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UK man set to become first ever to finish running the length of Africa

Coby Moratti

Russ Cook, donned 'The Hardest Geezer' is a British runner dedicated to being the first person to run the length of Africa. In four days time, he'll run into Tunisia after 352 days on the trip.

On this journey, he has run through rainforests, deserts, villages and cities, smashing out his 'ones and twos on the tarmac' (not a crude statement, it's how he describes moving his left foot and right foot whilst running). Having just clicked over 16,000 kms run across 348 days, Russ's body would be in a state unimaginable to the normal person. 

One of the only athletes in the world who could describe what he's going through, Sam Harvey happens to reside here in Otautahi. Sam is an ultra-marathon athlete, who is currently running 300km a week for his training. He has run some of the world's toughest races, most recently coming second in the Tarawera Ultra-Trail in Rotorua, running 163 kilometers in just under 15 and a half hours. In October, he ran 91 laps of the Big's Backyard Ultra in Tennessee which equates to 610 kilometers across multiple days. 

Sam knows how mentally strong The Hardest Geezer is.  

"Now coming into the back stretch of his run, the home stretch, he can see the finish line and that will be a huge motivation for him. But a few months ago when he ticked over half way, he's still thinking about thousands more kilometers which would be an everyday mental battle."

One of his 91 laps- Sam Harvey at the Big's Backyard Ultra
One of his 91 laps- Sam Harvey at the Big's Backyard Ultra Supplied- Sam Harvey

The Hardest Geezer is vocal about not letting the African conditions defeat him. He has run through countries on the equator, such as Cameroon, at near 100% humidity. He also passed through Algeria and Senegal, through the Sahara desert at 40+ degrees. Sam said his fluid intake would be one of the most important parts of the challenge.  

"I don't like running in the heat, it just adds another level to it. I'll be losing around a litre of liquid through sweat per hour, whereas Russ, in the heat, might be losing two or three - sometimes even more." 

He says drinking water and consuming carbohydrates consistently might be a challenge, as forcing yourself to eat can make it a mental war on food. But this psychological part of the run is crucial to have a chance at executing the physical part 

"I've heard of people doing Marathon des Sables (a 250 km race across the Moroccan part of the Sahara) who have drunk 15 litres of fluid in a day and have only had to pee once."

Staunch face- Sam ran 610 km at Big;s Backyard Ultra in Tennessee
Staunch face- Sam ran 610 km at Big's Backyard Ultra in Tennessee Supplied- Sam Harvey

The Hardest Geezer is set to finish in Tunisia on the 8th of April NZT.  

"Russ will be on cloud 9 for a bit, but I wouldn't be surprised if his body collapses a little bit once he turns off, he could go through a bit of a system shutdown." 

The Hardest Geezer has been vocal about the Strawberry Daiquiri he's going to sip on whilst relaxing on the beach at the finish line. Sam wasn't so sure, he said he'd opt for a peppermint tea if given the choice. 

Russ has an active Instagram, which has collated over 780,000 followers