Going for a run can get a bit more difficult when it lasts for a year and is complicated by robbery, illness and men with machetes.

Russ Cook, a 27-year-old Englishman, completed his south-to-north run across the continent of Africa on Sunday in Cape Angela, Tunisia. He had set off from Cape Agulhas, South Africa, on April 22, 2023.

Along the way, he faced hardships not often seen in an easy meander around a suburban park.

In Angola, he was robbed at gunpoint. In Namibia, he got food poisoning. In the Republic of Congo, he was accosted by men with machetes. In Algeria, he had visa issues.

In the end, he passed through 16 countries. After his start in South Africa, he mostly skirted the west side of the country, sticking fairly close to the ocean. He said he chose the West African route primarily for safety reasons, although he nonetheless ran into dangerous situations.

In June in Angola, Cook was taking a break with his crew in the team’s support van when a man with a gun opened the door. The man made off with money, phones and a camera, but no one was hurt.

“He’s going to take things; we’re going to have to allow it.” Cook said shortly afterward in a YouTube video.

The incident in the Republic of Congo was even scarier, he said. In August, running separately from his team because of impassible roads, Cook encountered some men with machetes who demanded money, though his entire inventory at the time was a half-eaten cookie.

“I gave it to them and ran,” he said.

Later that day, still away from his team, he met two men on motorbikes who gestured for him to get on board. With “no money, food, water, signal, data or knowledge of where the boys were,” he said, he decided to do so.

He was taken on a seven-hour ride.

“In my head I thought this was it,” he wrote on social media. He arrived at a village and was met with more fruitless demands for money. It took several days for his team to reach him, give money to his captors and get him back to running.

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“My head ain’t fully there right now,” he said after the incident.

Cook also suffered back pain, food poisoning and other health issues, which, along with the frightening motorbike detour, eventually led him to take more days off than he had originally planned and lowered his daily mileage.

In the end, he ran 10,100 miles and raised 690,000 pounds, or about $873,000, for the Running Charity, which supports young people who are experiencing homelessness, and Sandblast, which supports the Indigenous people of Western Sahara. Cook, who has been nicknamed the Hardest Geezer, wound up averaging about 29 miles a day, even factoring in rest days and his various maladies and mishaps.

Though it was billed as the first ever traverse of the continent, a runners’ group, the World Runners Association, told The Telegraph that a Danish athlete, Jesper Olsen, achieved the feat in 2010, although by a different route. He ran about 8,000 miles, north to south, from Egypt to South Africa.

The group said that it did recognize Cook as the first to run from the southernmost to northernmost point of the continent.

“There’s plenty of people before me that have done lots of big runs,” Cook told “Good Morning Britain” on Monday. “Kudos to all of them.”

After his ultra-ultramarathon accomplishment, Cook said he had a strawberry daiquiri and a few beers.

“It was quite overwhelming yesterday,” he said on Monday. “I woke up a little bit tired.”

As for his plans for his first day after his exploit, “I need to get some stretching done today, but no running.”

“It’s time for a haircut,” he added.

With 48 hours to go, Cook was asked by a crewmate to share his thoughts as the finish neared. “It’s been a bit of a mad one,” he said. “Plenty of ups and downs.”

“Got anything less middle of the road?” said the crewmate, hoping for some viral content.

Cook’s reply: “Bro, I’ve run 63K.”



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