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Russ Cook: The ‘Hardest Geezer’ aiming to run the length of Africa

Olly Green
Reporter
Updated on
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Russ Cook is renowned for taking on extreme endurance challenges and he began his toughest challenge of all in April.

The 26-year-old from Worthing, West Sussex, UK, began a sensational attempt to become the first person to run the length of Africa, from tip to tip.

Here, we provide all the latest from Cook’s incredible effort as well as his fascinating back story.

Hardest Geezer

Russ Cook is nicknamed the ‘Hardest Geezer’ thanks to the series of outrageous physical feats he has achieved.

He has spoken about his struggles with mental health, gambling and drinking as a teenager before an inspirational turnaround.

After a friend reached out to him about entering the Brighton Half Marathon, Cook completed the race before taking on the full Brighton Marathon.

Russ Cook, known as the 'Hardest Geezer', on his run across Africa
[Photo credit: @hardestgeezer]

He says the discipline required to train for long-distance running provided him with the foundations for his transformation and subsequent records.

He almost halved the record for the fastest marathon while pulling a car in 2020, hauling a 730kg Suzuki Alto along the Worthing seafront and completing the 26 miles in nine hours and 56 minutes.

The ‘Hardest Geezer’ has also completed a marathon on crutches, ran a marathon while drinking a beer after each mile and was buried alive for a week.

Asia to London

Prior to his Project Africa challenge, Russ Cook was best known for becoming the first person to run from Asia to London in 2019.

He completed 71 marathons in 66 days as travelled from Istanbul, Turkey, to Worthing, UK, passing through a total of 11 countries.

Project Africa

The ‘Hardest Geezer’ announced Project Africa last year, outlining his goal to run around 63km (39.1 miles) every day for 240 days.

He will cover roughly 15,000km (9,320 miles) over the course of the challenge and is set to pass through 16 countries, spending almost a third of the time – around 90 days – in the Sahara Desert.

By comparison, runners taking on the Marathon des Sables cover 250km across six days in the Sahara Desert.

Cook is aiming to raise money for two charities – The Running Charity and WaterAid – and is targeting a figure of £100,000.

Russ Cook, known as the 'Hardest Geezer', on his run across Africa
[Photo credit: @hardestgeezer]

He has earned backing from big-name sponsors such as Hoka for his attempt, while he is being supported by a team of three and a modified van in Africa.

You can donate to the Hardest Geezer’s fundraiser HERE.

Route map

Russ Cook and his team originally planned to begin the challenge at the northernmost point of Africa, Ras Ben Sakka, the tip of Cape Angela in Tunisia, and finish at the southernmost point at Cape L’Agulhas in Western Cape, South Africa.

However, there were issues obtaining a visa for Algeria and the team were told it would take eight weeks for a further review, beyond the planned start date of the challenge.

The solution was to reverse the route, and instead begin in South Africa, which is exactly what the ‘Hardest Geezer’ did on 22 April, 2023.

The tweet above shows a map of the route Cook will take across Africa, while the video below provides some more detail. Both show the original route, before it was reversed.

Tracking with Strava

You can stay up to date with Cook’s Project Africa attempt with the live tracking HERE, while there is a link to his Strava HERE.

What has happened so far?

As expected, there have already been plenty of bumps in the road for the ‘Hardest Geezer’ on his mammoth run.

The support van’s brakes needed to be repaired on day five, leaving Cook to run solo, while its windscreen was shattered by debris on day six.

On day 16, Cook reached the Namibian border, moving into the second of 16 countries by himself while the support van was repaired.

Day 26 brought stomach issues and Cook was unable to keep food down until day 28, though he insisted that it “was always going to be part of this mission”.

He was struck down by sickness again on day 36 and just as he seemed to have recovered, he began suffering from blood in his urine. Tests by doctors were inconclusive, so he eased off the pace and completed 1km and 31.5km on days 46 and 47 respectively.

The following day it was confirmed he had no serious conditions, and the ‘Hardest Geezer’ bounced back with a 42.3km haul.

Russ Cook, known as the 'Hardest Geezer', on his run across Africa
[Photo credit: @hardestgeezer]

Following a puncture for the van, Cook crossed into Angola on day 50 (11 June). Two weeks later, with internet problems limiting updates, the team endured their worst day so far as they were robbed of equipment, cash and passports at gunpoint.

From there, the team were escorted by Angolan police, but Cook was forced to stop running on day 75, as he needed visit several embassies to secure new visas for the next two countries – Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and Republic of the Congo – following the loss of his passport.

It wasn’t until day 84 that Cook secured the visas back in Namibia before aiming to return to the exact spot he stopped in Luanda, Angola.

There were then further delays as they team attempted to cross back into Angola, but Cook finally began running again on day 89 as he covered 31.5km through one of the biggest cities on the continent.

He has since returned to days of around 50km but has recently endured some terrifying encounters in the Congo, becoming separated from his team and being held for ransom.

What’s the latest?

Logistical problems and van breakdowns have blighted Russ’ progress through the Congo rainforest, but he has restructured his support team – making two new hires – and brought in a new support vehicle.

He says being unable to run through central Sahel countries has cost him over 5,500km in detours.

He has pushed north through the Republic of the Congo, passing the capital Brazzaville as he regularly knocked out 60km days.

Cook has passed through the capital of Cameroon, Yaonde, and is preparing to head west towards Nigeria, but he has been suffering from food poisoning and blood in his urine again.

Check out the latest updates from the Hardest Geezer on his Twitter feed below.

Olly Green
Written by
Olly Green
Olly is the content lead for RUN247, is a regular contributor to TRI247 and keeps an eye out for content that appeals to both audiences including interviews with pro Heather Jackson.

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