There are those who have questioned what sort of human activities can be qualified as a sport, aiming to standardize the physical exertions that can be universally respected as one where all eligible challengers are allowed to give a try, so to speak.
Incidentally, we have come to realize that the term “sports” is actually difficult to define. As an easy way out, we rally around and respect some of these physical activities when there are enough people interested. Rallying around these then creates associations that are popularly-acclaimed to set rules and organize competitions.
No one is organizing competitions for backward running or retro-running yet, you would struggle to argue why it is not a sport. It is something because it is a very physically demanding activity and it excites millions across the world. There are even world records in retro-running, like those held by Ghanaian Ferdie Ato Adoboe, who has been resident in the United States for more than half of his life.
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Not much is documented about the life of Adoboe but having been born in Ghana in 1964, it is very little surprise that the few sources in a bid to construct a sort of biography say that he was enthusiastic about soccer, Ghana’s favorite sport. Indeed, these days, Adoboe is the proprietor of Ferdie’s Soccer Magic Academy, a kids’ soccer-learning establishment in Texas that prides itself in “player development solutions”.
Long before a soccer academy, Adoboe, a thorough athlete, made his name as the world’s fastest retro-runner over 100 meters and over 100 yards. Why retro-running? Why did he not run like most other athletes? Like Bob Rumbold, a sportscaster at WWLP in Springfield, Massachusetts said in 1991, “We could run forward, and this guy would win.”
Adoboe himself said of retro-running in 1991: “It’s not something that I would say anybody should go and do and then do because you do need a bit of coordination and balance to be able to do it. If not, you just got yourself a bit of injury. But once you’ve mastered it, it’s actually a good skill to have for other sports…so I do think it’s beneficial.”
The intriguing thing happens to be the fact that he did do well in other sports. He became a soccer coach after all. But it was retro-running that allowed him to stand out as far back as 1983. That was the year he set his first world records over 100 meters and 100 yards.
He managed to run 100 yards in 12.8 seconds in Amherst, Massachusetts on July 28, 1983. On that same day and venue, he did 14 seconds over 100 meters. Both records were world records that he held on to until 1991 when he broke them.
In 1991, Adoboe ran 12.7 seconds over 100 yards at St. Smith’s College, Northampton, Massachusetts on July 25. This new time was 0.1 seconds better than what he did in 1983. Over 100 meters too, he ran 13.6 seconds, an improvement of 0.4 seconds.
That year, he entered the Guinness World Book of Records as the fastest male retro-runner over 100 meters. 30 or so years on, no one has been able to beat Adoboe’s record although many have tried. In 2007 however, Roland Wegner, a German, could only repeat the 13.6 seconds in meet in Horgau.