LINDSBORG — .fast runs Yoder Aaron
But he does it backwards. And wins world recognition doing it.
The head track and field and cross country coach at Bethany College is in the Guinness Book of World Records, has been included in the 2018 annual edition of Ripley’s Believe It or Not, “Shatter Your Senses,” and is ready to submit more documentation to the Guinness Book.
Yoder, 32, set the world record for running a mile backward in 5 minutes 54.25 seconds on Nov. 23, 2015.
“I’m ready to re-break it,” he said recently.
He’s finishing up the documentation to send to Guinness for the record-setting backward 200- and 1,000-meter runs he completed in June. He hopes to have the paperwork done by Christmas.
Lindsborg photographer Jim Turner took video of the events.
“Jim said, ‘Are you ready to film a word record?’ ” Yoder said. ” ‘I’ll just ride my bike behind you — or maybe in front of you.’ ”
“There’s no glory involved in world records,” Yoder said. “If people know what it took to get there, they wouldn’t want to do it.”
People don’t see the 3 a.m. and 4 a.m. training sessions or the pain it took. Pain brought Yoder’s forward running and dreams of making the Olympic trials to a halt.
After a Hillsboro High School career of football, club wrestling, basketball, cross country and track, his knee and shoulder required surgery. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Fort Hays State University.
Yoder, who is in his eighth year at Bethany, became head coach three years ago.
A few years ago, Yoder faced some tough times. Some friends and family members had died; several friends left Bethany, which was on probation; his workload increased; and his body was just tired. He wasn’t running as well as he liked, and it hurt. He wondered if it was worth it.
Yoder said he asked, “Why, God, why?” and God answered, “You can do this. You can turn this around.”
And he literally turned around. He decided to see where retrorunning could take him, and he devoted six days a week for six weeks to training running backward. He found relief from stress in his 17 practices a day.
Retrorunning takes different skills than forward running. It takes a different balance and rhythm. When he taught a dance class, he learned about rhythm, which helped with the running.
Research says retrorunning stimulates the right side of the brain, Yoder said, and you get more creative.
He trains every day for about two weeks, then takes one day off to rest.
In addition to running, he spends a lot of time in the weight room. He’ll warm up for 45 minutes. He does a lot of active movement stretching, using tools such as a roller, a volleyball or rope. He’ll jog one mile forward on a treadmill, then a half-mile backward. He does interval training and sprints. To maintain strength, he’ll do just one or two lifts of heavy weights. He lifts 230 pounds and bench-presses 135 pounds, in addition to bodyweight work, such as pull-ups, then has a brief cool-down period.
Many days, he has to fit in the training when he can find a few minutes, sometimes at 3 or 4 a.m., in between coaching, recruiting, teaching classes and community service.
He does it not for the alleged glory but for his family, community, the school, the kids he coaches and God.
“God has directed me to be where I am,” Yoder said. “God is laying down the breadcrumbs of life,” and he’s following them.
“You have a bigger sense of purpose,” Yoder said. “You represent your roots.”
His roots are on a dairy farm between Hillsboro and Peabody. The whole family runs — his parents, his older and younger brothers and his twin brother.
He learned a strong work ethic growing up on the farm.
“I’m the laziest one in the family,” he said. “My parents work harder than I do.”
Retrorunning has taken him places he never thought he’d go, like the 2016 world championships in Germany, where he met some of his mentors and heroes. He’s planning to go to the 2018 championships in Italy. He’s been asked to be on “The Amazing Race” reality television show but declined because of the time commitment.
He also found a different perspective — and metaphor — on life.
“You can still move forward in life while you’re going backward,” Yoder said. “You can see how far you’ve come from the starting point and appreciate it.”