Running backwards on Miami’s South Beach has earned one man a $77.50 ticket for obstructing traffic. A few days ago, a person that Miami Beach Police Sgt. Bobby Hernandez called “a concerned citizen” phoned 911 when they saw runner Alex Mesa going backwards on the street.
When the 911 responder asked what the emergency was, the unnamed caller reportedly said: “”He’s, like, running backwards in the middle of the street and zig-zagging through all the lanes. I just want you to pick him up before he gets himself killed.”
But Alex Mesa, who said that he’s HIV positive and has been running backwards for six years to inspire others, told the Miami News-Herald and a local TV station that isn’t the whole story.
According to Mesa, the police have seen him running backwards for years and never complained to him about it. He said that he didn’t get the ticket for obstructing traffic but because the officer didn’t like his attitude.
Hernandez agreed that the police originally intended to just give him a warning. However, Mesa argued and said he wouldn’t stop running backwards. The eccentric jogger pointed out that he deliberately runs slowly, with full awareness of what’s around him, in a neon green tracksuit that makes him easy to see.
But he did admit to running backward in the street, claiming that it was safer because it offered better visibility than running on the sidewalk.
Hernandez’s rebuttal? “You can run backwards, forwards, sideways, on a bike or on a skateboard, but you cannot obstruct traffic.” He added that officers witnessed the 44-year-old weaving between vehicles.
In recent years, running backwards has been promoted as a way to help the body recover from or even avoid exercise injuries while still retaining the calorie-burning benefits of jogging. The unusual exercise may even provide healthy stimulation to the brain.
A University of Milan, Italy study said that backwards running is particularly good for people with bad knees and that it burns more calories at the same speed than when you’re running forward.
Maybe so, but arguing with a cop is rarely the best way to get out of a ticket. Alex Mesa now plans to challenge the citation for backwards running in court.
[Dublin marathon photo of backwards runner by “Musical Photo Man” via Flickr and Creative Commons]