Local sporting hero Peter Ferris was the guest speaker at the recent Coleraine Probus Club meeting, where he gave an exhausting (for members!) talk covering his running career and an indication of how he earned the title of the 'Ultra Marathon Man'.
Peter started his marathon running carer in 1982, and would run three or four each year during the 80s. By the 1990s this had increased to around 20 a year (with 37 in one year). To date he has run well over 500 marathons, all raising money for Cancer charities and Marie Curie nursing, to a total of more than £600,000.
As tiring as Peter's efforts may sound, many of the marathons he has taken part in are not the 'ordinary' runs we may see on TV at the Olympics or through the streets of big cities around the world (London, Boston, New York etc.). Peter specialises in running, where most people would think more than twice about taking a short walk. Probus members were taken on a short world tour of the 'more challenging' locations Peter had run to raise money.
For Peter the worst was a the North Pole Marathon, where he and other competitors endured temperatures of minus 42C and there was a constant danger of crevasses opening along a route he could hardly see, as his eyes were almost frozen over (but at least it was too cold for Polar Bears!!!). This was the longest (in time) marathon Peter has ever run, talking six and a half hours to complete.
The toughest (and possibly most dangerous) run Peter has had, is the Sahara Desert Marathon, this is a 6-day event over a 250km route. It is termed a 'self sufficient' run, which means that you carry a backpack for your food, shelter and first aid. Peter was running in day temperatures 53C (125F) and nights near freezing, and developed 'blisters on his blisters'. Fortunately, on this run, Peter met up with a Dutch runner and four guys from the SAS, who decided to run as a group. This was even more helpful when they were ambushed by a group of 'bandits', who were eventually persuaded to leave when Peter was advised by the SAS men to 'shoot' them with the emergency flares they carried (luckily, pointing the flare was good enough to do the trick).
Apart from the extremes in location, Peter has also 'enjoyed' many multiple marathons. Several times he has taken part in the challenges of 'Three Marathons over Three Days in Three Countries', and one year did the Sunday London Marathon and the Monday (next day) Boston Marathon. The schedule was so tight, that he only just managed to get the flight from Heathrow by not changing out of his running kit!
In the year 2000, Peter was awarded the MBE for his work in fundraising.
For the future, Peter is planning how he could run a massive 'Ultra Marathon' from New York to Los Angeles, a total of 2000 miles. He would like to be able to run 1000 marathons and raise over £1m for his charities before he retires from running - as he has now retired from work, he thinks that the chances for those goals may be limited. However, Probus club members were certainly under the impressing that Peter would still be running strong by the time he reached Prince Philip's age.