At the age of 6 I started playing football at the local football club SV Steinach. When I was 16 years old my cousin persuaded me to run with him. Being convinced that only now I did the right thing, he made me to do some training with him. But only after a short time I even went to competitions with him.
My first real competition was a 10 kilometer run (in April 2001) and was in the neighboring village Biberach i.K. Already then I was so well-trained that I beat the 40 minutes set. Even though I had to bind my shoelaces during the run I reached the finish after 39:35 minutes. Until today I never ran the 10 kilometers on the plains over 40 minutes.
When living in the Black Forrest there are only two ways of running, either up and down the river or in the mountains. After only a short time I did not like the river any more and so I went in the beautiful mountains, of course. When they then held the German mountain running competition in the neighboring village Zell am Harmersbach the first step was done. With a good performance and position 7 of the junior ranking I guaranteed myself an invitation of the national coach for a qualifying in Oberstaufen/Allgäu.I finished third and got a ticket to the mountain running world championship in Innsbruck (September 2002), where we were able to win the bronze medal with the junior team. I finished 11th at the junior competition one year later in Alaska. (September 2003)
My coach read in a runner’s magazine the results of the 2 German Championship for backward running. As he planed to go there with a friend anyway I could make my decision at short notice. After having tried how fast I could run backward only a few days before the competition (February 2003) I agreed to participate. With 4:07 minutes I did not only become German Champion but did also defeat the competitors from France and Italy with a new European Record over 1000 meter.
In summer 2003 the German mountain running national team had a training camp in Mittenwald. The executive of this training camp had won the Empire State Building Run Up several times and talked about his experiences of tower running. I was 18 years old at that time and found everything quite impressive. Soon I planed my first own tower run. In November 2003 the premiere took place in Vienna. Running up the television tower took me 3:54 minutes. I won the age group and finished sixth in total. This meant for me that I could cope with the “steepest mountain” namely the stairs.
As I trained in the beginning illegally on secured or locked staircases I had the chance to enter huger and bigger staircases after a while. Partly illegal again, partly also with permission Meanwhile it is possible for me to train in such skyscrapers as the Maintower or the Stuttgart television tower but only with special permissions. That was and is a real progress and helps me to improve. After the run in Vienna I already had the idea to start in New York. After one year and a half I finished second with only half a step behind the first. One year later I started again, better trained and more experienced and won the 29th Empire State Building Run Up in 10:19 minutes.
After having beaten the European Record at the first competition, I started to train backward running and established the first World record 4 months later. In the Swabian town I ran the 1000 meter in 3:36 minutes (July 2003). All records that followed have been established at several competitions or attempts to set a new record.
Yes, but certainly in a different way as one could expect. I just always eat twice as much. Of course, I take care of eating many carbohydrates after a long or hard training, but this usually happens rather automatically. If I am starving for something “unhealthy” I just eat it. That is way I am mostly the only person who knows which of the many cake offered at a family party is the best because apart from me nobody really tried all of them.
Yes. For non-professionals it is very important to burn more calories at the same speed. That leads to higher energy consumption at a same impact on the joints. In addition different muscle groups will be activated.
I had to experience that myself painfully during my first 1000 meter competition. But what I learnt out of it was that even if you run forwards daily many muscles groups remain untrained. Misbalances of muscle groups especially in the legs are often a raison for long lasting injuries. Of course you cannot compare backward running with medication. But if you can reduce the risk of injuries by running backwards approx. 500 meters twice to three times a week, I accept the advice. If it is physically inefficient – what I do not think it is – then it lead at least to a psychological effect, as it improves your mental strength. Everybody can experience this after having trained a few times opposite to the normal running direction.
No, because the routes where the competitions take place have barriers. But as a untrained runner you should protect your hands and your head. Even if you fall, but have learnt how to fall it is not a problem. I personally never felt in the past. However I do not recommend running backwards aside of nice roads or tartan tracks. Because on uneven or on not visible roads the danger of injury or falling increases significantly. I think that you can maximize the benefit from backward running the best on long, quiet and tarred roads. Therefore competition routes should be free of uneven sections. This is the only way how you can concentrate on running only and establish records. As it applies for each competition, the training and not the competition is healthy. But for thousands of marathon runners the competition is the event what delivers the motivation for the training.
Not really because most of the time I run so fast that people just have no time to talk as long as I am still enough close to them. When overtaking a pedestrian I often saw the pure horror on their face. People could just not believe what they were seeing. But that’s O.K., finally I cannot expect that anybody knows a backward runner.
For the moment I ran up the highest building already. But in the years coming there will be new skyscrapers being completed. This is something that has a great appeal for me. In other words: when the Burj Dubai will be completed in 2009 I would love to have a look at the staircase because even if the data of the building is top secret it is said to be over 800 meters high.