A local cleric is hoping his parishioners will dig deep and support his fundraising efforts, as he prepares to take on the 26.2 mile London Marathon next month.
Fr. Chris Ferguson,the Priest in Residence at the Three Patrons Parish and Vocations Director with the Derry Diocese, is running the famous marathon with a team of runners from Derry, who are all raising money for the Foyle Hospice.
A special fundraiser is being held in the City Hotel tonight (Friday), to help with the fundraising effort.
The ‘Night at the Races’ will kick off at 8.00 p.m. and entry is free with everyone welcome to attend.
Speaking to the ‘Journal’ this week ahead of his mammoth 20 mile training run, Fr Chris said the marathon has now “taken over” his life.
“I have no real background in running, I’m not exactly built for it. I’m small and big boned and a couple of years ago I signed up for the half marathon and had 16 weeks preparation for it.
“It was just as a group of friends and we went out and trained together and did the half marathon together.
“It was a great experience, but I found afterwards that it’s hard to motivate yourself if you haven’t got anything to train for.
“The last year has been hit and miss meaning that if you’re someone like me and you’re not training, you just sort of balloon!
“I thought I had to do something about my weight, so when someone suggested the London Marathon and they said it was for the Foyle Hospice, I really couldn’t say no,” he admitted.
Fr Chris and his fellow runners have been training for the marathon since the second week of January and they are now pounding the pavements four times per week.
“Every Thursday we do our long run and I’m up to 20 miles this week, so I’m not looking forward to that!
“I was lulled into a false sense of security at the end of February thinking Spring was here, but March has been that stormy no matter what direction you run in, you’re hit with a gale,” he noted.
The time commitment required for marathon training has also been a shock to the system for Fr. Chris.
“Even on Sunday and Tuesday we were out on close to 11 miles and that was two hours, and then the long run on Thursday that will take about four hours.
“That’s the big thing. Psychologically, you can cope with being on your feet for two hours, but when you get to four it’s a psychological thing. That’s the biggest challenge I’ve found.
“You either need good company or a good set of headphones! It’s very hard training on your own,” he claimed.
The well known local cleric said he has enjoyed great support from parishioners, although he said most people ‘think I’m mad!’
“People are supportive and quite funny about it. Someone asked me if I had a time in mind? The way I’m looking at it, I’m just looking to finish.
“He said they’ll not be using a stop watch to time me, they’ll probably be using a calendar,” he joked.
A total of 20 locals will be taking on the challenge in London next month, all raising over £2,000 for the Foyle Hospice.
“The hospice has touched everyone’s lives in the north west area and it’s such a vital reosurce for the community, especially for those in palliative care dealing with cancer.
“Signing up for the marathon has made sure I’ve been doing a bit of training.
“It’s hard some days to motivate yourself, but if you’re going to meet someone to run with, it motivates you to get out there. I’m running with two friends, but there are over 20 of us going from the hospice.
“We also have Harry McNulty, a veteran of 59 marathons, so he’s been training me up and he puts me to shame, to tell you the truth!
“In fact, I can’t get over the size of the running fraternity in Derry, an amazing amount of people out on the roads. Everyone is willing to give you advice and it’s definitely broadened my horizons.
“I’ll try and keep some training up after the marathon. I’ll never say I’ve enjoyed the running, but I’ve appreciated it,” added Fr. Chris.
The London Marathon takes place on Sunday, April 28.
Fr Chris extended an open invitation for tonight’s function: “Please come along and help support the invaluable care provided by the Hospice for our local community,” he said.