Russell running length of Africa – equal to 360 marathons – for charity in only 240 days

By Jill Dando News

Russell Cook is running the whole length of Africa for charity… in just 240 days.

The miracle man will overcome deserts, rainforests and predators to do the feat.

Russell Cook (photo credit Russell Cook

Starting in South Africa, the 26-year-old Briton is aiming to reach the most northerly point in Tunisia by Christmas – that’s the equivalent of running 360 marathons in 240 days.

Supported by a small skeleton crew of friends, Cook will pass through 16 countries in what promises to be a physically demanding, mentally exhausting and logistically challenging expedition as he raises money for both The Running Charity and Water Aid

“Honestly, I’m actually not daunted by any of it,” Cook told CNN Sport on day 13 of his odyssey. 

“There’s no point worrying about it until it’s right in your face. We can plan and try to mitigate as much as we can along the way but none of these things keep me up at night. Handle the day, wake up, and handle tomorrow.” 

In the first two weeks of his trip, Cook ran over 50 kilometers per day through South Africa and has now crossed into Namibia where he’ll face the unrelenting Namib Desert.

It’s a challenge beyond most people’s imaginations but not for Cook, who has earned the nickname “The Hardest Geezer.”

He only found his running legs later in life, but has already completed some incredible feats – running from Istanbul to London and completing a marathon while pulling a car.

But life hasn’t always been so remarkable for Cook and it’s the memory of a previous world that still motivates him.

Teenage struggles 

Like many young men, Cook struggled with his mental health as a teenager. 

Unable to find value in the multiple jobs he was doing to make a living, Cook says he felt trapped and would spend his time at weekends drinking with friends and gambling.

His Damascene moment came at a nightclub in Brighton, England.

Cook still remembers looking around at 3 a.m. and thinking that there must be more to life than this “proper dingy place.” It was a time to “fix up” and, in search of new horizons, he decided to run home. 

“It was like 12 miles and it took me probably three hours,” he says, laughing at his hazy memories of that night, as well as admitting to “taking little power naps on the pavement on the way home.” 

After that, a friend asked Cook to run a local half marathon. He completed it. He then thought he’d try a full marathon a few weeks later. He completed that as well. 

“For the first time in a long time, I felt confident,” says Cook.

“That whole process of achieving something that previously seemed like I couldn’t do or that marathons are for crazy fit people. That could never be me. I’m not that guy. But then I became that guy.” 

Riding his new wave of motivation, Cook saved up enough money to go traveling. It was to be the next step on his journey of personal discovery and, in hindsight, one that would eventually lead him to his latest feat: Project Africa. 

On his travels, he visited the Kenyan town of Iten – home to some of the world’s very best long-distance athletes.

Cook began to immerse himself in the local way of life and despite not being as quick as the professionals, he fell deeper in love with the “primal” art of running and the way it made his mind and body feel. 

The final piece of his jigsaw fell into place when, still in Africa, he met an Italian cyclist who was riding non-stop around the world. 

That conversation motivated Cook to start planning how he’d run the entire length of Africa – something he says has never been done before. 

“It just took a few years of smashing rock bottom, to start thinking: the only way I’m going to get out of this is by taking absolute responsibility for the situation that I’m in,” he says.

“Trying to improve myself and then putting more positive energy out there, putting the work in, working on myself and and then slowly but surely, climbing the ladder. 

“Six years later and I’m in a bus in Africa getting beat down every day on the road instead!”

Logistical nightmare 

Cook’s small team has run into problems at almost every part of the planning process, including visa issues and flying the support vehicle halfway across the world. 

The trip was initially going to be done in reverse but, always happy to adapt, Cook eventually arrived in Cape Town, South Africa, in late April and was excited to get going. 

From there, he has been chipping into the mammoth challenge one day at a time, overcoming any problems he encounters along the way.

From blisters to smelly feet, there is seemingly nothing, big or small, that can throw him off his mission – so far.

Cook even says that he persuaded two men not to rob him while he was running alone in South Africa and, such is his charming nature, he asked his team to give one of the would-be thieves a lift home.