Running a sub-six-minute mile is a tall order for many runners. It requires good pacing, endurance, strength and speed. Aaron Yoder, a 34-year-old runner from Kansas, possesses all of these attributes, and he put them to use in a recent run for the virtual NYRR 5th Avenue Mile, which he finished in an impressive 5:30. Oh, he also completed the 1,609m race while running backward the entire way. That’s right, running a mile all-out wasn’t hard enough for Yoder, so he decided to crank up the difficulty level by blindly running in reverse at an average pace of 3:25 per kilometre. His 5:30 result is the new backward mile world record.
The curious art of retro-running
Yoder isn’t new to backward running (which is also known as retro-running). In 2015, he ran a mile world record of 5:54. In 2019, he lost the record to Brendan Kelly, a competitor on the popular fitness show American Ninja Warrior, who ran 5:53. Yoder didn’t let Kelly hold onto the record for too long, though, and he eventually lowered it once again after running a 5:51 mile (although neither Kelly’s nor Yoder’s runs have been ratified by Guinness World Records yet, so the record still officially sits at 5:54).
As can be seen in a video of Yoder’s run, he chose to contest his own record on a long, flat and straight stretch of road, which would be perfect for any type of running time trial, but especially for a backward one since he didn’t have to worry about maneuvering around any corners or turns. While Yoder was apparently running for the NYRR 5th Avenue Mile, his result isn’t on the event’s official Strava page (although the NYRR even tweeted about his run and said it was part of the race). Looking at the official results from the virtual race, he would have placed in the top 125 out of more than 6,000 finishers.
👀 Peep the technique! Special shout out to Aaron Yoder who broke the backwards mile world record with an insane 🤯 5:30 mile running the #NB5thAveMile in reverse. Sign up and run your fastest mile today: https://t.co/OIipOJoFgO pic.twitter.com/YpDT0ugN8L
— New York Road Runners (@nyrr) September 9, 2020
Yoder’s career in running
Yoder wasn’t always a retro-runner, and he has said he only took up running backward when knee issues prevented him from continuing to run normally. Before switching to retro-running, he ran for Fort Hays State University in Kansas. According to his World Athletics profile, he was pretty quick, with PBs of 1:56.40 in the 800m, 3:55.98 in the 1,500m and 4:19.16 in the indoor mile. When he’s not running backward, he coaches the cross-country and track teams at Bethany College in Kansas.