Few journeys that begin with a cold can of baked beans end in luxury ice cream and chocolate, but Michael Ferndale’s Reverse Running Challenge was quite the rollercoaster, writes Josh Graham.

The highs and the lows of attempting to run five marathons in five days would be enough to derail any person, let alone one trying to do it backwards across the UK and Ireland’s five capital cities.

Ferndale, 48, was hampered by a calf injury from the off in Dublin and with tight logistical deadlines adjusted his expectations to completing 150km over the duration of the fundraising challenge.

And despite finishing battered, bruised and blistered, it is by no means the end of the former military man’s extravagant charity endeavours.

The Bolton News: Michael Ferndale downs a can of cold baked beans before starting his journey in a dark and gloomy DublinMichael Ferndale downs a can of cold baked beans before starting his journey in a dark and gloomy Dublin

“Honestly, I underestimated it a bit, as usual. I’m glad it’s over,” said Ferndale, who took 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.

“It was actually quite enjoyable, but I think every night you are rushing to the next city, you are getting on a flight. 

“You are having four hours sleep and getting up early in the morning. It would be quite nice to maybe do it with a bit more time.

“It’s funny I never really feel that proud, I just feel relieved it’s done. Everybody else says it’s pretty cool. 

“I think when I look back at it, I’ll feel maybe a bit more pride but there’s still a lot to do.”

Ferndale is not resting on his laurels and has his eyes set on a dash across five continents, doing 25km in reverse each day with the aim of raising of £25,000 next summer to tie in with the creation of an annual reverse day in schools.

“It’s not quite the same as what it started out as but actually it’s really good and what that does is prepare us really well mentally and logistically for next year’s challenge which is the one that matters,” said Ferndale, who completed the 2017 London Marathon in reverse.

“What we are going to do next year is five continents, so we will start in Asia, probably somewhere like Tokyo because the original plan a few years ago was to combine this with the Paralympics in Tokyo given that we do disability sport.

“When we return on the sixth day schools will have their first annual schools reverse day, where kids do whatever they want in reverse, running against each other, wearing their uniforms in reverse all to raise money for other kids.”

The Bolton News: Michael Ferndale with his support runners in BelfastMichael Ferndale with his support runners in Belfast

Ferndale enjoyed the long straight roads of Dublin’s Phoenix Park on Saturday before gliding around the Titanic Quarter in Belfast. After stopping in Scotland and Wales he finished at Lord’s in London, where he lives, and immediately scoffed chocolate and ice cream to replenish his severely depleted energy levels.

But the army vet, who served in Kosovo and Afghanistan during seven years in the Armed Forces, learnt some lessons the hard way when returning to Edinburgh, the city where he was born and grew up, for leg three.

“I had a bit of a crash in Edinburgh after two days of eating essentially not great food combined with not enough sleep,” explained Ferndale, who has previously completed the punishing 257km Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert in a more conventional front-facing style.

The Bolton News: Michael Ferndale takes a breather outside Edinburgh CastleMichael Ferndale takes a breather outside Edinburgh Castle

“Funnily enough, I learnt you should eat the normal food that you eat - eat good food. I think the first couple of days we were getting up at 4am and hotels didn’t have their kitchens open, hence the cold beans.

“I have to say we had a really good start, and a nice end. Each of the cities were quite different, I think I probably enjoyed the first day and Cardiff randomly, the most, which I didn’t think I would being a Scotsman. 

“It has been a lovely experience all round and I’m really grateful for everybody who put up with me, ran with me, talked to me and kept my mind off the humdrum pain in the calves and all the rest of it.”

The Bolton News: Michael Ferndale finishes off his Reverse Running Challenge by heading backwards into Lord'sMichael Ferndale finishes off his Reverse Running Challenge by heading backwards into Lord's

Fittingly, the man who got into reverse running after drunkenly joking he would do the marathon backwards, marked his achievement with a few glasses of red wine at the Lord’s Taverners Super 1s celebration evening before toasting to next year’s epic adventure. 

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.