Ah, the gifts of the mother country– tea, Pimm’s Cup, Downton Abbey. To this we may be able to add a new exercise: backwards running. No, it’s not a Monty Python sketch, though it sounds like one (and looks like one, too).
It’s not limited to the fun-loving United Kingdom. Austria has its own Backward Running Championship in August and the Chinese have allegedly been doing it for years — just another trend they’ve seem to have gotten to first! But the sport, or version of a sport, has been growing in popularity especially in the United Kingdom. Perhaps driving on the wrong side of the road isn’t enough for the British.
Fans of running backwards wax enthusiastic on the benefits of reverse running: less impact, three times as many calories burned, better use of a wider set of muscles. No one seems to admit to the obvious hazards of twisting your neck or falling down. The Daily MailOnline provides a helpful list of tips here in case you want to get started.
The Annual UK Running Backwards Championships have been held for the past three years in Manchester, England. London held its first backwards running race last year and its 3 km distance attracted 100 runners.
Dubliner Garrett Doherty is currently the reigning UK backward running champion. It may see a dubious title to some, but backwards running is undoubtedly an improvement on Garrett’s previous job as a bicycle rickshaw operator. He started running backward three years ago when he turned around to get out of the sun’s glare while out on a (forwards) jog. You can check out the realities of Garrett’s urban training realities in this video. Obvious annoyances include tripping and repeatedly being told you are running the wrong way. Garrett recently smashed his own record in the UK Running Backwards Championship on May 27 in Manchester, beating out a field of 35 with a time of 6 minutes and 57 seconds for the mile distance. A month earlier he finished the Wexford half marathon in 1 hour and 40 minutes.
Will this sport cross the pond or will it join other British competition ideas such as the World Pea Throwing Championship, World Shin Kicking Championship, and World Hen Racing Championships as events that failed to catch fire here? Garret is a strong spokesman for the sport and hopes for its inclusion in the Olympics by 2020. Here’s a charming video from The Sun that further explores Garrett’s training and philosophy: