Life Lessons from the World's Fastest Backwards Runner

fear health perfectionism success well-being Mar 07, 2023
Illustration of Charis Santillie watching a backwards runner
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🎧 👉 Prefer audio? You can also listen to me share about this in podcast episode #046 here.

I recently saw a video online featuring the World’s Fastest Backwards Runner. His name is Aaron Yoder, and his sport of backwards running is also known as retro-running. I didn’t know that was a thing! Did you know that this was a thing? And that there are even races for it? And get this—his fastest backwards mile time is 5 minutes and 30 seconds! Isn’t that incredible?!

Not only is that achievement amazing, but there are also some great life lessons I heard him share from his experiences running backwards.

Why did Aaron start running backwards in the first place? Well, let’s back up for a second. (Ha ha! Yes, pun intended!) It was because of knee issues he had when he was on his way to the Olympic trials years ago when he was a forwards runner. And here’s the first lesson—he didn’t give up his love for running—he just found a new way to do it. How awesome is that?

He turned his situation around by literally turning his focus around to face the other direction, and then that led him on all kinds of new adventures. 

Not only does running backward alleviate physical pain, but he also says “it alleviates all fear,” and he feels like he’s “flying.”

Sometimes I’ll walk backward up a hill near our house, and I have to admit, it really does make me practice trusting myself and everything behind me.

Here’s the biggest lesson from Aaron, in my opinion. He said: 

"It's such a different perspective seeing how far I've gone as opposed to how far I need to go."

"When you're going backwards, you can really just take a step back, literally, and enjoy what you're doing."

Isn’t that cool! I know we’ve all heard something along the lines of take a step back and enjoy the moment, but to now have a unique visual to go along with that—of someone who is literally taking steps backward while enjoying himself—I think that’s really a neat visual.

And it goes along with what I practice in my own life and with my clients every month inside my Busy to Balanced™ program. I always start our monthly Masterclasses by having everyone take a moment to write down an acknowledgment for something they did over the prior month. And it isn’t always something tangible. Sometimes it's acknowledging that they had a shift in their mindset and were able to let go of some worry or some regret. Or maybe they were able to say no to something they used to always say yes to, that they really didn’t want to do. Or maybe they were able to make time for themselves in a new way. The point is that we take a moment to acknowledge ourselves for how far we’ve come and whatever progress has been made in the recent month. I have a prior blog article where I talk more about how to acknowledge yourself and why it’s so important. Here's a link to that article if you want to check it out.

Having goals and dreams is great, but it’s easy to get lost in the “I’ll be happy when…” zone, and the idea of looking at how far you’ve come really is a powerful practice.

If you’re a little bit curious about this sport of retro-running, here are a few interesting tidbits that I learned.

The National Institutes of Health published a study that found that running at 80% effort backward produces the same amount of strain on the body as running with 100% effort forwards.

And the University of Oregon also published research showing that retro-running can have potential benefits, including:

  • Facilitating balance and proprioception
  • Developing a strong foundation upon which to improve performance
  • Facilitating neuro-muscular function
  • Assisting in the prevention of injuries
  • Helping with injury rehabilitation

I may be walking backwards a bit more often up our hill now!

If you want to check out the main video of Aaron that I watched, go here. It’s short—just a few minutes long—and since it’s a few years old, I want to point out that he broke his own record since that video was taken. It was in the fall of 2020 that he achieved the 5-minute 30-second mile.


“...just take a step back, literally, and enjoy what you're doing.” 

– Aaron Yoder


🎧 👉 Prefer audio? You can also listen to me share about this in podcast episode #046 here.


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