Manchester

'Backward runners' tackle course in Manchester

Image caption Winner Garret Doherty's conversion to backward running 'just came upon' him in the park

The UK's first backward-running championships have been held in Manchester.

A one mile race for an international field of 38 men and women runners was staged at Heaton Park.

World backward-running champion Garret Doherty, 32, a Dublin-based bicycle rickshaw operator, won the men's race in seven minutes and 30 seconds.

Women's winner was Rachel Butterfield, 28 from Hartlepool, who recorded a time of 12 minutes and 40 seconds.

Mr Doherty, who took the world 5,000 metre title in 22 minutes in Austria a fortnight ago said his life has been transformed by the sport.

London event

"It just came upon me when I was in the park running forwards and I thought I could simply turn around.

"I did it and I had people staring in admiration and wonder, and now 18 months on I'm a world champion.

Image caption A gathering of the sport's runners in Augsburg, Germany in 2003

"It's amazing for the body and helps cure any forward running injury as it works the opposite muscles," said Doherty who has a fleet of five so-called pedicabs in Dublin.

"The Chinese have been running backwards for centuries and they know a thing a two about fitness." he said.

Organiser James Bamber of Reverse Running said he hoped the race would be staged again next year and has plans for a London event.

He said: "I can tell you from personal experience that unless you have trained for months beforehand, your legs will know they've been through a stiff workout and to even manage the whole race without resorting to a slow shuffle would be a massive achievement.

"It's a little-known fact that backward running is not only a great workout, but can actually prevent injury and is a very valuable exercise for athletes rehabilitating from knee injuries."

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