It's all the fault of a Russian magazine, in which Cuban Wilfredo Diaz discovered retrorunning 32 years ago.
This week, he's going all the way to Italy to compete in a half-marathon in this way ... in the mountains.
I feel very good (...) I managed to restart the whole machine
", and "
I will give the maximum for Cuba
", he assures AFP during a training, surrounded by young people playing football, on a school ground in western Havana.
On Sunday, during the Dolomiti Extreme Trail Half Marathon in Forno di Zoldo, Italy, he will be the only one going backwards. But the 46-year-old ex-walker says he's “
” than ever. This psychologist has already won five medals at the world championships of this atypical sport: one in gold (in the 4x400m relay), three in silver and one in bronze.
The World Cup in this discipline, the 8th organized since the one celebrated for the first time in Switzerland in 2006, should have been held in July 2020 in Enfield, England, but had to be canceled due to a pandemic.
It was then postponed to this summer, at the end of July in France, but the health context is still causing uncertainty.
In Italy, there will be an additional difficulty, notes Wilfredo, because the terrain will be "
" with "
for the first time in the mountains
The Cuban therefore trained this time on sloping terrain.
A few days ago, he had a good time on a circuit in Cuba (2 h 18 min 53 sec), which makes him optimistic for Sunday.
On the communist island, where the inhabitants regularly complain about the slowness of reforms, even of some backsliding, the news that a Cuban stands out globally in a race backwards has made people smile on social networks.
Easy gold medal, it's child's play
", joked on Twitter a surfer: "
we have decades of training
When it comes to going backwards, nobody lowers us
", laughed another, "
the gold is assured
"The preparation is difficult, sometimes we are limited, things are missing, but I always find someone to help me"
Wilfredo has already participated in two Worlds: Essen (Germany) in 2016 then Bologna (Italy) in 2018. In 2019, during the Central American Championship in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, he drew all eyes by obtaining five gold medals in distance events.
Behind this unusual discipline, however, there is an iron training: Wilfredo gets up every day at 4:00 am for a session of about three hours.
He follows a strict diet and supplements his exercise routine with weights.
The preparation is difficult, sometimes we are limited, things are missing, but I always find someone to help me
", says the athlete, while Cuba, in deep economic crisis, imposes severe travel restrictions and of gatherings due to the coronavirus pandemic.
As a child, Wilfredo tried his hand at diving, without being convinced. He then switched to fitness walking. Until he came across an article in a Russian magazine that mentioned retrorunning, an exercise born over 1000 years ago in China but whose records only began to be recorded in 1896. Out of the question for him to go back: running backwards brings "
more than 200 beneficial effects
" to health. This discipline "
improves spatial orientation, peripheral vision
" and "
allows you to burn 50% more calories compared to forward races,
" he says: "it is"
a wonderful exercise!
He loves this sport so much that he introduced it to Cuba, even if at first he was called "
": in 2013, he organized a national championship with 80 runners from eight provinces and four guest countries. In 2018, an international meeting in Artemisa, near Havana, brought together nearly 200 participants.