Russ Cook completes epic odyssey after running the entire length of Africa in just under a year

After setting off from South Africa just under a year ago, Russ Cook finally reached the Tunisian coast on Sunday to bring his epic odyssey to an end.

The endurance athlete, dubbed the ‘Hardest Geezer,’ has battled through injury and illness, faced logistical nightmares and overcome getting lost in the jungle to complete his mission of running the entire length of Africa, a feat which has seen him run over 10,000 miles.

The UK runner was joined by dozens of fans for the final leg of his mission on Sunday, many of whom had flown in from all around the world to be part of the celebrations.

Supported by a loyal skeleton crew throughout the run, Cook has amassed a huge social media following and has raised over $965,000 for a number of charities. A small team of editors has helped document his journey on YouTube, with the channel boasting over 187,000 subscribers.

Speaking to CNN Sport at the very start of his mission – which kicked off on April 22, 2023 – Cook said he wasn’t daunted by what lay before him and promised to tackle each day as it came.

In truth, nothing could have prepared him for what was to come.

Starting at the most southerly point in South Africa, Cook ran all the way to Tunisia. - Guus Van Veen
Starting at the most southerly point in South Africa, Cook ran all the way to Tunisia. - Guus Van Veen

Cook and his team overcame a plethora of challenges that might have threatened the mission, including being robbed at gunpoint and getting lost in the rainforest.

He also faced a diplomatic impasse as he neared the end of his run, eventually acquiring the visas which allowed him to pass through to Algeria from Mauritania.

The ‘why’ behind the run

Before setting off, Cook had aimed to have the mission finished by Christmas, targeting running 360 marathons in 240 days.

While he took slightly longer than anticipated, his achievement is no less impressive.

In a previous interview with CNN, Cook said he only found his running legs later in life but had already completed a number of difficult challenges before facing Project Africa – including 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 previous times that still motivates him.

“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 said.

“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.”

After taking time to celebrate his achievement, Cook has said he has more challenges in mind. Running the entire length of a continent, though, might take some beating.

“When I’m an old man, sitting in my rocking chair, with 18 grandchildren running around, I’ll have a few stories to knock back. So that will be good,” he previously told CNN.

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