Courageous backwards distance runner Michael Ferndale returned home to Edinburgh and reacquainted himself with his military roots on day three of the Reverse Running Challenge, writes Josh Graham.
Ferndale, 48, completed 23 miles on each of the first two days in Dublin and Belfast despite a troublesome calf issue, before returning to the city where he was born and later based as a member of the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards.
Scottish Ferndale, who now lives in London, is taking on the novelty challenge of five backwards marathons in five days to raise money for both the Lord’s Taverners and The Change Foundation, who use sport to inspire social change among young people and give them opportunities that many take for granted growing up.
Incredibly, after unintentionally waking up at 4.45am he decided to hit the streets early for two hours of reverse running in the dark, clocking up over 7km and taking his running total towards the 100km mark.
“I woke up really early this morning and I was doing laps up and down Princes Street, a whole bunch of bus drivers and people were thinking, ‘Who is this nutter?’ There were a lot of weird looks,” said Ferndale, who ran the 2017 London Marathon in reverse.
“A lot of things came back to me [being in Edinburgh], I went to visit my old regimental headquarters and I feel really privileged to have been part of that regiment and in many ways I feel much more associated with them rather than the city itself.”
Ferndale’s early start, injury problems caught up with him later in the Scottish capital with the afternoon’s progress slow, but now he is gunning for a huge finale in Cardiff and London.
“I guess in some way it’s a bit of a mini mid-life crisis, if we are being honest,” added Ferndale.
“But why not challenge it into something really positive, doing something for other people and see if we can set something up year after year.
“I think this year is about us setting the stage for something bigger and hopefully the schoolkids will be able to get involved.
“I’m really looking forward to London, I’m sure Cardiff will be brilliant but it’s an early train ride from Paddington at 5am and hopefully I’ll be able to bang out as much as I possibly can, hopefully the whole 26 miles.
“Then we will get back up, a bit of sleep and then a massive push in London, finishing up at Lord’s.”
After encountering a few difficulties during his current challenge, Ferndale has his heart set on doing 25km backwards in five consecutive days across five continents next year with the aim of raising £25,000.
“In many ways this has been a really useful exercise to work out what we can do next year,” explained Ferndale.
“Definitely 25km, five continents and hopefully £25,000 will be more realistic for my ageing body.
“It’s about getting the message out in every city and about stretching myself as far as I can go.
“The whole purpose of this is to create an annual school reverse challenge. So, whatever the kids come up with, whether it’s wearing uniform in reverse, running around in reverse, playing sport in reverse, whatever they come up with.
“The whole point is fundraising, for young people to do something a bit daft, raising money for other young people who are in need.”
Ferndale spent seven years in The British Army serving in Kosovo and Iraq and claims to have once gone five days in a row without sleeping during warfare.
His unique style of fundraising was born over four years ago when a throwaway drunken joke was taken literally after Ferndale had already completed, in much more conventional style, the punishing 257km Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert and a front-on London Marathon for Lord’s Taverners.
“I’m doing this because I’m an idiot, that’s why, my big mouth,” explained Ferndale, who boasts nearly two decades of experience in corporate boardrooms and is currently a partner at leading firm ECC Consultancy.
“We were at a cricket dinner at Lord’s and somebody said: ‘Oh, are you going to run the marathon for charity again?’
“I said ‘Well, I’m not sure I can really speak to everybody and ask them again.’ I will admit I was probably a little bit tipsy and I said ‘Oh I suppose I can do it backwards or in reverse, ho ho ho…’”
“But suddenly there were these emails flying around that this was going to happen, so I thought ‘Oh heck, I better do it’. So, I did it but this time I only have myself to blame.”
Today is DAY 3 of Michael Ferndale’s reverse running marathon challenge.
Today he’s in Edinburgh! 🏴
Thank you @WaldorfAstoria for supporting and looking after the team. @LordsTaverners @BassieTCF pic.twitter.com/1IZNLI68Nj
— The Change Foundation (@ChangeFdn) October 11, 2021
Ferndale will spend a night at home before tackling Cardiff and finishing his challenge with a bang in London on October 13.
Michael Ferndale will be tackling the Reverse Running Challenge between October 9-13 to raise money and awareness to help disadvantaged and disabled young people to fulfil their potential and build life skills. Visit https://donate.giveasyoulive.com/fundraising/michael-ferndales-reverse-running-challenge to make a donation.