Charity legend Michael Ferndale powers around Belfast backwards on day 2 of Reverse Running Challenge

·4-min read
Michael Ferndale poses with his support runners on day two of the Reverse Running Challenge in Belfast
Michael Ferndale poses with his support runners on day two of the Reverse Running Challenge in Belfast

Fresh from physio and inspired by well-wishers, former soldier Michael Ferndale upped the ante in Belfast on the second day of his five in five marathons for the Reverse Running Challenge, writes Josh Graham.

Ferndale, 48, completed 23 miles in Dublin on day one after being hampered by a troublesome calf injury and made it to the same milestone in the Northern Irish capital on Sunday with Edinburgh, Cardiff and London still to come.

Scottish Ferndale, who now lives in London, is taking on the novelty challenge 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.

Ferndale had his calf treated before setting off on his second epic adventure in Belfast and the early improvement was clear to see after he flew out the blocks at 7.30am and smashed through 11.5 miles in under three-and-a-half hours.

“A much, much better day than yesterday after a massage from a proper physiotherapist in the morning who knew what she was doing,” said Ferndale, who ran the 2017 London Marathon in reverse.

“In support, we started off with a girl from Queen’s University who was in charge of the athletic club there, she was great and very good at directing us and then we had a couple of scientists.

“We were so lucky with the weather; it was just really nice - I can’t complain about anything.

“I think the calf is healing, even though that sounds a bit weird, it’s getting stronger, it’s getting less painful.”

Ferndale had plenty of encouragement from well-wishers on the streets of Belfast, one of whom even heard his radio interview on Friday.

Michael Ferndale stops to talk to a well-wisher on day two in Belfast after supporters heard his talkSPORT interview on Friday
Michael Ferndale stops to talk to a well-wisher on day two in Belfast after supporters heard his talkSPORT interview on Friday

He added: “This really nice guy came up to us at the end and said, ‘I heard you on talkSPORT, I heard your interview.’

“We told him what it was about and it was quite interesting to see our show reach the heart of Belfast!

“I haven’t thought about Edinburgh yet, one day at a time, but this is my holiday I keep telling people.”

Ferndale’s efforts were a real triumph in adversity, and although he fell just short of a full marathon distance again, his time of 8:35 was a marked improvement on Saturday’s ten-hour stint south of the border.

“It’s more important that we get something done in every city so if it means we run out of time and we’ve got to dash off to the next city, I’m not going to worry about one or two miles,” added Ferndale.

“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.”

Michael Ferndale pounds the streets of Belfast in reverse on day two of his unique challenge
Michael Ferndale pounds the streets of Belfast in reverse on day two of his unique challenge

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 straightforward 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.”

Ferndale will tackle the challenge in familiar territory in the city of his birth, Edinburgh, on Monday before hot-footing it to Cardiff and finishing 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-challengeto make a donation.

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