Russell Cook, nicknamed ‘Hardest Geezer’, from West Sussex, plans to complete his run across Africa after securing a visa to cross into Algeria. Completing the project will make Cook the first person to run the full length of Africa.
On April 22, 2023, Cook started Project Africa, attempting to run 31 miles (50km) every day to run the length of the continent, a feat expected to take more than eight months. The challenge originally consisted of 9,320 miles (14,500km) in total, crossing 16 borders, and through cities, rainforests, and the Sahara Desert. This was the equivalent of 360 marathons in 240 days.
Cook is running in aid of The Running Charity and Water Aid and vowed not to cut his hair or trim his beard until the challenge is completed. Various obstacles, including visa issues, robberies, and injuries, have extended the challenge.
Earlier this month, in the face of Cook’s last leg of the challenge, 278 days in, he was halted by a visa issue. The issue at hand concerned the permission to cross the border into Algeria from Mauritania. The foreign office warned Cook to avoid travelling through Algeria over safety concerns.
Nonetheless, Cook was determined to see the challenge through. Cook posted about the issue on X, formerly known as Twitter. Conservative MP for East Worthing Tim Loughton responded and promised to do his best to help Cook, including contacting the Foreign Office and the Algerian Embassy. MP Alexander Stafford, chair of the All-Parliamentary Group on Algeria, also raised the issue with the Algerian ambassador.
On January 28, the UK’s Algerian Embassy granted Cook the necessary visa. The Embassy responded to Cook on X, offering him a courtesy visa on the spot once he sent in his application.
As such, Cook’s challenge is set to resume. As of day 278 of the challenge, Cook had completed 7,456 miles (12,000km). He still has 2485 miles (4000km) left to run to complete Project Africa. What began as a 240-day challenge will likely take a year to complete. Nonetheless, there is no doubt that Cook will complete the run, regardless of the obstacles in his way. As of January 30, Cook has raised £150,000 for charity.
Earlier, on day 64 of the challenge, Cook and his team were robbed at gunpoint in Angola. Cameras, phones, cash, and passports were stolen. Cook was determined to not let this incident hinder the challenge. Unfortunately, Cook had to put Project Africa on pause, due to the team needing new visas, which caused a delay of two weeks. To attain the visas as quickly as possible, Cook and team drove 1,281 miles (2,062km) back to Windhoek, Namibia.
Later, in December, Cook faced further challenges. After complications with visas and geopolitical issues, Cook was forced to change his route, extending the challenge. On day 241, Cook ran his longest day of 68.4 miles (110.12km).
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