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A solo mission spanning across continents. (Photos provided by Russ Cook)

Your average person would normally go for a 5km run and that would be them done for their daily exercise, right? Not Sussex born man Russ Cook. No, he wanted to take things further, challenge his body and his mind to achieve whatever he set himself to. 

Cook decided to run from Asia to London, running 71 marathons in 66 days all by himself. You can see why he’s nicknamed himself ‘The Hardest Geezer’ can’t you?

Cook took on this solo challenge last year in a bid to raise money for The Running Charity, a charity close to his heart who help young people who have experienced homelessness through the sport of running. 

Taking its toll on the body – Cook’s body took a beating running a marathon a day for three months. (Photos provided by Russ Cook)

Starting his journey in Turkey, Cook travelled with nothing but his running trainers, a hammock to sleep in and a retro 1990 England football shirt. Speaking to Overtime, Cook recalled what the first night sleeping in a hammock outside of Istanbul was like. 

“That first night was honestly the scariest night of my life, I didn’t sleep at all. I was just there in my hammock, I didn’t even have a jumper or anything to keep me warm. There were so many locals watching me wondering who I was just sleeping tied up between two trees.”

I spoke to Cook about the mental side of completing a marathon a day, how a person can get up every day and carry on running despite having blisters all over their feet and sleeping rough every night. 

He told me: “I was so determined to do it that it literally would’ve taken something monumental to stop me. Once you’ve got that in your head and have that mindset, then everything just seems easy and you power through it no matter what.

“Staying positive is a massive thing. I try and have fun with what I’m doing no matter what it is. If times start getting really hard like it starts raining, or my feet swell up I just try and see the funny side of it and think one day this will be a good story to tell someone.” 

While running through country after country, Cook had the time to reflect on the charity that he was doing this all for and the work that they do for young people. Knowing that every step he took, every kilometre he completed, every marathon he finished meant that he was getting closer to achieving his goal of raising the money to support The Running Charity. 

A charity man – Cook has continued his charity work for The Running Charity since his return. (Photos provided by Russ Cook)

Cook told me why he chose this charity and why he believes in their work so much, saying: “Their goal is to help progress the lives of young homeless people and people at risk of homelessness, the most vulnerable young people in our society. 

“They’re not just hand feeding them, giving them money and clothes or things like that. They are trying to use running as a means to instil the values of motivation and discipline and show young people the benefits running can have on your life.”

The official tagline for the journey was ‘Asia to London’, but Cook finished the journey in his hometown of Worthing in West Sussex. Hundreds of people packed out Worthing promenade for the return of Cook, with dozens of people joining him in completing the last 5km of his journey. 

Remembering that moment when he ran across the finish line in his hometown brought all the raw emotions of the day back for Cook: “It was surreal, it didn’t feel like it was really happening to me. 

“What you have to bear in mind as well, I had barely spoken to anyone face to face for two and a half months, and if I did, they almost definitely didn’t speak English. So, then all of a sudden, I’ve got loads of people there surrounding me, and it was just all a bit overwhelming.” 

Cook recently set another World Record too, setting a new record for the fastest marathon while pulling a car. Again, whilst raising money for The Running Charity, Cook managed to pull a car the distance of a marathon in nine hours and 56 minutes, raising over £2000 in the process. 

A Sussex man taking on the world. (Photos provided by Russ Cook)

If you haven’t established it by now, Cook is a different breed of human to the rest of the population of Earth. But he isn’t content with stopping there in life, he has plans to make 2021 one of the biggest years to date. 

When revealing his plans to me Cook said: “Coronavirus has ruined my plans for 2021 quite badly, I had planned on running across Australia by myself next year but obviously I can’t do that anymore. 

“But I still have three major plans for next year, the first one I want to do is to run to every Premier League stadium in the country. I want to be the first person to swim the English Channel during Winter and then the last big one is I want to be buried alive for seven days with no food or anything to stimulate my brain.”

Whatever Cook has planned for next year, it is clear that he has managed to train his mind differently to the normal person. It is one thing being able to train your body to psychically be able to run the distances he does, but it’s a whole other thing to be able to train your mind to not be weak and carry on fighting through whatever adversity is ahead of you. 

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April 2024