Pair complete 420 mile trek and plan even bigger odyssey for veterans mental health charity

It may have taken them twelve pairs of shoes to trek right around NI, but Belfast men Connor Ferguson and Ian Reid are already planning their next challenge - across the four nations.

Thursday, 1st July 2021, 6:30 am
Updated Thursday, 1st July 2021, 9:02 pm
Ian Reid (left) and Connor Ferguson (right) celebrate with friends and family as they finish their 420 mile trek at Parliament Buildings in support of Beyond the Battlefield.
Ian Reid (left) and Connor Ferguson (right) celebrate with friends and family as they finish their 420 mile trek at Parliament Buildings in support of Beyond the Battlefield.

Their epic challenge was in support of Ards-based veterans mental health charity, Beyond the Battlefield.

The pair - aged 34 and 35 - started their ‘Big Dander Around Our Wee Country’ at Parliament Buildings and finished at the same spot 12 days later last month. The 420 mile route closely hugged the border and coast the whole way.

“I started out with four pairs of shoes and had to buy two more due to foot swelling,” Connor said. “I started an eight and finished a 9.5 - and Ian went from a 10 to 11.”

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The pair averaged 40 miles a day, typically starting at 8am and finishing at 11am. And in the middle of their trek they took in seven peaks of the Mournes.

“The routine at night was that our families would fill the bath for us. Then we would get our food and try to sleep with our feet elevated, with ice packs on our hips, knees and ankles.”

He added: “To be honest, we found it a lot easier when we were running towards the end of every day.” When veterans met them along the route to thank them, it gave them a second wind for the finish.

“We were coming into Coleraine and there was a car waiting for us on the hard shoulder. This woman had been waiting for two hours with a donation and thanked us so much. Her husband, who has had PTSD for 25 years, was sitting in the car.”

The best food they found was complex carbohydrates, including pasta, bread, pizza and porridge as well as children’s ‘jelly sweets’.

“Every morning for four or five miles you were in pain, with sore joints and feet and then it sort of disappeared as you got into the flow.”

The initial target was £10,000 but, including private donations, they are now at £20,000 and the appeal is still open. 

Now, with the blisters healed, they are planning next year’s challenge for the same charity - A Big Dander Across the Four nations, again for Beyond the Battlefield: “Some of my friends who served have had massive help from them.

Starting at Stormont they plan to walk to get the boat to Scotland, then down into England and then into Wales to Holyhead. “Then we hope to get the ferry back to NI to start again at Castlederg and walk to Stormont. It will be about 580 miles.” Donations can still be made at https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/abigdanderaroundowc or via Beyond The Battlefield on tel 02891228389.

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