‘Hardest Geezer’ makes history running length of Africa

'Hardest Geezer's' last days on the road

Source: X/Russ Cook

Sore and sandblasted but triumphant, runner Russ Cook has reached the northernmost point of Africa, almost a year after he set off from its southern tip on a quest to run the length of the continent.

Dozens of supporters gathered on a rocky outcrop beside the Mediterranean in northern Tunisia, cheering on the British charity fundraiser, who has run more than 16,000 kilometres across 16 countries in 352 days.

“I’m a little bit tired,” Cook said – likely an understatement.

In the course of his journey, the 27-year-old endurance athlete from Worthing in southern England crossed jungle and desert, swerved conflict zones and was delayed by theft, injury and visa problems.

Cook – known on social media by his nickname, Hardest Geezer – set off on April 22, 2023 from Cape Agulhas in South Africa, the continent’s southernmost point. He hoped to complete the journey in 240 days, running the equivalent of more than a marathon every day.

He and his team had money, passports and equipment stolen in a gunpoint robbery in Angola. He was temporarily halted by back pain in Nigeria. And he was almost stopped in his tracks by the lack of a visa to enter Algeria, before diplomatic intervention from the Algerian embassy in Britain managed to secure the required documents.

Then, in August, all contact was lost when he was kidnapped in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Villagers armed with machetes had to be paid off before Cook’s run could continue.

Cook, who has spoken about how running helped him deal with his own mental health struggles, previously ran about 3000 kilometres from Istanbul to Worthing in 68 days.

“You get one chance at life,” he told Britain’s Sky News. “Go and have a stab at it.”

His African run has raised more than £690,000 ($1.3 million) for the Running Charity, which works with homeless young people, and Sandblast, a charity that helps displaced people from Western Sahara.

“It’s quite hard to put into words, 352 days on the road, long time without seeing family, my girlfriend,” Cook told Sky News as he started running Sunday, accompanied by supporters who’d come from far and wide to run the final stretch with him.

“My body is in a lot of pain. But one more day, I’m not about to complain.”

Cook said he planned to celebrate with a party, where British band Soft Play was due to perform.

“Can’t quite believe it but we’ve managed to pull off Soft Play playing the finish line party in Tunisia,” he said.

“Get your daiquiris ready girls and boys, this is gonna be mega.”

-with AAP

Topics: Africa
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