A Carndonagh man is going for two world records next week in the rather unusual sport of retro running - running backwards,
Garret Doherty has captured the attention of the media with his exploits and with all the hype about the Olympics he reckons this is as good a time as any to go for the big double.
“There are two 10k. races coming up in Dun Laoighaire in Dublin - on the 6th and 12th of August - and I’m aiming to break the world record in the first and then aiming to break my own world record on the second occasion. I’m certainly going to give it my best shot?”
Asked if running backwards was not a form of sporting insanity Garret replied: “No way. The Chinese have been doing this for 10,000 years.
“And perhaps the biggest exponent of retro-running in modern times was probably the biggest sporting star in history, Mohammad Ali. He copped on that running backwards forced him to use the other side of his brain and that helped his technique as a boxer. He was equally competent going forwards and going backwards; most of his opponents were only good at the former, and this gave him a great advantage. Despite being a heavyweight people were amazed he had the mobility of a featherweight.”
Garret is also adamant that running backwards is great for fitness.
“Running backwards for five minutes equates to running forward for 15 minutes. It could be a godsend for busy people who want to get fit quickly but don’t have the time to spend. It’s the intensity that delivers the fitness.”
So how did it all come about - it’s not every day that someone decides to run backwards?
“Actually, it started out very simply. A couple of years back I was running in Fairview Park in Dublin on a very nice sunny day. I had my top off enjoying the sensation of having a bit of heat on my skin as I was running along when I noticed a sort of overhang of tress - which created a sort of a dark tunnel - where the sun had disappeared.
“Without thinking I just decided to hell with that - I’ll stay in the sun, so I decided to run backwards, back into the heat. There was no plan. There were quite a few people about and the next I heard was a whole lot of children saying ‘Look mammy, that man’s running backwards.’ I liked that reaction, and I knew right there and there I had found something which struck a chord with people. I haven’t stopped since.”
Perhaps it should be pointed out that Garret is not adverse to a bit of attention in that he not only runs barefoot but has also recently ran a 5k in Wales in the nude. It’s all fun, he says.
Stating that he believes he is now, overall, possibly the fittest runner in Ireland Garret says he’s in the shape of his life.
“I run forward one day, backward the next. I train every day with Crusaders A.C. here in Dublin. I do speed work, hill sessions and distance work. When I started out my legs were really thin but now’, he added laughingly, ‘they are really sexy!”
The son of Donal and Anne, Garret has big plans to defend his World Champion status in the 3k. Retro World Championships in Barcelona late in August.
“I’ll definitely be defending my title. This is the fourth retro world championships and they are certainly growing in popularity.’
He’s got a track record - if you’ll pardon the pun - in his sport: “I am world record holder for the half marathon, world champion over 3k and 3 times UK champion.
“I plan to run Malin to Mizen next year--in reverse of course-its more fun!”
The young Carn man has a more serious aspect to his sport.
“I am available to teach retro running and its amazing philosophy. I visit a lot of schools now and I try to get the message across to the kids that they have so much potential. As I said earlier, running backwards forces you to use a whole different part of your brain. It’s like giving it a good workout. It stimulates not only the body but the mind. And that has got to be good for their development.”