Military man Michael Ferndale courageously tackled a calf problem head on in Dublin on the first day of his five in five marathons for the Reverse Running Challenge, writes Josh Graham.

The ex-soldier, 48, began his quest to run five consecutive marathons backwards across Dublin, Belfast, Edinburgh, Cardiff and London on Saturday.

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 swears by no training but broke his own rule when he suffered the injury last week, and courageously battled to the 23-mile mark in ten hours and four minutes of action after starting at 7.40am, but nothing could put a dampener on a belting opening day in Phoenix Park in the Irish capital.

Ealing Times: Michael Ferndale downs a tin of cold baked beans on day one of his five backwards marathons in five daysMichael Ferndale downs a tin of cold baked beans on day one of his five backwards marathons in five days

“Well, starting on a cold wet morning by a tree, eating a cold tin of baked beans in the rain, I wondered if it would be like that all day,” said Ferndale, who ran the 2017 London Marathon in reverse.

“Actually, it has been a lovely day; the weather has been fine. We’ve had brilliant support runners from the Blackrock Athletic Club, lots of chat. 

“They listened to all my nonsense which was very polite of them. It’s just great to take your mind off the pain; I think this whole thing is about tricking your mind into thinking it’s not doing something that’s terribly hard or long or painful.

“I was a bit worried about the old calf coming into this with an injury, it has slowed me down a bit but you get through it.

“It’s actually been a really, really good day - people have been so friendly. You know, I can’t complain.”

Although he was gutted to fall just short of a full marathon on the opening run, Ferndale’s efforts were a real triumph in adversity, and he hopes to kick on in the remaining capital cities before finishing in London on October 13.

“The worst thing I can do is not turn up, cry off with a sore calf - it’s not an option,” added Ferndale.

“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.

“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.”

Ealing Times: Michael Ferndale with his Dublin support runners from the Blackrock Athletic ClubMichael Ferndale with his Dublin support runners from the Blackrock Athletic Club

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.”

Ealing Times: Michael Ferndale after day one in Dublin of the Reverse Running ChallengeMichael Ferndale after day one in Dublin of the Reverse Running Challenge

After physio in Belfast on Sunday morning, Ferndale is hoping to tackle the full 26.2 miles in Northern Ireland before flying to Edinburgh ahead of the third leg.

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 make a donation.