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Picture this: A five-mile race, five different starting lines throughout Manhattan and Brooklyn, one finish line on Roosevelt Island. Here’s the catch: Runners have to race throughout the city—at night—and find their own way to the finish line. Oh, and did we mention they’re given the finish line’s location the day of the race? That was exactly the premise of the Under Armour HOVR Challenge. As if a race through the city weren’t compelling enough, the top prize for the first female and male runners to complete the challenge was a trip to the Under Armour Performance Center in Portland, Oregon.

To help the participants out, Under Armour equipped each runner with a pair of Under Armour HOVR sneakers (either the Infinite or Phantom/SE style), which have a special digital tracker to help analyze movements and give the support needed to power through to the finish. We spoke with influencers and UA HOVR Challenge runners Heba Ali and Jera Foster-Fell about their experience with this one-of-a-kind race. Read on to see what they had to say, plus their best race-day tips and thoughts about these high-tech sneakers.

What Was the Most Exciting Part of the Race?

“The most exciting aspect of the Under Armour Challenge was finding my own route to the finish line. This was the first time I’d ever participated in a race structured like this,” said Heba Ali, a personal trainer and expert in hybrid weight training. 

Coming off a 26-hour flight from Thailand, Ali didn’t have time to follow her usual pre-race routine of carb-loading three days prior to the start. And despite not running more than a mile and a half for over a year due to a knee rehab program, she was able to power through. (Psst, Ali was the female winner of the challenge.) As for staying in the right headspace during a race, Ali said, “I trust that my mind is capable of pushing my body through any threshold of discomfort. Of course, negative thoughts and doubts arise during my runs, but my mind is well trained and it’s proved time after time that it will always take me to the finish line.”

What Was the Most Challenging Part of the Race?

For Jera Foster-Fell, this challenge was her first official race. “I've never participated in anything running-related besides just going for runs on my own, so this was a big deal for me. I was nervous but also really excited to try something new,” she told us. For her, the hardest part was the first mile. “I felt a bit out of breath right away, which made me worried about the rest of the race since there was still quite a way to go. Then I realized that the first mile was my warm-up, and once I got past that, I fell into a much more comfortable rhythm.”

How Did the HOVR Sneakers Hold Up?

Foster-Fell said her feet felt cushioned and supported thanks to the foam technology. And Ali agreed, adding, “I love that they’re super lightweight. They aren’t kidding when they say their HOVR technology provides a zero-gravity feel, because I truly felt like I was running on air.” The Infinite style is specifically designed to perfectly fit to a woman’s foot while running. As for the Phantom/SE, the contoured sock liner, compression Energy Web mesh and EVA midsole provide the most comfortable fit and feel.

To top it off, each HOVR sneaker is fit with Record Sensor technology that virtually tracks, analyzes and stores every running metric (like length stride) so wearers know exactly what they need to improve so they can run better. A personal tracker in the soles of your shoes? Yes, please.

What Are Your Tricks for Pushing to the Finish?

The idea of running a race is one thing, but actually crossing the finish line is a whole other beast. Both Ali and Foster-Fell have their go-to mantras and pump-up songs that give them an extra motivational push. For the times when you’re worried you might be falling behind your pace, remember Foster-Fell’s trusty line: Slow or fast, a mile is a mile. Or if your playlist just isn’t cutting it, take a page from Ali’s book and shift your attention inward. “The internal connection and focus allows me to have control over my mind and body. It’s like entering a state of tunnel vision,” she told us. Remember these tips and put them into practice the next time you’re feeling any doubt along the course.

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