By Mikey Jones and Dan Coles
Runner Shantelle Gaston-Hird gets some funny looks when she trains for her latest race in her local park – because she only runs BACKWARDS.
Shantelle, 32, loves to start her weekend with a leisurely backwards jog – but can clock an 11 minute backwards mile when she’s in training.
She’s even been crowned the fastest backwards runner in the UK – and while most fellow joggers shout words of encouragement, she does admit being shouted at by drivers to turn around.
Shantelle, from Irlam, Greater Manchester, said: “I know it seems a bit weird but I just think it’s so much more fun than running forwards.
“Initially it was a bit of fun, but after researching backwards running I realised that it is a great cross-training exercise, and a great work out for your abs.
“I get catcalled every time I go out for a run, but when you run backwards all they say is ‘you are going the wrong way’ which is so much nicer than a white van man making inappropriate comments!
“Most people just do a double take or smile, If they say anything they just say: ‘Er, you’re going the wrong way’.
“Car drivers sometimes indicate for me to turn around, I get less harassment running backwards from men than I do going forward!
“I have even started running backwards on the treadmill in the gym.”
Shantelle first tried running the wrong way as part of a team building exercise in 2013 – but before long she was hooked, and running backwards several times a week.
The sport, she says, has a vast amount of benefits not just for physical health but for mental wellbeing and socialising, whilst also being a very accessible sport for anyone who wants to get involved.
Shantelle has been running backwards for six years, has competed in competitions and set up a weekly club for any other budding backwards runners to enjoy the sport, coined retro running, in a wholesome and safe environment.
Shantell said: “I first got into retro running as part of a team bonding event at Heaton Park with my roller derby team, this run was incredibly fun, and every single person laughed throughout.
“I actually came third at this event, I was having so much fun that I forgot it was a race.
“It’s fun and a great workout, the confidence that you obtain from retro running is incredible, I’m an ultra-runner and middle-distance triathlete so it compliments my training really well.
“I now organise the Retro Mile event on the first Saturday of every month so that other people can come and try retro running in a safe environment.”
“The feedback was extremely positive which is what has allowed me to create more events.
“The atmosphere in the clubhouse after the event was fantastic with people having breakfast butties and tea and coffee and all chatting about how much fun they had.
“I even had a teenage boy tell me that he loved it and asked if we could do another one, his mum was said to me if I can make a teenage boy smile, I must be doing something right.”