Aaron Yoder is one fast dude. Or maybe that’s edud tsaf eno to him.
You see, Yoder is the world’s fastest backwards runner, holding the record for the fastest backward mile, which he ran in an absolutely insane time of 5 minutes and 54 seconds.
“When I’m running backwards it almost feels like I’m flying,” Yoder recently shared with Great Big Story. “Because it’s such a different visual perspective seeing how far I’ve gone as opposed to how far I need to go.”
As Yoder explained, he had been running forward for more than 20 years, first starting out as a competitive runner in elementary school and eventually running on a college scholarship in his early twenties. However, a severe knee injury nearly sidelined his dreams forever. “My doctor told me to stop running,” Yoder said. “I really didn’t want to stop. So I knew I needed to make a change.”
Yoder noted that what he does is actually called “retro running,” which has proven to have little to no impact on his knee. “Backwards running feels great on my knee, I don’t feel anything, which is the reason why I really enjoy it,” he said.
Yoder may be onto something. According to a a 2011 study published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information, backwards runners use more leg muscles than forwards runners. Because of this they can burn nearly 30 percent more energy going at the same pace as a forward-facing runner. As the New York Times points out, a 2016 studyshowed that long-time runners who switched up their normal training to instead run backwards for five weeks became about 2.5 percent more efficient with their oxygen use during exercise.
Believe it or not, Yoder isn’t alone in his unique running style. As he explained, there are thousands more like him. At the last backwards running world championships, Yoder said there were more than 20 countries represented by close to 200 athletes.
Thanks to Yoder there may soon be even more backwards runners in the world. As he says in the video, he now works as a track coach, often having his student athletes run backwards to help improve their stride and work their minds just a little bit harder around the track.
“In a world where everyone else goes forward and I’m going backwards it’s allowed me to just get back to competing against myself,” he said. “I’ve found great gratification in the fact that I’m competing against my own shadow.”
If you want to give Yoder’s method a try here’s an easy exercise to get you moving backward (and forward) with your running game.