Russ Cook: Briton becomes first person to run length of Africa

Endurance athlete completes more than 385 marathons to raise £575,000 for charity on mammoth route

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British endurance athlete Russ Cook on Sunday became the first person to run the entire length of Africa, arriving in Ras Angela, Tunisia, to complete the more than 16,000km challenge.

Cook, from Worthing, West Sussex, started the historic journey in South Africa in April 2023.

The endurance runner, nicknamed the "Hardest Geezer", travelled across 16 countries, completed more than 385 marathons and raised about £574,000 ($724,000) for charity along the way.

He and his team documented the challenge, titled "Project Africa", on social media. Cook faced route changes, car accidents, illness, injuries, malnutrition, extreme weather and an armed robbery on his way to the finish line.

Problems securing an Algerian visa almost derailed the mission, but thanks to the power of social media, he was able to pass through the country before entering Tunisia.

Cook issued an open invitation to his thousands of followers to join him for the final stretch. He ran the last marathon of the journey alongside hundreds who flew in from around the world to be part of the historic event.

On the final day, Cook ran through the Tunisian countryside alongside supporters, some dressed up like the British athlete, complete with fake ginger beards.

At the halfway mark, Cook, 27, shared his appreciation to the support of those who joined him on his journey.

"I want to say a massive thank you to everyone who has come out," he said. "I can’t really get my head around how there’s this many people in Tunisia. Top vibes out there."

He crossed the finish line, marked by a red ribbon, and saluted a cheering crowd gathered beside a sculpture outlining the continent he spent the previous year running across. Cook was greeted by his family, including his partner, and his team.

“I’m pretty tired," Cook told Sky News at the finish line.

He planned to celebrate by throwing a party at a hotel in Bizerte, Tunisia, featuring a performance from British punk rock duo Soft Play, formerly known as Slaves.

“Can’t quite believe it but we’ve managed to pull off Soft Play playing the finish line party in Tunisia," Cook said on X, where he shared regular updates on his quest.

Last Tuesday, Mr Cook said the challenge had “no doubt been the toughest of my life”, but that it was an “immense honour”.

“We have met incredible people in every single country we’ve been to that have welcomed us with love and kindness. The human spirit is a beautiful thing,” he said on X.

“Very grateful for these experiences and would definitely encourage anyone out there to go get after that adventure, whatever it looks like for you. Thank you to the people of Africa for being such an amazing part of this journey.”

Updated: April 08, 2024, 6:31 AM