic Medalist. He’s a Scientific Brainiac. Together, They’re Unstoppable.

Left: Masanori Sakaguchi

RS: What are the key motivations and rationales that leads the team of scientists and designers at the ASICS Institute of Sport Science (ISS) to work on such an ambitious project, ultimately leading to the final product of ASICS innovation, the METARIDE™?

Masanori: We wanted see if we could create a shoe that could reduce the amount of energy used by runners over their long run without compromising on either performance and protection. Our goal with METARIDE was to make running longer distances easier so that runners of any level can keep going for longer, and further our mission to help every runner ‘win the long run’.

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Our energy saving concept was based on a theory to reduce movement in the area where most energy is expended; the ankle joint.  By analyzing the ratio of energy lost across the gait cycle, we saw that most energy consumption is lost at heel contact and propulsion. So, our theory was if we could control the ankle angle we could achieve a more efficient running stride AND save significant energy loss.

RS: What are the things the common consumers can look out for when they are purchasing  the METARIDE™ shoes? Likewise, what are the driving factors that will encourage elite runners to pick up the METARIDE™ shoes?

Masanori: METARIDE™ is a neutral shoe designed to make running longer distances easier for runners of all abilities so it can be enjoyed by a wide range of runners. Depending on the usage, skill, running style and the goal of the runner, the energy saving benefits of the shoe vary – from being able to help runners increase their range to simply making the run more enjoyable.

RS: Looking forward, what are the key elements and innovation traits from the METARIDE™ shoes that will be included into considerations in future releases of ASICS shoes?

Masanori: The METARIDE™ is the first in ASICS new energy-saving franchise, which will make the same concept and technologies available to more runners at different price points.  The next franchise model is planned for release in Autumn 2019 and further product releases in 2020. There will also be a further release of the METARIDE™ in an updated colourway in June this year.

Not Just About The Running Shoes

As you can see, we didn’t overstate the remarkable credentials of either Deena Kastor or Masanori Sakaguchi, and while it’s easy to understand that while they come from different worlds, they truly represent the ASICS brand and the company’s latest athletic shoe innovation.

They’re fearless. Curious. Together, they represent the very best of a sport that has become the preferred fitness choice of athletes around the world; athletes happy to remain loyal to the athletic shoe manufacturer that understands the future of running as it unfolds.

Aidan is the Editor-in-chief of RunSociety. His focus is to oversee RunSociety’s Creativity Channel, spanning a wide range of inspirational and enriching topics daily to the running community. Get in touch with him if you have something to say, or want to weigh in on an interesting topic at hello@runsociety.com.

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