On the indispensable Sunday, June 13th, a Cuban starts an unusual marathon in Italy. Wilfredo Diaz, a fan of retro running, is about to challenge the mountain … by running backwards
This is due to a Russian magazine in which the Cuban Wilfredo Diaz discovered retro running 32 years ago. This week he’s going to Italy to do a half marathon … in the mountains.
“I feel very good (…) I managed to restart the whole machine” and “I will give the maximum for Cuba,” he assured AFP during a training session, surrounded by young people playing football , on a school campus in Western Havana.
On Sunday June 13th, he will be the only one to retire from the Dolomiti Extreme Trail Half Marathon in Forno di Zoldo, Italy. But the 46-year-old ex-Walker says he’s “better prepared” than ever. The psychologist has already won five medals at the world championships in this atypical sport: one in gold (in the 4x400m relay), three in silver and one in bronze. The world championship in this discipline, the 8th organized since it was first celebrated in Switzerland in 2006, should have taken place in Enfield, England, in July 2020, but had to be canceled due to a pandemic. It was then postponed in France to this summer, at the end of July, but the health context is still a source of uncertainty.
A discipline that makes Cubans smile
In Italy there will be an additional difficulty, notes Wilfredo, as the terrain will be “untypical” with “for the first time in the mountains”. So this time the Cuban trained 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 residents regularly complain about the slowness of reforms and even some relapses, news that a Cuban is racing to the bottom has made social media smile. “Simple gold medal, it’s a piece of cake,” joked one surfer on Twitter: “We’ve had decades of training.” “When it comes to going backwards, nobody lets us down,” laughed another, “the gold is safe”.
An iron workout
Wilfredo has already participated in two world championships: Essen (Germany) in 2016 and Bologna (Italy) in 2018. In 2019, during the Central American Championship in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, he drew everyone’s attention by winning five gold medals Distance events won.
Behind this unusual discipline, however, there is an iron training: Wilfredo gets up every day at 4:00 am for a three-hour session. He follows a strict diet and supplements his exercise routine with weights. “The preparation is difficult, sometimes we are limited, something is missing, but I can always find someone to help me,” says the athlete, while Cuba is imposing severe travel restrictions and gatherings in a deep economic crisis due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Beneficial effects on health
As a child, Wilfredo tried diving without being convinced. Then he switched to fitness walking. Until he came across an article in a Russian magazine that mentioned retrorunning, an exercise that was born in China more than 1,000 years ago but whose recordings didn’t begin until 1896.
Walking backwards is out of the question for him: walking backwards has “more than 200 beneficial effects” on health.
This discipline “improves spatial orientation, peripheral vision” and “enables you to burn 50% more calories compared to running forward,” he says. “It’s” a wonderful exercise! “