Shadrack Anderson Jr., the 72-year-old “backwards running man,” holds a small American flag in his hand as he waves at cars on Highway 1 that sometimes pass dangerously close as he runs. An RV driven by his best friend from sixth grade with “backwards running man” and sponsor stickers follows his journey to make sure he stays safe.
Anderson, who lives in Honolulu, is passing through the Coastside on his run from San Francisco to New York City over the next nine months in which he jogs 10 to 12 miles a day.
More than 50 years ago, Anderson said he entered a trance where backward running discovered him. That was before he left for Vietnam where he fought in the Tet Offensive.
“I came out of war,” he said. “(I want) to bring something positive.”
Anderson is a musician who studied jazz. He plays piano, trombone, sings and orchestrates and conducts — when not running.
“I’m really doing this because I want to play music,” he said.
His wife will meet him in Texas and New York during this run. She ran backward with him a few times early on in their marriage to gain an understanding of what he did, but now she meets him at certain points along the journey.
Running backward, Anderson said, has improved his five senses, and his sixth sense of awareness and intuition. It may be what helps him dodge pine cones or rocks on the road without constantly looking over his shoulder.
Although he’s been running for many years, Anderson’s life changed when he was diagnosed with cancer in 2012. He completely changed his diet, cutting out meat and most animal products. That didn’t stop him from training.
“I didn’t accept it,” he said. “... There is one chance to be better than I can be as a limited human being.”