Johnny Haught Crosses Finish Line Backward
9:57 am Sunday, May 26, 2019
WHEELING — Johnny Haught of Bethlehem did not have the finish line in his sights when he completed the Ogden Newspapers 5K Run/Walk for Health, but he had a goal in mind as he ran the entire course backward.
Haught has made a name for himself in past races by running in unique ways. Last year he ran the Ogden Newspapers Half Marathon Classic barefoot to benefit the the Lace Up for Kids program, which is conducted through the United Way to benefit children of the Upper Ohio Valley. This year he ran backward to raise money for the same charity.
“For the last three years I’ve really come up with gimmicks to raise money for charity. I’ve been running races for a long time, I’m a professional fighter and fight trainer, so running’s part of our training. I just like to stay in competition when I’m not fighting, so I started running races,” Haught said.
“They’re taking straight donations at the United Way,” he added, noting that the Lace Up for Kids program provides shoes for children who do not have the resources to purchase them “so that every kid starts off the (school) year with a brand-new pair of shoes.”
Last year, Haught said, he raised about $3,500 for the program. Haught could not yet say on Saturday how much he had raised this year.
“They’re taking donations directly. Last year I collected, but it became like a full-time job, so now I’m asking everybody to mail their donations straight to Upper Ohio Valley United Way,” he said.
“I toss around ideas all year long. It’s about a month before (the race) that I figure out what I’m going to do. I’ll think up something to top this,” he said of his plans for coming years.
“I wanted to run as Deadpool and just not tell anybody I was doing it, just run around messing with everybody,” he said, referring to a comedic superhero in movies and comic books.
Haught added that the potential for sweltering heat inside the costume helped him rule out that possibility. Next, he came up with the idea to run backward.
“I do hill sprints a lot, and I was trying to think of something that would make it harder to do the race, and running the 5K backwards was the thing. I thought about doing the half marathon. I’m glad I didn’t, because that would have taken a lot of training to get through that backward,” he said.
“I ran into a few people I stayed with, and they would spot me as I was going. I probably should have brought my own spotter, somebody just to run next to me and let me know when things were coming up. Everybody was pretty good about it, and I’ve got good peripheral vision. I could see when people were coming up. I was more worried about potholes than anything,” he said, adding that the reaction to his effort was positive.
“People smile, people wave,” he said. “It draws a little bit of attention, but I like that.”
Haught plans to walk with a friend who is a wheelchair user during the Joe Palmer 5K next week in Elm Grove.