Health & Fitness | September 8, 2020 12:16 pm

Watch: Aaron Yoder Backpedals a 5:30 Mile for a New Guinness World Record

Yoder broke his own record for the fastest "backwards mile"

Aaron Yoder running a backwards mile
Aaron Yoder running a backwards mile in Lindsborg, Kansas.
Tony Xie/YouTube

It’s been a good year for weird mile records. The top marks for “fastest mile in blue jeans” (4:06) and “fastest mile while handcuffed” (4:52) were both set this year, as runners with suddenly empty calendars diverted their training efforts to the wild and wacky. And now, a cross-country coach from Kansas named Aaron Yoder joins that list. Yoder ran a full “backwards mile” in just 5:30 last week, which is a new Guinness World Record.

The time shatters Yoder’s own personal best from 2016, when he ran a 5:54 while backpedaling around a track. That initial record was already faster than 99% of people can run for a standard, forward mile, so a 5:30 is absolutely cranking. This time around, Yoder didn’t have to account for curves, which might’ve helped him out a bit — he retro-ran straight down an empty road in Lindsborg, Kansas — but at least on a track you can count down the laps. Here, he’s blind, with only his biking videographer able to help him. At one point, he has to switch lanes in order to avoid crashing into a construction crew.

How did Yoder get so good at backwards running, anyway? He’s a lifelong competitive runner, who was shut down by doctors while training for the Olympic trials. He had arthritis and a severe knee injury. So he started running backwards, noting (accurately) that the motion relies more on the big muscles of the lower half, instead of the joints. In 2018, Yoder told Great Big Story: “When I’m running backwards it almost feels like I’m flying … it’s such a different visual perspective to see how far I’ve gone as opposed to how far I need to go.”

While a backwards 5:30 might be out of the question for you, you should consider incorporating a couple backwards laps into your track workouts. According to a 2016 study, backwards running catalyzes a “greater cardiopulmonary response and muscle activity compared with forward running.” Basically, running backwards can help you increase your oxygen efficiency. Feel free to give it a go, just remember — already massively important for runners in the age of COVID-19 — to make sure you’re not running into people.

Subscribe here for our free daily newsletter.