Backward running

Backward running, also known as backwards running, running backwards, reverse running, retro running, or retro locomotion is the act of running in reverse, so that one travels in the direction one's back is facing rather than one's front. It is classed as a retro movement, the reverse of any normal movement. Non-English names include Rückwartslaufen (German) and Marcha reversiva.

Backward running is a less natural motion, but can be accomplished with some speed with practice. It is better to start out backward walking (also called retropedaling), which is relatively easy, and speed up. Like normal running, running up and down hills backwards will add an additional degree of difficulty.

Running backwards up a hill is not very dangerous. It will always be at a lower speed due to the enhanced difficulty, and if one trips there is less of a distance towards the ground and it is easier to absorb the impact with the arms and buttocks so that the head is not as likely to hit.

Running backwards down a hill is more dangerous, and it is advised that someone learn how to drop into a backward roll before attempting it, to deal with any resulting tripping or loss of balance in the prone movement. Although the distance to the ground is greater running downhill backwards, the incline makes it much easier to perform rolls in downhill running, than when running level ground, so it can be done more instinctively. This applies to backward running and the backroll as it does to front running and the front roll.



As the head faces forward, running backwards has the danger in that the runner cannot see anything on the ground or in the way of his or her path. Unlike forward running, it is also much more difficult to brace a backward fall or drop into a roll if one trips.

Turning the head around while running can generally eliminate the visual impediment, although it is awkward, limits speed, and may result in neck strain.

Practicing tumbling and exerting force in a backwards direction with the arms through various exercises like crabwalking or planches may aid in stopping damage or injury from falls or stopping falls.

Physical benefits

The combination of normal forward running and backward running is called mixed running or alternative mixed running. Some believe that running backwards helps balance out the strain brought on by normal running. Reversing the direction works the friction of tissues oppositely. Running flat or uphill, the heel is used to push off rather than the ball of the foot as normally occurs with forward runnining, working the tibialis anterior muscle (pushes the heel down, raises front of foot) more as a prime mover than a shock absorber. When running backward downhill, the ball of the foot is used whereas forward downhill running uses mainly the heel to absorb the force. This requires more coordination and therefor develops brain power along with muscle power.

While downhill backward running is essentially the reverse of uphill running, and uphill backward running of downhill running, they are different in that the fibres would fire differently due to differences in the isotonic motions. The former is an eccentric version of a concentric movement, and the latter is a concentric version of an eccentric movement. Both concentric and eccentric movements have advantages in training, which is why most weight lifters perform both for set times.

With all forms there is an obvious backward lean relative to normal running's forward lean, which can shift the stress of the other muscle fibres a small degree.

Other advantages to backward running are a reduction in fear related to the movement, a form of exercise that is naturally more reserved, gains in balance, and the general enjoyment resulting from entertaining activities like these. Due to constantly having to look behind oneself, or sometimes keeping the eyes fixed, people can learn to run with more neck mobility or without a straight look ahead. This can stress the neck muscles which can be dangerous if done too aggressively, but in the long term could lead to adaptations in them.

Backward running adds another dimension to running, and when complemented by sidestepping in both directions (with and without crossovers front and behind intermittently) covers the essential dimensions of human movement on the two-dimensional plane. Diagonal movement as well as curving running (as is done on long race tracks like 200 m and longer in the Olympics) are additional forms of running.

Backwards running allows referees in sports such as football or rugby to continuously observe an area of play without interfering with play.

Races in 2011

Past Races

  • 07-08/08/2010 - World Retro Running Championships, Kapfenberg, Austria
  • 22/08/2010 - 1st UK Backward Running Championships, Manchester (Winner was Garret Doherty of Eire)


As of October 2011 an Australian feature film called Reverse Runner is in post production .

Outstanding backwards runners

  • Garret Doherty (IRL)
  • Roland Wegner (GER)
  • Thomas Dold (GER)
  • Slim Roberts (NED)
  • Antja Strothmann (GER)
  • Isabella Wagner (GER)
  • Stefano Morselli (IT)
  • Joshua Godkin (NZL)
  • Bud Badyna (USA)
  • Brian Godsey (USA)
  • Brian Byers (USA)
  • Jacob Staub (USA)
  • Grady Williams (USA)
  • Lawrence Madey (USA)
  • Paula Mairer (AUT)
  • Johannes Gosch (AUT)
  • Simone Kühn (AUT)
  • John Jones (AUS)

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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