Tue. May 28th, 2024

A man who ran the length of Africa has hinted that his next challenge may not be far away.

After complications with visas, health scares, geopolitical issues and an armed robbery, Russell Cook, nicknamed “Hardest Geezer”, crossed the finish line in Tunisia on Sunday after 352 days.

The 27-year-old, from Worthing, West Sussex, has raised more than £775,000 ($978,000) for charity.

Speaking to the BBC, he said: “I’ve scratched the itch for a while. But I wouldn’t be surprised if I start planning some more things pretty soon.”

For now, he said he was “keen to chill out” and spend time with his family but he had “a whole list of ideas”.

Guus Van Veen A man with a long red beard runs against a backdrop of red rocks in a bucket hat, green top and grey shorts.Guus Van Veen
Mr Cook told GMB it was “hard to contemplate the whole thing” after completing the massive challenge
The extreme challenge began at South Africa’s most southerly point on 22 April, 2023, and finished more than 10,190 miles (16,400km) north in Tunisia.

He had originally planned to complete the equivalent of 360 marathons in 240 days but extended the challenge due to complications.

Before he set off on the mammoth challenge, he said he hoped to look back at his life and have no regrets after admitting to struggling with his mental health, gambling and drinking.

Upon finishing, Mr Cook said the idea of quitting was never more than a fleeting thought.

“The deepest level of motivation for me is legacy for my family and the Cook name,” he said.

“There were a bunch of times when it was very difficult – the Sahara Desert sandstorms, pushing up the mileage the last couple of months was really tough. But I was never going to quit. The only way out was the end.

“The scariest moment was in the Congo when I was on the back of a motorbike thinking I was going to die getting driven into the jungle. That was pretty nuts.”

Guus Van Veen Russell Cook running in AfricaGuus Van Veen
The extreme challenge began at South Africa’s most southerly point on 22 April, 2023
Many people joined Mr Cook to run legs of the challenge through 16 countries, but he said the scale of the publicity was a welcome surprise.

“It’s totally bananas to me the amount of people who have been following and come out to support me,” he said.

“It would be awesome to get people moving more. It does wonders for people’s lives and changed my life.”

Guus Van Veen Russell Cook running in AfricaGuus Van Veen
The extreme challenge finished in Tunisia on Sunday

Mr Cook, who has gone through 30 pairs of trainers throughout the challenge, is raising money for The Running Charity and Sandblast.

The Running Charity aims to harness the power of running to support young people experiencing homelessness or complex needs, while Sandblast runs educational programmes in refugee camps in Algeria.

Mr Cook’s claim to be the first person to run the length of Africa has been challenged by the World Runners Association (WRA) – a group made of seven athletes who have successfully circumnavigated the world on foot.

It said one of its members, Jesper Kenn Olsen, from Denmark, was the first person to run the length of Africa.

The association said Mr Olsen began his challenge on 28 December, 2008, in Taba, Egypt, before running 7,948 miles (12,791km) to the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa – completing his journey in 2010.

Questioned about similar challenges in the past, Mr Cook said: “There’s plenty of people before me who have done big runs and kudos to all of them because they are all huge challenges, so nothing but respect.”

By Joy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *