10 June 2024

Runner tackles 1,000km Cairns to Cape challenge … in socks

| Lyndon Keane
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Long distance runner Ben Ferris, better known on the road as Ferris Gump, is running from Cairns to the Northern Peninsula Area over the next fortnight rocking custom socks, not shoes. Photo: Supplied.

When you’re first confronted by the sheer enthusiasm and zest for life of Ben Ferris, it’s easy to overlook his deep, considered outlook on life, and instead get distracted by the beard and his unconventional choice in footwear.

Ferris – better known out on the road at Ferris Gump – is a seasoned long-distance runner currently undertaking the 1,000-kilometre trek from Cairns to the tip of Cape York after setting off from the city last week.

And he’s ditched the shoes to do it in his homemade custom socks.

Speaking to Cape York Weekly during a few well-deserved rest days in Cooktown, Ferris explained his Frankenstein footwear – recycled car tyre tubes sewn onto the bottom of eye-catching socks – allowed him to get as close as possible to running barefoot.

“I’ve always been a runner and a barefoot runner, and I just saw an opportunity to create Australian-made footwear as close to possible as being barefoot,” he said.

“The origin of running, it’s all barefoot.

“Car tube is the best product and it’s available in every town, so it’s an upcycled product and it connects you back to the country and the ground; it’s pretty spiritual.”

Ferris is attempting to share his love of running and the spiritual connection of doing it sans brand name shoes with children in the remote communities he meets on his travels by handing out free pairs of the socks.

Ferris makes his own custom socks to run in and give away free to kids in remote communities. Photo: Instagram.

“I’m giving them to the kids in community for free, to try and inspire them to take up running,” he said.

“I was running for all these other charities, and I was thinking what’s close to my heart, and I thought I may as well let people know what’s close to my heart, and that’s kids and the next generation.

“I want to leave a legacy; my philosophy is run to give.”

The likeable larrikin said he had been “trying to destroy” his tyre tube socks, but was getting about 2,000km of use out of them, a figure eclipsing the longevity of commercially made shoes.

“A normal Nike shoe, and those brands the professional runners use, they are only good for about 500km,” he said.

“Car tube pretty well has an endless life.”

While he had been covering about 50km a day on the journey from Cairns to Cooktown, Ferris said he would be averaging 60-70km a day once he hit his stride on the Peninsula Developmental Road.

Ferris will be easy to spot on his northbound journey and he urged motorists to honk their horns or pull over and say hello if they saw him.

“Definitely give me a wave,” he said.

“A lot of it is the people pulling over and seeing how I’m going, and bringing back that Aussie spirt and connection, you know.

“I really appreciate the people that stop and make an effort; if I did all these runs and no one stopped at all, it would be pretty boring.”

Run, Ferris, run.

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