[Read about Jules Bourglay, the first notable walker in Samantha Hunt’s series of non-fiction pieces.]

- - -

Despite walking 137 kilometers backwards in twenty-four hours, world-record breaker K. Veerabadran moved into the future.

K. Veerabadran, in most photos, looks sad and small. His pants are too wide for his thin waist, and he curves his shoulders in towards his heart. His appearance does not reflect his success as an athlete. Though he has had no formal athletic training and waited until he was in his forties to begin his athletic ventures, Veerabadran holds records for both continuous walking and continuous backwards walking.

When Veerabadran is not walking he is an officer in the Tamil Nadu Directorate of Handlooms and Textiles. He is also a manager at the Loom World Showroom in Anna Nagar and he is the father of three children.

Veerabadran once walked continuously for five days and five nights. In this time he covered a distance of 573.4 kilometers, surpassing the previous record holder, an Englishman named Tom Benson’s distance by a mere 2.4 kilometers. On the fifth day of this walk, the last, Veerabadran was weary from no sleep and little food. He passed through a field where onions and chilies were growing. Starved he began to eat the vegetables raw, voraciously. As Veerabadran reported to Joseph Pradeep Raj R of Chennaibest.com, “The result was that whatever sleepiness I was feeling went away with the fiery taste. With eyes streaming tears, I completed the run. I kept eating the onions and chilies and it was like petrol for me, at the end of which my mouth itself was blistered.”

To break the world’s backward walking record once held by American David Arnold, Veerabadran walked 137 kilometers, backwards, in twenty-four hours. Since then Veerabadran has three times attempted to break his own record. On his third bid he was struck by a truck on the road from Bangalore. Veerabadran was knocked unconscious and has, at least for now, sworn off future backwards walking record breaking endeavors.